482. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 January 1800

482. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 January 1800 ⁠* 

I can call Spirits from the vasty deep – said Owen Glendower [1]  – & Owen Glendower believed that Sprits would come when he calld them. [2]  – I can invite Grosvenor Bedford – but to believe that Grosvenor Bedford will come when I invite him, is a stretch of belief which requires a more gum-elastical faith than Heaven has allotted me. Now if you were a dancing bear, & I had a string tied to the ring in your bearships nose then perhaps there might be a slight attraction to Bristol. Or if you were a piece of iron & I a great loadstone. Or if I were a turtle & you an Alderman [3]  – but he will come said I

[Southey leaves gap to imitate contents of the letter]

so after a longer gap of expectation than you find in the letter – I eat up the laver. [4] 

But Poole will send me some more – so make haste Grosvenor –

What have I more to say? simply nothing. to register the rising & fallings of my health – Fahrenheit, were but to teize you with my own uncomfortable feelings & disappointed expectations, – & I am leading a life of idleness. come you & vary it.

I have heard nothing of Carlisles Icarization. [5]  how ended it? was the bird never hatchd, or did he fall with feeble wings? I have a great desire to have these experiments succeed – it would be a fine thing for people with corns Grosvenor – & a man in the gout might take the air – then in wet weather the saving of umbrellas by getting above the clouds – & to catch larks instead of bat-fowling – every man his own hawk –

Of our Westminster Library [6]  I have heard good news – as how it has played the whale with the Jonah of the city. [7]  do you know the man who told me this – a Mr Beloe [8]  – not one <he> of the British Critic [9]  gang of thick & thin – believers – but an odd man who talks in a dialect of his own, which puzzled my me confoundedly.

One of your last letters Grosvenor hinted at possibilities that gave me hopes or expectations too serious to be trifled with – as if you had a view of settling. with all my heart I wish this – I want you anchored – not for ever floating before every wind with no port in view.

God bless you

Robert Southey

Jany. 28. 1800


* Address: To/ Grosvenor C. Bedford Esqr / Exchequer / Westminster / Single
Postmark: B / JAN 29 / 1800
Endorsement: 28 Jany 1800
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 90–91. BACK

[1] Owen Glendower (1350s–c. 1416; DNB), last independent ruler of Wales. BACK

[2] Henry IV Part One, Act 3, scene 1, lines 52–54. BACK

[3] Aldermen were proverbially fond of turtle soup (provided at ratepayers’ expense). BACK

[4] Laver is a type of edible seaweed. Southey did not write a poem on its origin, but see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 21 for his note on the possibility of a poem on ‘Laver; how it was ambrosia’. BACK

[5] Anthony Carlisle had a long-standing interest in the possibility of mechanical flight. He collected data on flight in birds and mammals and also theorised about and sketched flying apparatus; see Henry Wilkinson, ‘Aërostation’, Notes and Queries, 2 (14 September 1850), 251. BACK

[6] The London Library Society, a non-profit making subscription library founded in 1785, merged with the Westminster Library in early 1800. BACK

[7] In the Book of Jonah, the whale swallowed Jonah, in the same way that the Westminster Library incorporated the London Library Society. BACK

[8] The Mr Beloe who gave Southey this information is unidentified. He was not, as Southey makes clear, William Beloe (1758–1817; DNB), clergyman, author and joint proprietor of the British Critic. BACK

[9] A conservative periodical that ran between 1793 and 1813. BACK

People mentioned

Poole, Thomas (1766–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Carlisle, Anthony (1768–1840) (mentioned 1 time)