1686. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 September 1809

1686. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 September 1809 ⁠* 

My very good friend Mr Bedford

It is a long while since I have had the pleasure of hearing any tidings from you, & also since I have had the pleasure of receiving any of his Majestys money, [1]  & if Mr Murray had not been a more punctual paymaster than his Majesty I should have been put to my shirts, – shifts you know Mr Bedford belong to the other sex.

What a happy people are the people of London! First an Expedition to amuse them, – then (of (of course) a failure in its object – then an Inquiry talked of,  [2]  – then a War at Covent Garden, [3]  – then a Cabinet Duel – & now a Change of Ministry! [4]  – Surely Canning was miserably ill-advised when he accepted an Irishmans challenge upon such an occasion. He let slip an opportunity of doing himself more credit & the public more good – than ever occurred to him before, & this wound in his thigh is not a worse punishment than he deserves for so flagrant breach of decorum as well as of law & common sense. I wish to see M. Wellesley in, just because he has not yet been tried, & all the rest of the candidates have been proved wanting. For as for any good to be got by Puss-catch-corner [5]  change among this ministry & the last, – Lord help the simple heads of those who expect it – say I! – There is however a worthy friend & most unworthy correspondent of ours, who may peradventure return to Whitehall, & then franking upon a liberal scale might ensue. [6]  Farther advantage this deponent expecteth looketh not for.

I have been expecting Duppa these last three days.

God bless you


Sept 30. 1809.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr./ [in another hand] Exchequer/ [illegible signature]
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] As a civil servant, Bedford was responsible for the payment of the government pension that Wynn had arranged for Southey. BACK

[2] Southey is referring to 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. The debacle led to calls for an inquiry. BACK

[3] The Old Price Riots, beginning on 19 September and lasting for over two months, were caused by a price increase for tickets at the rebuilt theatre at Covent Garden. BACK

[4] George Canning had held the office of Foreign Secretary in the government since 1807, but offered to resign several times in 1809 over the progress of the war with France, his plans to expel Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh and 2nd Marquess of Londonderry (1769–1822; DNB) from the War Office (with a duel being fought between them on 21 September 1809), and his own ambitions to become Prime Minister. Canning lost his position when Spencer Perceval became Prime Minister at the end of September 1809. BACK

[5] A child’s game in which a room, or other square area with four corners, is inhabited by a player in each corner. A player in the centre is nominated ‘Puss’ and while the corner players attempt to change places with each other in any direction, ‘Puss’ tries to gain a corner during the exchange. If the central player succeeds in gaining a corner, the player without a corner becomes ‘Puss’ so that the game can begin again. BACK

[6] Wynn, who had franking privileges as an MP. These operated only during a parliament, however, not during recess. BACK