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

1842. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 December 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 22. 1810.

My dear Grosvenor

Well disposed as I am to double-damn the Doctors for overdosing you with calomel, it is nevertheless a considerable relief to me to find that these unpleasant symptoms are the effect of the remedy, & not consequences of the disease, for they are much more within the reach of art. I am also glad that Pearson [1]  has put you upon a better diet, –& if you will drink my health duly in lime water during the winter, I have good hope you will be able to pledge me when we meet next in the juice of the Douro grape.

I came back yesterday from Grasmere after a three days absence. My motive for leaving home was to give myself a dose of different air, & shake up the solids by a good round walk – in addition to these benefits I obtained that of a thorough rain-bath on my return, for which I am no worse. There was a large parcel awaiting me, so that my return would have been a joyful one if I had not found three of the children indisposed; – Moon & Bertha with a feverish attack, the infant with an oppression of the chest which has been very prevalent among children, & has killed that robust child where Tom lodged, & one other in the town. To day they are all better, yet none of them well enough to make me feel quite at ease, & Edith is now sickening in her turn.

Kehama [2]  was in the parcel. I look upon cutting open the leaves of the first copy of his own book to be the consummation of an authors happiness. De revidendo  [3]  – you must mak satisfy yourself about all the faults that are to be found in course of criticism, perfectly sure that you will not dissatisfy me. – Nothing that can happen to the book will vex me, & the only thing that will surprize me would be if any body, except some half dozen of my own friends, should like it. – I am sorry to see that a number of errors have crept into the printing since I corrected the proofs, & which I am certain did not exist at that time. In several instances two paragraphs are printed as one, when there was a natural & necessary division. Pray notice the fashion of the typography, & complain that the first two or three sheets are not correct in this respect. It is a great improvement & any public mention of it in this way will go far towards establishing it.

Coleridge is a guest of John Morgans at Hammersmith 7. Portland Place. Morgan you may remember by the embroidered pantaloons wherewith you decorated one of the devils in the device of Biggs & Cottle on St Augustine’s Back. Godwins story may prove ph prophecy {hereafter}, at present it is simply a lie. [4]  We have heard nothing from Coleridge yet. His silence is too easily accounted for to excite any thing like anger. – he went to London professedly to put himself under medical advice for – bad habits, & as we very well knew would be the case, he is going on in those habits. When he is tired of his London & Hammersmith friends he will come back again as if he had done nothing amiss, or absurd, & we whose resentment has long since given place to regret & x compassion, shall receive him as kindly as we took leave of him, – but more chearfully, or rather with less inward sorrow, for if he will destroy himself by self-indulgence, it is better he should do it here than among strangers. O Grosvenor what a mind is xx here overthrown!

I am afraid that ministers have suffered a great opportunity to let slip. They should have enabled Wellington to attack Massena. [5]  He will now p be obliged to fall back to his line, – in itself a good change from miserable quarters, but a backward movement has an ugly appearance, & I am afraid Abrantes will fall, & Lisbon itself may be sorely annoyed if the French possess Alentejo. It is supplied with its fuel from thence, & with much of its food. As for the English lines, manned as they will be I consider them impregnable by any force [MS torn] can be brought against them, & only wish Buonaparte would come to attack them in person. Our men would fight ten fold the better for it. This unhappy illness of the Kings, [6]  I fear, has distracted the attention of Ministry.

I believe it is since your departure that I have got into correspondence with the Spanish Secretary D Manuel Abella; – he has furnished me with a collection of documents highly useful.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 25 DE 25/ 1810
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 547–548. BACK

[1] Possibly the London-based physician and chemist George Pearson (c. 1751–1828; DNB). BACK

[2] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[3] ‘About reviewing’. BACK

[4] Godwin had seen Coleridge on 18–19 November 1810. He may have conveyed some information to Bedford about Coleridge’s marriage or the state of his health. BACK

[5] The French Marshal André Massena (1758–1817), one of the commanders of the unsuccessful invasion of Portugal in 1810. BACK

[6] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). George III’s mental health had finally collapsed in October 1810 and he was incapable of conducting public business. BACK

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August 2013