848. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started c. October and continued on] 10 November 1803

848. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started c. October and continued on] 10 November 1803 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

You will have guessed why I have not written. to say any thing upon a painful subject is painful. I do not love to write concerning what I never mention. I am very well – very chearful – & very actively employed – & yet with all this hæret lateri. [1] 


This fragment has remained far overlong in my desk – to use a Cumbrian phrase. & I will send it off by this post at all events.

What is become of Wynn? I am rather uneasy at not having heard from him for these two months.

You asked me some question about the Bibliotheca. [2]  Longman wrote to me to postpone it, he being infected with the universal panic. I was no ways averse to the delay of the scheme – the discontinuance being optional with me. In truth I have plans enough without it & begin to think that my days work is already sufficiently cut out for me. I am preparing Madoc [3]  for publication. I have so far advanced in the correction as to resolve upon trying my fortune at a subscription. I will print it for a guinea – in one quarto if possible at that price – if not in three small volumes. I will not print any intention till the success of a subscription has been tried privately: that is without being published. because if it fails I can better go to a bookseller. if you can procure me some names do, but never make yourself uncomfortable by asking. of course no money till delivery of the book. A subscription for 300 copies would insure me far more profits than the sale of an edition to a bookseller who always must make cent- per-cent.

It is now fifteen years since the subject first came into my occiput, & I believe Wynn was made acquainted with it almost at the time. it has been so much the subject of my thoughts & dreams, that in compleating it – in sending quite off what has been so peculiarly & solely my own – there is a sort of awefulness – a feeling as if one of the purposes of my existence will then be accomplished. Of its destiny I have a clear foresight – it will procure for me little profit – fresh notoriety – the censure of town readers, & the love of a few country readers. some present envy, & a fame as lasting as the English language & the passions & affections of man. You Grosvenor put you that down in the preface if ever you edit a posthumous edition of my works; as half the prophecy will then have been accomplished the rest will be entitled to belief.

I am growing old Bedford: not so much by the family bible as by all external & inward symptoms. the grey hairs have made their appearance – my eyes are wearing out – my shoes the very cut of my fathers at which I used to laugh – my limbs not so supple as they were at Brixton in 93 [4]  – my tongue not so glib – my heart quieter – my hopes thoughts feelings all of the complection of a sunny autumn evening. I have a sort of presage that I shall live to finish Madoc & my History [5]  – God grant it! – & that then my work will be done.

God bless you.


Greeta Hall. Keswick.

November 10. 1803.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr./ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK
Postmark: E/ NOV 14/ 1803
Endorsements: Novr 10 1803; 10. Novr 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. 233-234 [in part]. BACK

[1] Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 BC), Aeneid, Book 4, line 73: ‘[it] clings to my side’, in the sense of an arrow in a deer. BACK

[2] The ‘Bibliotheca Britannica’ was Southey’s plan for a chronological history of all literature published in Britain. BACK

[3] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. BACK

[4] i.e. when Southey completed the first draft of Joan of Arc. BACK

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

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