468. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 25 December 1799

468. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 25 December 1799 ⁠* 

Gatholonabes – Aladeules – Aloadin – [1] 

By what ειλετο. γευτο – οτπερ. [2]  Pipin – pedigree – can you identify those names for those three are one? – but thank you for the extract. [3]  there is a lie or two in Sir John Maundeville – & this is one of the best. do you know that the Old Man of the Mountain [4]  is nothing more than old Gatholonabes, tamed down to suit the decent lies of history? I am now ranging “in that goodlie Paradise – so do not wonder at my head running upon the subject.

Grosvenor I think seriously of going abroad. my complaint, so am I told by the opinion of many medical men is wholly a diseased sensibility – (mind you – physical sensibility –) disordering the functions now of the heart – now of the intestines – & gradually debilitating me. climate is the obvious remedy. in my present state to attempt to undergo the confinement of legal application were actual suicide. I am anxious to be well – & to attempt the profession. much in it I never shall do – sometimes my principles will stand in my way – sometimes the want of readiness which I felt from the first – a want which I always know in company, & never in solitude & silence. howbeit I will make the attempt – but mark you, if by stage writing, or any other writing, I can acquire independance, I will not make the sacrifice of happiness it will inevitably cost me. I love the country – I love study – devotedly I love it. but in legal studies it is only the subtitly of the mind that is exercised – however I need not philippicize – & it is too late to veer about. in 96 I might have chosen physic & succeeded in it – I caught at the first plank – & mist the great mast in my reach. perhaps I may enable myself to swim by & by. Grosvenor I have nothing of what the world call ambition. I never thought it possible that I could be a great Lawyer – I should as soon expect to be the Man in the Moon. my views were bounded – my hopes – to an income of 500 a year, of which I could lay by half to effect my escape with. possibly the stage may exceed this, & that at an expence of time on my part allowing three parts of the year to other labours. I am not indolent – I loathe indolence. but indeed reading law is laborious indolence. it is thrashing straw. I have read & read & read – but the Devil a bit can I remember. I have given all possible attention & attempted to command volition – no! the eye read – the lips pronounced – I understood – I re read it – it is was very clear – I remembered the page – the sentence – but close the book – & all was gone! Were I an independant man – even on less than I now possess. I should long since have made the blessed bonfire & rejoiced that I was free & contented. I need not tell you this is only for your own eye.

I suffer a good deal from illness. & in a way hardly understandable by those in health. I start from sleep as if death had seizd me – I am sensible of every pulsation – & compelld to attend to the motion of my heart, till that attention disturbs it, the pain in my side is I think lessened – nor do I at all think it was consumption. organic affection it could not have been – else it had been constant – & a heart disease would not have been perceived there. I must go abroad, & recruit under better skies. not to Lisbon. I will see something new – & something better than Portugueze. Ask Duppa about Italy – about Trieste – & the way thro Vienna – & say something to him on my part expressive of respect – of a wish one day to see more of him.

But of these plans you shall know more when they are more moulded into form. in the meantime I must raise the supplies – & for this purpose there is Thalaba. my expedition will not be a ruinous one, & it shall be as oeconomical as it ought. I will at least xxx xxxx return w[MS torn] not better. Italy will be safe if Austria have sense enou[MS torn] an event of which I entertain little doubt. even if the war i[MS torn] is always easy into Germany, – or Sicily is accessible. [MS torn] is the way – to be obliged to cross to Hamburgh instead [MS torn] man for subject to sea-sickness! Zounds – it is a be[MS torn] peace than they had to go to war.

But now for more immediate affairs – the Antholo[MS torn] [5]  send me something. Oh for another Parody such as th[MS torn] a Ballad good as the Circular Old Woman [6]  – who ten[MS torn] I remember her. There is a poem called Gebir [7]  [MS torn] God knows who – sold for a shilling. it has mira[MS torn] And the Bishop of St Giles’s said the best Poems in the Anthology were by Mrs Opie [8]  & George Dyer! [9]  & he writes reviews! – I expect to see my brother Harry tomorrow – after 20 months absence. he is now sixteen, & promises much. If I go abroad I shall make every effort to take him with me. Tom is cruising – & I think likely to rise in his profession. & my nose has set up a manufactory of mucous, after having made water for three days incessantly. – x xxxx can xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

Direct Kingsdown. Bristol.

yrs ever & the same –

Robert Southey.

Saturday night 25 Dec. 99.

N.B. Cursed Cold Weather!


* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmarks: [partial] DEC 2; B/ DE/ 99
Endorsement: 25. Decr 1799.
MS: Bodleian Library, MS 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. 33–35 [in part; misdated 21 December 1799]. BACK

[1] The different names given to a ruler who tricked his subjects into believing he could give them access to immortal bliss by drugging a few individuals and taking them to a beautiful valley, which they were convinced was Paradise; see Sir John Mandeville, The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundeville (London, 1727), pp. 336–339; Samuel Purchas (c. 1577–1626; DNB), Purchas his Pilgrimage, 2nd edn (London, 1614), pp. 237, 317. BACK

[2] The first Greek word is ‘s/he chose’, but the meaning of the remaining two words is unclear. BACK

[3] Sir John Mandeville, The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundeville (London, 1727), pp. 336–339, used as a note in Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 7, line 256. BACK

[4] Title given by Crusaders to the head of the Nizari section of Shi’ite Islam, whose headquarters were at Alamut in Persia between 1090–1256. It was claimed that this ruler, too, possessed a secret valley which he persuaded his followers was Paradise, most famously in Marco Polo’s (1254–1325) Travels, Book 1, chapter 23. BACK

[5] Bedford did not contribute to the Annual Anthology (1800). BACK

[6] Bedford’s ‘Hag’s Disaster’; see Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 14 October 1799, Letter 446. BACK

[7] Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864; DNB), Gebir (1798), although the poem was published anonymously. BACK

[8] Amelia Opie signed ‘To Mr. OPIE’, p. 38; ‘Stanzas written on the Sea-shore’, pp. 77–78; ‘Sonnet XII’, p. 142; ‘Song’, pp. 118–119; and ‘To Twilight’, pp. 202–204, in Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1799). BACK

[9] George Dyer signed ‘Ode to the River Cam’, pp. 48–51; and ‘On Reading Mr Cartwright’s Appeal, &c.’, pp. 249–252, in Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1799). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Kingsdown Parade, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)