697. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 25 July 1802

697. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 25 July 1802 ⁠* 

Grosvenor I do not like the accounts which reach me of your health. Elmsley says you look ill – your friend Smith [1]  tells the same tale – & I know you are not going the way to amendment. instead of that office & regular business you ought to be in the country with no other business than to amuse yourself. a longer stay at Bath would have benefitted you, if the waters were really of service you ought to give them a longer trial. if they were not – a change of climate is what I have always conceived the most effectual remedy for you – because your attention would wholly be occupied by external things. As for ‘it cant be’ & I ‘must be at the office’ & such like phrases – when a man is seriously ill they mean nothing.

Tom is with me. he has been here about a fortnight & kept me in as wholesome xx a state of idleness as I wish you to enjoy.

Since the last semi-letter which I wrote – my state affairs have been settled & my unsecretaryfication compleated. [2]  a good sinecure gone – but instead of thinking the loss unlucky – I only think how lucky it was I ever had it. a light heart & a thin pair of breeches [3]  – you know the song – & it applies for breeches being the generic name, pantaloons are included in all their modifications – & I sit at this present writing in a pair of loose jane trousers without linings. So many virtues were discovered in me, & so many old friendships recollected when I was Mr Secretary – that I suppose nothing short of sedition – privy-conspiracy & rebellion will be found possible reasons for my loss of office. the old Devil will be said to have scattered having taken with him seven other evil spirits  [4] – & the last state of that man (meaning me) will be worse than the first.

But I hope – I am coming to live near London. not in its damned filth – if John May can find me a good snug house about Richmond – then I will go – & write my history [5]  – & work away merrily – & I will drink wine while I can afford it – & when I cannot, strong beer shall be the nectar – nothing like stingo! [6]  & if that were to fail too – laudanum is cheap. the Turks have found that out – & while there are poppies that grow gratis no man need go to bed sober for want of his most gracious Majestys picture. [7]  & there will be a spare bed at my Domus [8]  – mark you that Grosvenor Bedford! & Toms cot into the bargain – & from June till October always a cold Pie in the cupboard. & I have already got a kitten – & a dog in remainder – but that is a contingency – & you know there is the contingency of another house animal [9]  – whom I already feel disposed to call whelp & dogs & all those vocables of vituperation by which a man loves to call those he loves best. Eblis’s Angels sometimes go up to peep into <at> the Table of Fate [10]  & they get knocked on the head with stars – as we see – only foolish people such as we Cafrs  [11]  mistake it for shooting stars. I should like one look at the Table – just to see what will happen before the end of the year – not to the world in general – nor to Europe – nor to Napoleone [12]  – nor to King George [13]  – nor to Governor Aris [14]  – but to the centre of which these xxxxxxx <great men> & these <great> things are very remote radii – to my own microcosm – damn the impudence of that mock-modesty phrase – tis a megalocosm & a megistocosm & a megistotatocosm too to me, & I care more about it than about all the old universe with Mr Herscheles new little planets, [15]  the last Eggs of the old Hen Nature – to boot

vale vale mi sodalis –  [16] 


Tom desires to be remembered. come to Bath Grosvenor vale vale mi soda [17]  – & then you <know> tis an easy ride to Bristol.

Kingsdown. July 25. 1802.


* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer./ Westminster
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: B/ JUL 26/ 1802
Endorsement: 25 July 1802
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. 187-189. BACK

[1] Thomas Woodroffe Smith (c. 1747-1811), a wealthy Quaker merchant, who lived at Stockwell Park, Surrey, near the Bedfords. In 1789 he married as his second wife Anne Reynolds (dates unknown) of Carshalton. BACK

[2] Southey had left the employ of Isaac Corry. BACK

[3] The popular song ‘How pleasant a Sailor’s life passes’, much reprinted in publications such as The Myrtle and Vine; Or, Complete Vocal Library, 4 vols (London, 1800), IV, pp. 53-54. BACK

[4] A paraphrase of Luke 11: 26. BACK

[5] Southey’s projected ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[6] i.e. old beer; sharp or strong liquor. BACK

[7] For want of money: all coins carried a picture of the monarch. BACK

[8] The Latin translates as ‘home’. BACK

[9] The Southeys’ longed for first child, born on 31 August 1802. BACK

[10] Qu’ran 37: 6-10. Eblis is, in Islam, the evil spirit. For the Table of Fate, see the note to Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 10, line 363. BACK

[11] Unbelievers in Islam. BACK

[12] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821; First Consul 1799-1804; Emperor of the French 1804-1814). BACK

[13] George III (1738-1820; reigned 1760-1820; DNB). BACK

[14] Thomas Aris (dates unknown) was Governor of Cold Bath Fields House of Correction. He was replaced in 1799 after continual complaints about the harsh regime at the prison. His conduct was a controversial issue in the Middlesex constituency in the general election of 1802. BACK

[15] The astronomer William Herschel (1738-1822; DNB), whose discoveries included the planet Uranus. BACK

[16] The Latin translates as ‘farewell, farewell, my friend’. BACK

[17] An abbreviation of ‘farewell, farewell, my friend’. BACK

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