1674. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 4 September 1809

1674. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 4 September 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

The easiest way of managing about the frames [1]  now will be for you to transfer my directions about them to Miss Betham. No 14 New Cavendish Street, where she will arrive in about a fortnight with the pictures. [2]  Cut off the description & send it by the Twopenny, – unless you think it worth while to call with it, for the sake of seeing very admirable likenesses of your godson & my eldest daughter.

I am promised Cannings interest for Dutens situation whenever he vacates it, [3]  – in such promises there is no harm if there is no good. Mean time Mr Ballantyne the bookseller has persuaded me to be his Historiographer for the year 1808, & instead of taking the Spanish affairs only, to write the whole. [4]  The person whom he had previously engaged had sent certainly a very wretched sample, [5]  which he has done wisely to cancel. Mean time you may imagine how unprepared I am for such an office, & if you chuse to add how unfit for I am not sure whether that I should think of disputing your opinion. Be that as it may I have begun with a pretty fair account of what All the Talents did, [6]  – their sins of omission & of commission, – & I am waiting for such documents as the various periodicals continue to proceed with. Ballantynes proposal was that I should engage regularly to write the history of the year at a salary of 400 £, I have however promised myself for this volume only upon trial. That I shall suit him there can be little doubt, – the question is whether or not it will not require a greater sacrifice of time than I think proper to make for the lucre of gain. As for the job itself, judging by the little trial made as yet, I do not dislike it. Having greatly decided opinions there is some pleasure in giving them circulation. You known the main article of my political creed; – keep xxx up the spirit & the honour of the country & all will go right. All will go to this tune, – & upon whatever tends to quell that spirit or stain that honour – I shall have no mercy.

The worst part of the business is that I am very much hurried, almost unmercifully so; – but were the materials here I would make good speed, tho not now a rapid writer.

The Annual Review is defunct. [7]  I served a seven years apprenticeship to it at confoundedly low wages, but it was of service to me. It set me collecting information upon some subjects, made me look for my opinion upon others, & exercised me in that sort of composition. – I have offered to write about Methodism for the Quarterly, [8]  but it cannot be for the next number, which it might have been had Murray sent me the books I required for it some weeks ago. This Register will monopolize me for the next four months, – I can find time for a lighter article, – such as Joel Barlows poem, [9]  – but not for any thing which will require so much arrangement & thought as this.

Duppa is at Durham to day, – dining probably with my bedoctored brother, whom I wish you knew.

Tom will be much obliged to your brother Henry for the Navy List – his direction is as usual Dreadnought [10]  Plymouth Dock.

I hope these troops which are come back from Holland [11]  may be sent forthwith to Spain. Give Wellesley force enough to win a great victory & to follow it up as he would do, & the whole tide of fortune will turn.

God bless you


Sept 4. 1809

One more chapter will conclude my first volume, [12]  – unless there be room for another which I should wish to insert. Revd H. HillStaunton upon Wye – Hereford is the direction


* MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had asked Bedford if he could get frames for four miniatures and a print of of the 1798 battle between HMS Mars and the Hercule; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 August 1809, Letter 1669. BACK

[2] Southey’s instructions regarding the framing of his pictures are given in letter 1670 of this edition. BACK

[3] Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB), a French Protestant, held the post of Historiographer Royal until his death on 23 May 1812. Southey’s campaign for the post proved unsuccessful and it went to James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB). BACK

[4] For the Edinburgh Annual Register. BACK

[5] Either the poet and translator William Steward Rose (1775–1843; DNB) or his brother the diplomatist George Henry Rose (1770–1855; DNB). Their father was the Pittite loyalist MP George Rose (1744–1818; DNB). BACK

[6] The Ministry of All the Talents was a cross-party ministry that united leading politicians from almost all groups. Its short-lived administration, from February 1806 to March 1807, brought about the abolition of the slave-trade in February 1807. BACK

[7] See Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 17 August 1809, Letter 1670. BACK

[8] Southey did so in his review of [James Sedgwick (1775–1851; DNB)], Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in the Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[9] The American writer and politician, Joel Barlow (1754–1812) published The Columbiad. A Poem in England in 1809. It was a revised version of his Vision of Columbus published in 1787. Southey did not review this work for the Quarterly. BACK

[10] HMS Dreadnought was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line launched in 1801. She had fought at Trafalgar (1805) and was now under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831), younger brother of the author, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), Southey’s acquaintance. BACK

[11] From the Walcheren expedition, an unsuccessful British attempt to open another front in the Netherlands in support of the Austrian Empire’s struggle with France. Approximately 40,000 soldiers with supporting horses and artillery landed at Walcheren on 30 July 1809. There was little fighting but the army sustained heavy losses from sickness, and in December 1809 the rest of the force withdrew. BACK

[12] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil, published in 1810. BACK

Places mentioned

Staunton on Wye (mentioned 1 time)