737. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before and continued on] 28 November 1802

737. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before and continued on] 28 November 1802 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

I thought you would know from Wynn that I trespass on my eyes only for short letters – or from Rickman to whom my friend Danvers will have carried the latest news of me this day. if those unhappy eyes had been well you would ere this have received Kehama. [1]  they have been better & are again worse – in spite of lapis calaminaris [2]  – goulard [3]  – cayenne pepper – & the surgeons lance. but they will soon be well so I believe & trust.

You have seen my Cid [4]  – & have not seen what I wrote to Wynn about its manner. everywhere where possible the story is told in the very phrase of the original chronicles which are almost the oldest works in the Castilian language. this song the language in itself poetical becomes more poetical by necessary compression – if it smack of romance – so does the story. in the notes the certain will be distinguished from the doubtful, passages quoted, & references to author & page uniformly given. Thus much for this which is no specimen of my historical style. indeed I do not think uniformity of style desirable – it should rise & fall with the subject & adapt itself to the matter. moreover in my own judgement a little peculiarity of style is desirable, because it nails down the matter to the memory – you remember the facts of Livy – but you remember the very phrase of Tacitus & Sallust, [5]  & the phrase reminds you of the matter when it would else have been forgotten. this may be pushed like every thing else too far & become ridiculous but the principle is true.

As a different specimen I wish you could see a life of S. Francisco [6]  – a section upon Mohammedanism – & a chapter upon the Moorish period. Oh these eyes! these eyes! to have my brain in labour & this spell to prevent delivery like a damned cross-legged Juno! [7]  – farewell till tomorrow – I must sleep – & laze & play whist till bed time.


Your story of Duppa & the Apples is an excellent story – & your note is a good note. Snakes have been pets in England. is it not Cowley who has a poem upon one –

Take heed fair Eve you do not make

Another tempter of the Snake –  [8] 

They ought to be tamed & taken into our service. for snakes eat mice – & can get into their holes after them – & in our country the venomous species is so rare that we should think them beautiful animals were it not for a recollection of the old Serpent. When I am housed & homed (as by the blessing of God I shall be – or hope to be in the next Spring – not that the negociation is over yet – but I expect it will end well – & that I shall have a house in the loveliest part of South Wales – in a vale between high mountains – & an onymous house too Grosvenor – & one that is down in the map of Glamorganshire, & its name is Maes Gwyn – & so much for that & theres an end of my parenthesis) then do I purpose to enter into a grand confederacy with certain of the animal world. every body has a dog – except those who keep a bitch – e.g. as Snivel [9]  – most people have a cat – but I will have moreover an Otter & teach him to fish – for there is salmon in the river Neath, & I should like a hawk – but that is only a vain hope – & a gull or an osprey to fish in the sea & I will have a snake – if Edith will let me – & I will have a Toad to catch flies – & it shall be made murder to kill a spider in my domains,– then Grosvenor when you come to visit me – N.B. you will arrive per mail between five & six in the morning at Neath – ergo you will find me at breakfast about seven – you will see Puss on one side & M. Otto on the other both looking for bread & milk, & Margery in her little great chair, & the Toad upon the tea table, & the snake twisting up the leg of the table to look for his share.

there – two pages in a make a letter of decent length from such a poor blind Cupid [10]  as

Robert Southey – & I hope to finish the second letter of Kehama in a few days.

Sunday 28. Nov. 1802.


* Address: To / G. C. Bedford Esqr / Exchequer/ Westminster./ Single
Postmark: [partial] TOL/ 28
Endorsements: 28 Novr 1802; 28 Novr. 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. 193-196 [in part]. BACK

[1] The Curse of Kehama (1810). Southey had begun drafting Book 2 on 4 June 1802. BACK

[2] Calamine. BACK

[3] Goulard’s extract, a solution of lead acetate and lead oxide, used as an astringent. BACK

[4] Southey had transcribed for Wynn material relating to Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (c. 1040-1099), a Castilian aristocrat and military commander, whose exploits were the subject of numerous poems and tales. Southey’s English translation and compilation of three of these was published in 1808 as The Chronicle of the Cid. BACK

[5] Three Roman historians: Titus Livius (59BC-17AD), author of From the Founding of the City; Publius Cornelius Tacitus (56-117 AD), author of Histories and Annals; Gaius Sallustius Crispus (86-34 BC), author of The Conspiracy of Catiline and the Jugurthine War. BACK

[6] St Francis (1181/2-1226), founder of the Franciscan order. All these ‘specimens’ were drafts of parts of Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[7] Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth. BACK

[8] Southey was mistaken: these lines are not by Abraham Cowley (1618-1667; DNB), but by Edmund Waller (1606-1687; DNB), ‘To a Fair Lady, Playing with a Snake’ (1645), lines 16-17. BACK

[9] Grosvenor Bedford’s dog. BACK

[10] Roman god of erotic love, often portrayed blindfolded. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Maes Gywn, Neath (mentioned 1 time)