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

1848. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 January 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany 1. 1811.

My dear Grosvenor

This is an unlucky interference of Scott’s, & one of which I was afraid, after the manner in which he reviewed the Cid. [1]  It is clear from your account that in this, as well as in the former instance, he has not seen any thing that lies below the surface. [2]  The best thing that could be done (for as for setting any thing of his aside, – that is out of the question) would be to interpolate it with one paragraph, written to point out the moral grandeur of the fable, which then {& how it} becomes of universal interest & application, founded as it is upon a particular superstition, – & also to show the value of works of high imagination, in taking us out of ourselves, & busy busying the mind about something which is not connected with the ordinary passions & pursuits of life. – xx Sharon Turners wife [3]  said of Kehama that she “felt it elevate her conceptions, & occasion an excitement of mind which made her feel superior to herself.” This is precisely what it ought to do. – Insert some thing to this purport & rescue me from the imputation of having written a poem of 5000 lines for the purpose of teaching Hindoo mythology. You will thus prevent his reviewal from being detrimental, – & your own will be serviceable wherever you can get it inserted, which I suppose you can do in the B. Critic. [4]  This I think Gifford will have no objection to do, any more than he had to render justice to that good horse Bavian. [5]  The rest must pass, & I can with perfect sincerity take the will to serve me for the deed in my friend Scott, who I verily believe would serve me to the utmost of his power, & who I do not think has {has not} one atom of envy in his nature.

You ask me about the Bristol Alderman. [6]  – it is not precisely a portrait tho written in consequence after I had accidentally fallen in with the funeral of a worthy of that description. Take it as the representative of a whole class not as individual satire. The operation of cutting an artificial artificial iris was performed upon Rushton, [7]  a bookseller & poet at Liverpool, by a surgeon at Manchester whose name I believe was is Gibson. [8]  Rushton had been blind about 20 years, & had undergone three fruitless operations before he came under his hands. It was done twice; the first time an inflammation came on & the opening on the cornea clo was closed up. It was repeated, & he beheld for the first time the faces of his wife & children. – The success was compleat, & he reads a large print with ease.

If an occasion can be made of giving you a commission to D Manuel Abella I will lay hold on it. Do you I pray you bespeak for me an acquaintance with Blanco, who has a right to whitewash his name into its original English or Irish, – his father or grandfather having been a British subject. [9]  I suppose his animosity to the Supreme Junta has made him overlook the mischief which James Moore has done to the Spaniards, [10]  otherwise I confess that house is the last place in London where I should expect to meet a Spanish patriot.

I am sorry to hear of your mothers sufferings. My excellent old friend Mrs Danvers was tormented in a similar manner for some years, by a complaint which was supposed to be pruritus anilis, [11]  – but proved at last to be literally nothing but the itch. How it should have reached her was utterly inexplicable, – it yielded of course to the first proper application, – but she suffered grievously from it before its nature was suspected. It is well the mercurial disease is giving way. Weak you must needs be, but I hope the main evil in the side has been subdued, & then time will do the rest. I long to hear that the lime water is to give place to port wine, – which in cases of debility I hold to be an especial corroborant, & pleasant to boot.

Should you see Coleridge tell him we wish to hear from him, & ask him when we may expect to see him again. [12]  – Concerning the chair & the desk never let it be an occasion of trouble to you, – only bear them in mind when an opportunity lies in your way of looking for them. [13]  Keep your {up} your spirits the best you can. You have one bright point of view in your family prospect as far as relates to Henry, who is in himself, & I doubt not will be in his fortunes all you could wish him.

God bless you my dear Grosvenor


The children are recovered thank God. Herberts proved a third attack of the croup.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 4 JA 4/ 1811
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), II, pp. 1–3. BACK

[1] Scott had reviewed The Chronicle of the Cid (1808) in Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 134–153. BACK

[2] Scott had been commissioned by Gifford to review The Curse of Kehama (1810). Bedford had also applied to review the poem and had been shown a pre-publication version of Scott’s article. Bedford was concerned at its emphasis upon narrative, rather than morality, and was allowed to make additions to it along the lines suggested in this letter. Bedford remained, however, unhappy with the overall tone. For the review as published see Quarterly Review, 5 (February 1811), 40–61 (esp. 55–56, probably Bedford’s interpolation). BACK

[3] Mary Turner, née Watts (c. 1768–1843). BACK

[4] The British Critic (founded 1793), was a conservative quarterly review journal. Number 39 (March 1812), 272–282 favourably reviewed The Curse of Kehama (1810). This review may have been written by Bedford. BACK

[5] i.e. Gifford’s The Baviad (1791). BACK

[6] The ‘English Eclogue’ ‘The Alderman’s Funeral’, published in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.2 (1810), [i]–iv. BACK

[7] The poet and slavery abolitionist Edward Rushton (1756–1814; DNB). BACK

[8] Rushton had contracted opthalmia in 1773, whilst on a slaver heading for Dominica. He lost the sight of his left eye and had only partial vision in his right. He regained his sight in 1807 after an operation by Benjamin Gibson (1774–1812), Surgeon to the Manchester Infirmary and Vice-President of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester. He published on conditions relating to the eye: for example, Observations on the Formation of an Artificial Pupil in Several Deranged States of the Eye (1811). BACK

[9] Blanco White’s grandfather, William White (dates unknown), had emigrated from Waterford to Andalusia in the early eighteenth century. BACK

[10] James Moore (1762–1860; DNB), surgeon and biographer of his brother, Sir John Moore (1761–1809); DNB), in A Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army in Spain (1809), which was full of criticisms of Spanish troops. BACK

[11] Irritation of the skin at the exit of the rectum. BACK

[12] Coleridge had left for London on 18 October 1810. BACK

[13] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 November 1810, Letter 1830. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013