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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1763. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 March 1810 ⁠* 

March 21. 1810.

My dear Grosvenor

In Adm. Keats’s [1]  Official Letter (Aug 11. 1808) – respecting his bringing off the Spanish troops from Denmark th he says ‘the arrival of the Spanish Officer in the Edgar, on the 5th; of whose spirited escape to the squadron you were informed by Capt Graves, [2]  greatly facilitated our means of communication.” This letter of Capt Graves has never been published. Now I am at this time Registering this part of the years history, & it would be a very great satisfaction to me if I could obtain a copy of it, – you need not be told what meagre work history is when Gazette accounts are the only documents for it. [3]  If Henry can render me this service I shall be very much obliged to him. Keats’s official letters are better than those of any other man in the service, – but they leave altogether xxxx xxx unexplained the manner in which he opened a communication with the Spaniards – that in fact not being called for in a dispatch. This letter must throw some light upon the subject, & if Henry can give me any other information he will enable me to compleat my work more to my own satisfaction, which is so as to satisfy myself, – xx be it known unto you Mr Bedford there is no other person of whose satisfaction I am so solicitous, for this reason among others that it is much more easy to satisfy any body else.

You have mist the spirit of the last Kehama – books a good deal. [4]  What Ereenia goes for is to learn what course he is to pursue, & he is accordingly told to go to the throne of Yamen. The ladders [5]  &c are mythological, the salt sea girdle is the peculiarly proper in that place, [6]  each of the seven worlds being circled with its own ocean, each ocean of different materials, & this inner world being the one which is surrounded with brine. You will perceive therefore not merely that the word is unexceptionable, but that it is the only proper one in that place.

I must now send you a-begging, – & I believe in such a case that you will go to work with good will. A poor fellow died at the age of 19, leaving to an only sister [7]  of whom he was exceedingly fond, – all that he had to leave – a little volume of poems, – in correcting & preparing which for the press, for this purpose, he employed the last week of his life, – when in a hopeless consumption. His name was Wm I. Roberts. His father [8]  had been a brewer (at Bristol) – but having failed, had obtained an inferior situation in the Customs, – which with the profits of a lodging house, & Williams salary of 70£ from a Bank, just sufficed for the suff decent support of the family. The sons death therefore was not only a deep affliction, but in the mere worldly sense of the word a great loss, – the father has since been disabled by an apoplectic stroke, & in consequence has lost his situation, – & the whole family (the sister {mother}, [9]  & a grandmother) are I believe in want. – William left the charge of publishing his poems to two of his most intimate friends, [10]  one of whom P. M. James (a banker at Birmingham, – the author of that poem upon the Otaheitean Girl) [11]  edites the book & prefixes an account of him, – with a selection from his correspondence. [12]  Unquestionably he was a youth of first-rate promise, & did as much at nineteen, as it is possible for a youth of nineteen to do. Upon his moral character there was neither speck nor stain, – neither vices, nor follies, nor eccentricities, as humble in his h worldly hopes, as wise in his views elevated in better things, as noble in his nature, as wise in his views as I should wish a son of my own to be. – Now the object Ja which James has, xx (I being of the privy council on this occasion) is to obtain subscribers enough to raise a sum which may place Eliza Roberts in a situation to maintain herself & her parents respectably. He prints 1250 copies, – in this he has not waited for my opinion, which would have been not to print till the number of subscribers could be ascertained. The price will be 10/6- for xx {a} volume {in} crown 8vo – the money paid on delivery of the book. – Go to work for me Grosvenor, ask, beg & solicit – with all your rhetoric. There is no hope of obtaining any extensive sale for the book – because poor fellow he had not been bit by the Evangelicals, – neither is there the reading interest about his life that there is about H K Whites, – because, he poor fellow, could make no effort to lift himself above his situation, his little salary being essential to the support of a family that had been born to better prospects, & had sunk in the world from unavoidable misfortunes. Still it will be a book which those who read in the manner of common readers will be pleased with, – & which will make a mans heart ache who can see the promises of excellence that these poor fragments contain. – There is a danger of saying too little as well as of saying too much about such things, – so the best way is to send you the first sheet of the Poems, – half a dozen having been sent me for this purpose {such dispersal}. – It has pleased Providence that Mr Perceval should for wise purposes however inscrutable be minister just at this time, & therefore I will enclose another letter upon the same errand to xxxxx give him an opportunity of doing some good by franking it. – Ask every body you can ask, – & if they know me, ask it as a thing for which I shall feel personally obliged. In short levy a poll tax upon all your friends & acquaintances –

– The sooner Henry can obtain this letter of Capt Graves for me, – if he can do it all at all, the more I shall be obliged to him. In fact I have a portion of copy ready for the Printer which is waiting for it. You will judge from my solicitude about this, how desirous I am to do what I have undertaken, as well as I can, sparing x no pains to in collecting information from all the sources within my reach. – If you damn the Spaniards I shall damn you, & you will deserve it to be damned. And Take notice therefore that it is only conditionally I say

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr
Endorsements: [list of names on address sheet, in Bedford’s hand] Mr Moore 2. –/ C. Herries/ P. Elmsley/ F. Sochiel/ J. Colquhoun/ R. Duppa/ F. Robertson 2. 2
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Admiral Sir Richard Goodwin Keats (1757–1834; DNB). Spain had been compelled by France to provide an Army to assist Bonaparte’s campaigns in northern Europe. When Spain was invaded by France in 1808, Keats was in command of the operation to help these Spanish troops escape from Denmark and return to Spain to fight the French. Keats’ letter was widely reported; see, for example, National Register, 1 (28 August 1808), 551–552. BACK

[2] Thomas Graves (d. 1834), Captain of HMS Brunswick. BACK

[3] For Southey’s account of these events, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 333–335. It did not make use of Graves’ letter. ‘Gazette accouts’ are those drawn up from official news published in the government daily paper, the London Gazette. BACK

[4] Southey had sent Bedford drafts of The Curse of Kehama, published later in 1810. BACK

[5] The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 19, line 122. BACK

[6] The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 19, line 103. BACK

[7] Eliza Roberts (dates unknown). BACK

[8] William Roberts (dates unknown). He had been made bankrupt in 1793. BACK

[9] Ann Roberts (dates unknown). BACK

[10] The other ‘friend’ was Edward Hogg. BACK

[11] ‘The Otaheitan Mourner’: ‘Peggy Stewart, daughter of an Otaheitian Chief, and married to one of the Mutineers of the Bounty. On Stewart’s being seized and carried away in the Pandora Frigate, Peggy fell into a rapid decay, and in two months died of a broken heart, leaving an infant daughter, who is still living’, published in Monthly Magazine, 26 (December 1808), 457–458. Two stanzas were quoted by Southey in his ‘Transactions of the Missionary Societies in the South Sea Islands’, Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 50 n*. BACK

[12] Poems and Letters: by the Late William Isaac Roberts, of Bristol, Deceased; with Some Account of his Life (1811). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013