908. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [5–]6 March 1804

908. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [5–]6 March 1804 ⁠* 

I have not the Spanish Gil Blas. such a book exists – but if I remember rightly with the suspicious phrase restored to the Spaniards in the title, which may imply a retranslation of what they say is translated. [1]  Yet it is very likely that the story is originally Spanish, & indeed if the Spaniards claim it, I am ready to believe them, they being true men, & Le Sage’s being a Frenchman strong reason for suspecting him to be a thief. however if he has stolen, there can be no doubt that he has tinkered old metal into a better shape, & I should think your time ill employed in Englishing what every body reads in French.

And now let me tell you what to do for me & how to do it. [2] 

Take half a quartain, or a whole one doubled. write as a title the name of the poet in question. then, under that, the time & place of his birth when discoverable & the time of his death. After that a brief notice of his life & works to the average length of a Westminster theme, [3]  as much shorter as his demerits deserve, as much longer as apt anecdotes or the humour of pointed & rememberable criticism may tempt your pen. Then on separate papers of the same size copy the extracts, selecting the best & the most characteristic pieces, which last may be the worst. you may improve a piece by omissions ad libitum, [4]  marking the omissions. ten lines will not be too few for a dog dullissimus, nor xxx 200 for one who deserves more fame than has fallen to his share.

Now for a list of those whom I xxx can turn over to your care at once.

Henderson. [5]  this you will do con amore [6]  – & find materials at Brixton. [7] 

Garrick [8]  – Tom D’Urfey [9]  – Tom Browne. [10]  Harry Carey the author of Chronohotonthologus [11]  – see if his Namby Pamby [12]  be of suitable brevity. the Biographia Dramatica, [13]  & Biog-Dictionary [14]  will be sufficient finds. Lady M.W. Mountague. [15]  Stephen Duck. [16]  Kill off these, & put them by till I see you in the spring, & kill them off the faster the better that xxxx you may fall upon more, for so much Labour as you do, so much am I saved, which is very good for both of us says Dr Southey. I will make out a catalogue of such books as I get sent xxxx from my materials here & send you, that you may lay hands upon as many as you can find & score them off before my arrival.

Great news at Keswick. a firing heard off the Isle of Man at four o’clock in the morning yesterday! The French are a-coming a-coming – a-coming – & what care we? we who have eighteen volunteers & an apothecary at their head! – Did I ever tell you of de Paddy – one of the United [17]  – who was sent to serve on board Toms ship last war? the first day of his service he had to carry the plumb-pudding for the dinner of his mess, & the Patrician had never seen a plumb pudding before. he came holding it up in triumph & exclaimed in perfect extacy – Och! your souls! look here! if dis be wār, may it never be paice! –


Mar 6 1804

Monday night – Your letter is just arrived – so late that there is only time to notice it thus. I need not say I shall be very glad to do any thing that may be pleasant – much more any thing can be useful to Horace. your plan however is a bad one – because he must perceive that <it> is contrivance. The better way therefore is this – that you should encourage him in his notion of coming down, & let him write to me about it himself – or instruct you to do it. I will then reply what I now say to you before hand, that I shall be very glad to see him – to talk with him – to walk with him, &c. A bed it is not in my power to offer him – because we inhabit only part of a house – & the very important family event  [18]  will make me tenant the only spare room in it probably within a month & perhaps much sooner. But I will procure him a lodging in the town, within five minutes walk, & shall be very glad if he will partake xx every day of such a dinner, as, tho it is not like his fathers table, I shall make no apology for, being contented with it myself. His health will certainly be benefited by the journey, & his spirits pleased by what he will see. besides Horace is an angler, & has therefore one resource for this place which more than I possess. Let him write – or do you write – & then I will say all this & more than this in return, & the arrangement may then be had without any appearance of contrivance; – otherwise he must perceive it, & would in all probability be the worse for it. No time for more – farewell

R Southey.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Gerard Street/ Soho/ London/ Single
Stamped: [partial] KESWI
Postmark: E/ MAR 8/ 1804
Endorsement: 8 Mar 1804
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 269–270 [in part].
Dating note: Southey dates the letter ‘Mar 6 1804’ halfway through, and puts ‘Monday night’ when it resumes. 6 March in 1804 was a Tuesday. BACK

[1] The picaresque novel by Alain-René LeSage (1668–1747), L’Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane, first appeared in French (1715–1735), claiming to be a Spanish tale. In 1805 an adaptation of the French text into Spanish, by José Francisco de Isla, was published, entitled Adventures de Gil Blas de Santillane, Robadas á España, Adoptadas en Francia por Mons. Le Sage, Restituidas á su Patria y a su Lengua Nativa, por un Español zeloso, que no Sufre que se Burlen de su Nación (the title translates as ‘Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillana, stolen from Spain and appropriated in France by M. Le Sage, restored to their country and their native tongue by a jealous Spaniard, who will not suffer his country to be burlesqued’). BACK

[2] Southey is instructing Bedford on entries for their jointly compiled Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[3] Probably a reference to Westminster School texts or lectures. BACK

[4] Meaning ‘at your pleasure’. BACK

[5] John Henderson (1757–1788; DNB), student of languages, alchemy and esoteric lore, who taught at his father’s Bristol school, where Joseph Cottle was a pupil. The school was closed and re-opened as a madhouse, where Henderson took care of William Gilbert (1763?–c.1825), the mystic and poet who Southey befriended. Cottle celebrated Henderson’s life and works in Poems, Containing John the Baptist. Sir Malcolm and Alla, a Tale, Shewing to All the World What a Woman’s Love Can Do. War a Fragment. With a Monody to John Henderson; and a Sketch of his Character (1795). He is not included in the Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[6] Meaning ‘with love’. BACK

[7] That is, among Southey’s papers stored at Bedford’s family home in Brixton, south London. BACK

[8] David Garrick (1717–1779; DNB): actor, playwright, author of numerous verse and songs including ‘Hearts of Oak’. Extracts from his poetry appear in Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), III, pp. 155–165. BACK

[9] Thomas D’Urfey (1653?–1723; DNB): playwright and writer, whose poetry features in Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 237–242. BACK

[10] Thomas Browne (1605–1682; DNB): physician and author of Religio Medici (1635–1636). Extracts of his poetry appear in Specimens of the Later English Poets, III, pp. 455–464. BACK

[11] Henry Carey (1687–1743; DNB): author of ballads, songs and theatrical burlesques, including, in 1734, under the pseudonym Benjamin Bounce, Chrononhotonthologos, a satire on tragic and operatic bombast, and, in 1737, The Dragon of Wantley. Extracts from Carey’s poetry are included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, III, pp. 436–443. BACK

[12] This term of abuse for bland infantile poetry was coined for another of the authors Southey included in his Specimens of the Later English Poets, Ambrose Phillips (bap. 1674–1749; DNB); Specimens of the Later English Poets, II, pp. 112–118. BACK

[13] Isaac Reed (1742–1807; DNB), editor of Biographia Dramatica, or, a Companion to the Playhouse, 2 vols (1782). BACK

[14] John Aikin, General Biography; or Lives, Critical and Historical, of the Most Eminent Persons of all Ages, Countries, Conditions, and Professions (1799–1815). BACK

[15] Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (bap. 1689–1762; DNB), author, whose poetry features in Specimens of the Later English Poets, II, pp. 291–295. BACK

[16] Stephen Duck (1705?–1756; DNB): labourer poet who published Poems on Several Occasions in 1736, and who features in the Specimens of the Later English Poets, II, pp. 234–240. BACK

[17] The Society of United Irishmen: Catholic and Protestant revolutionaries who launched a failed rebellion against the rule of Ireland from Britain in 1798. The Society collapsed after a rising led by Robert Emmet (1778–1803; DNB) was defeated in 1803. BACK

[18] The Southeys second child, Edith May, was born on 30 April 1804. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)