796. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 June 1803
796. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 June 1803 *
Why Grosvenor that is an idle squeamishness of yours, that asking a previous leave to speak. Where my conscience becomes second to your challenge, the final <offence> shall be amended – where we differ mine is the voice potential. But in truth I will tell you that I am out of humour with Kehama  for half a hundred reasons. historical composition is a source of greater & quieter & more continuous pleasure & that poem sometimes comes into my head with a – shall I sit down to it, & this is so easily turned out again – that the want of inclination would make me suspect a growing want of power, if some rhymes & poemets did not now & then come out & convince me to the contrary. That second book is good for nothing, it has good parts & pictures – but in tota it is bad; I have some guess how to improve it by managing the weather, & by a piece of natural history which is somewhat of a lie. Abuse away ad libitum. 
Not Nestor Cumberland  – only as Nestor  was old. if he must have a Greek <name> – there is but one that fits him – Aristophanes  – & that for the worst part of the libellers character. If his plays had any honest principle in them instead of that xxx eternal substitution of honour for honesty – of a shadow for a substance –, if his novels were not more profligate in their tendency than Mathew Lewiss  unhappy book, if the perusal of the Calvary were not a cross heavy enough for any man to bear who has ever read ten lines of Milton – if the man were innocent of all these things by God he ought never to be forgiven for his attempt to blast the character of Socrates.  right or wrong no matter. the name had been canonized. & God knows Wisdom & Virtue have not so many Saints that they can spare one altar to his clumsy pick-axe. I am no blind bigot to the Greeks – but I will take the words of Plato & greater Xenophon  against Richard Cumberland Esqr. – Now do not suppose that I deny him any merit. his observer has some fine stories – very fine ones. but damn his plays – damn his novels damn his calvary – & for that wicked work about Socrates damn him in person.
I do desire the Cabinet  – because I should like all my friends Operas, stupid whelp that I was not to keep the book  that contained both our Operas, & which is now opus rascio.  because nobody else cares for it, or ever has cared – my nose is long & sharp scented – but my eyes not so farsighted opus rascio & therefore what sort of a book this is is all unknown to me. but it must be ‘fico for my friendship’  be it what it may.
Of your Mr Glasoe  it is but honest to say that I dislike all I have heard from other quarters of him. but I have no objection to see & to be seen, & am never disposed to return manners for civility. there is no danger that his acquaintance can ever be troublesome to me, & if you take me to him you will see me as courteous as you could wish.
The Grenvilles  are in the right, but they got right by sticking in the wrong. they turnd their faces westward in the morning & swore the sun was there, & they have stood still & sworn on till sure enough there the sun is. But they stand upon the strong ground now & have the argument all hollow. Yet what is to come of it & what do they want. The country asks the question War? they have it – & every man in the country says Amen, & they whose politics are the most conservative say Amen most loudly & most sincerely. In spite of their speeches I cannot wish them in, & when change of ministry is talked of cannot but feel with Fox  that little as I may like them, ten to one I shall like their successors worse. & sure I am that worse war Ministers than the last cannot curse this country. They were Tyrants – cruel Tyrants & provoked hatred & bitter curses by their cruelty. these men behaved so well upon Despards  business & have shown such a respect to the liberties & beliefs of the country that they have fully won my good will. I believe they will smarten up a sad piecemeal patchwork administration. Tierney  has a lead – but they talk of Sheridan  a rank rascal – & of that Irish Lord Moira  – & it does seem that by some fatality the best talents of the Kingdom are for ever to be excluded from the government. Fox has not done well – not what I could have wished – & yet I reverence that man so truly that whenever he appears to me to have erred I more than half suspect my own judgement. –
I am promised access to the Kings Library  by Heber – & indeed it is a matter of considerable consequence that I should obtain it. morning noon & night I do nothing but read Chronicles & collect from them – & I have travelled at a great rate the <since> the burthen of translating & reviewing has been got rid of. but this will not last long – I must think by & by of some other job work, & turn to labour again that I may earn another holyday.
I call Margaret by way of avoiding all common place phraseology of endearment – a worthy child & a most excellent character. She loves me better than any except her mother – her eyes are as quick as thought – she is all life & spirit & as happy as the day is long – but that little brain of hers is now at rest – & it is vexatious to see how dreams disturb her.
A Dios! 
June 12. 1803.
* Address: To/ G C. Bedford Esqr./ 28 Gerrard Street/ Soho/
Stamped: [partial] OL
Postmark: B/ JUN 14/ 1803
Endorsements: June 12 1803; 12. June 1803
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. 214-216 [in part]. BACK
 Richard Cumberland (1732-1811; DNB), playwright, novelist and poet. He authored an epic poem, Calvary, or, The Death of Christ (1792), and conducted a periodical paper, The Observer, 5 vols (1785-1786). BACK
 Aristophanes (c. 446- c. 386 BC), Greek playwright. The Clouds (423 BC) contained an attack on a number of philosophers, including Socrates. BACK
 Probably an anonymous publication by Bedford. It could be connected to the short-lived periodical The Cabinet (1803). BACK
 The controversial schoolboy magazine The Flagellant (1792), which contained the writings of Southey, Bedford and their friends. BACK
 King Henry V, Act 3, scene 6, line 57 [adapted]. The Spanish translates as ‘a fig for my friendship’. BACK
 The followers of William Grenville, Lord Grenville (1759-1834; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1791-1801, Prime Minister 1806-1807. They had opposed the Treaty of Amiens (1802). BACK
 Edward Despard (1751-1803; DNB), tried and executed on a charge of planning a revolution in 1802. BACK
 George Tierney (1761-1830; DNB), Whig politician who broke with his party and joined the government in 1803. BACK
 Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816; DNB), Whig politician and playwright. In 1803 there were persistent rumours that he would join the government, but he declined to do so. BACK
 Francis Rawdon Hastings, 2nd Earl of Moira (1754-1826; DNB), Whig politician and Irish landowner. He also refused government office in 1803. BACK
 Library at Windsor built up by George III (1738-1820, King of Great Britain 1760-1820; DNB) and given to the nation in 1823. BACK