1542. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before, and continued on] 24 November 1808

1542. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before, and continued on] 24 November 1808 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

You have taken what I said a little too seriously, – that is you have given it more thought than it deserved. [1]  The case stands thus you wish to serve the public, ministers wish to serve themselves, – & it so happens that just at this time the two objects are the same. I am very willing to travel with them as far as xxx we are going the same way, & when our roads seperate shall of course leave them. Meantime that suppression which there certainly will be upon certain points is of little consequence to me, xxx who shall have nothing to do with those points. Murray has sent me materials for the Missionary article, which Gifford wishes to have enter upon the subject generally, – my intent was to have confined myself to the Hindoo question – but I am master of the whole subject & will therefore take the wider view. [2]  There are three reviewals of mine upon this very topic in the three first Annuals, [3]  which are well done, – & there were the first which ever appeared concerning them. I am strong here & shall do well, God willing, – yet how much better could I do if nobody but Robert Southey was responsible for the opinions expressed, & I could speak out concerning the corruptions of Xtianity.

I know from Walter Scott that he reviews the Cid, [4]  – it is not a text for entering directly upon the present Spanish affairs, – tho a fair one for touching upon them. Two things are required for the review of that book which will not be found in one person – a knowledge of Spanish literature, – & of the manners of chivalry, – so as to estimate the comparative value of any Chronicle. The latter knowledge Scott possesses better than any body else.

About Cevallos [5]  you best know your own stock of materials, – authors may be divided into silkworms & spiders, those who spin because they are full, & those who spin because they are empty. What fact It is not likely that there are any facts of importance which are not known to the public, & indeed if I undertook the task I should have little to do with the past history of these transactions – but state as summarily & xxx strongly as I could what the conduct of France had been, hold up the war as a crusade on the part of us & the Spaniards (I love & vindicate the Crusades –) show why I expected this from their character, & also why I <now> expected in full faith a glorious termination at last, tho prepared to expect <hear of> heavy reverses for a time, – possibly the recoronation of Joseph [6]  at Madrid. Finally I would represent the thought of peace with Bonaparte as high treason against all honourable feelings – & all liberty – & xxx xxx Europe. I have some Of the Spanish frigates I would say nothing [7]  – Would to God that they who issued orders for their capture were turned in the deep with them! – There is a sort of methodical writing xxx carrying with it an air of official imposingness which does better in such cases than better things, (& tho I would not be supposed to imply that it necessarily excludes them) – & of this style I should guess that Herries is the master.

Elmsley may be applied to, & I think with success. As for Davy, he is Humphrey Davy Esqr & Mr Professor Davy, – & may far better be applied to thro the great than by one who knew him before the world knew him, & who has kept himself uncontaminate from the world. I know not whether the prize which he received from Bonaparte sticks to his fingers or no – I would sooner have cut mine off than have accepted it. [8]  It is likely to cooperate with his some of his Royal Institute associates [9]  in making him cry out for peace – yet Davy’s heart is sound at the core, & his all- xxx all-grasping, all-commanding genius must have redeemed him. The best channel to him is thro Sotheby, [10]  – a man on whom you may calculate. – I am particularly anxious that my hint about Poole should be adopted. One article from him about the Poor will be worth its weight in gold. [11]  As for I hope Malthus [12]  will not infect the review, – it would wither my hand if the thought came across me that any truths of mine could lend their sanction to his blasphemies. By that mans first book moral restraint was pronounced impracticable, by his second it is relied upon as the remedy for the poor rates, which are to be abolished to prevent the poor from marrying, & moral restraint & the Parson are to render them contented in celibacy. xxx His main principle is that God makes men & women faster than he can feed them, – & he calls upon government to stop the breed. As if we did not at this moment want men for our battles! Rickmans name should stand in the place of his, – Rickman has ten fold his knowledge, ten-thousand fold his ability. There is no man living equal to Rickman upon the subject of political economy. His He too is a crusader in to this war, Malthus will probably prove a peace-monger.

It would attract much notice & carry with it much recommendation if an account of the Welsh Archaiology could be procured. Turner may be asked for it, tho I am afraid he is too busy. William Owen alas is one of Joanna Southcotes four & twenty Elder. & Bard Williams [13]  is God knows where, & nothing is to be got out of him except by word of mouth. There is however the chance of Turner. There is Davies of Olveston the author of the Celtic Researches. [14]  there is Wynns Welshman – Peter Roberts. [15] 

Farewell. I finish my Annualizing [16]  in a few days & shall then set about the Missions

God bless you


Thursday night Nov. 24. 1808.

Let not Gifford suppose me a troublesome man to deal with, pertinacious about trifles, or standing upon punctilios of authorship. No Grosvenor I am a quiet, patient, easy-going hack of the mule breed, – regular as clock work in my pace, sure footed, bearing the burthen which is laid on me, & only obstinate in chusing my own path. If Gifford could see me by this fire side where like Nicodemus one candle suffices me in a large room, [17]  – he would see a man in a coat ‘still more thread bare than his’ when he wrote his ode imitation, working hard & getting little, – a bare bare maintenance & hardly that, – yet writing poems & history for posterity with his whole heart & soul, – & <having> more heart & soul left to spare for inferior occupations, than go to the composition of five hundred ordinary men, or five thousand Scotchmen, – one daily progressive in learning, – not so learned as he is poor, not so poor as proud, not so proud as happy. By the Lord Grosvenor there is not a lighter-hearted nor a happier man upon the face of xxx this wide world.

Your godson thinks that I have nothing to do but to play with him, – & anybody who saw what reason he has for his opinion would be disposed to agree with him. I wish you could see my beautiful boy!


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr./ Exchequer/ Westminster
Endorsement: 24 Novr 1808
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ NOV 28/ 1808
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 185–189 [with omissions, and mis-dated 17 November]. BACK

[1] Southey had expressed reservations about writing for the Quarterly Review; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 18 November 1808, Letter 1536. BACK

[2] Southey reviewed missionary activities generally in his review of Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. BACK

[3] Southey had reviewed Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (1800–1801), in the Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 207–218. In the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), he reviewed Transactions of the Missionary Society (Vol. 1, 1803), 189–201. In the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805) he reviewed Transactions of the Missionary Society (Vol. 2, 1804), 621–634. BACK

[4] Scott reviewed Southey, Chronicle of the Cid Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, the Campeador, from the Spanish in the Quarterly Review, 1.1 (1809), 117–134. BACK

[5] Pedro Cevallos Guerra (1760–1840) was Sectretary of State in Spain when the country was taken by the French. He fled to London in 1808, returning to Madrid in 1814, after the war. BACK

[6] Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844), the eldest brother of Napoleon, who made him King of Spain (1808–1813). BACK

[7] At issue was whether the British, since July 1808 allied with the Spanish people in their war against the French invaders of their country, should have restored to Spain frigates captured shortly before the alliance, when Spain was still formally an ally of Napoleonic France. BACK

[8] In 1807 Davy had been awarded the Volta Prize of the Institut de France in recognition of the electrochemical research detailed in his 1806 Bakerian Lecture ‘On Some Chemical Agencies of Electricity’. This work, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 97 (1807), 1-56, revealed that chemical bonding was electrical in nature and that one could use electricity to split substances into their elemental constituents. BACK

[9] Since 1801 Davy had been Director of the Laboratory at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. His associates there included the President, George Finch, 8th Earl of Winchilsea (1752–1826; DNB). BACK

[10] William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), Southey’s acquaintance. BACK

[11] Thomas Poole did not write for the Quarterly. BACK

[12] The Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834; DNB). Southey had reviewed An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society; with Remarks on the Speculations of W. Godwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers (1803), in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 292–301. BACK

[13] Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) (1747–1826; DNB), scholar and forger of Welsh literature, reviver of bardism. BACK

[14] Edward Davies (1756–1831; DNB), author of Celtic Researches, on the Origin, Traditions and Language of the Ancient Britons (1804). BACK

[15] (1760–1819; DNB), a Welsh cleric and author of A Sketch of the Early history of the Cymry (700 BC–AD 500) (1803). BACK

[16] That is, reviewing for the Annual Review. BACK

[17] Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) etched a picture of Jesus and Nicodemus, the Pharisee who, in John’s gospel (3.1–21) visited Jesus by night. In the etching, the figures are illuminated only by one candle. BACK

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