1878. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 March 1811 

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

1878. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 March 1811 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Make my acknowledgements to Herries for the pamphlett [1]  – It does its work effectually in exposing the miserable Gregres, [2]  – & as far as it goes it is clear & convincing. It gives that sort of clear view of the campaign of 1809 which must always be useful to one who has to write the history of the events resulting from it. – Yet Grosvenor (between ourselves) it has not impressed me with any respect for the talents of the author; & my I was fresh from the perusal of Pasley, [3]  – & could not help feeling that no two books could better exemplify the difference between a politician & a statesman, – the politician considering every thing merely in its temporary bearings & with reference to the immediate actors upon the political stage, – the statesman drawing his inferences from the whole history of the world, & reasoning from maxims which are of eternal application. A man may write as a politician, & yet prove himself a statesman at the same time. – Burke [4]  did so, but precisely in proportion as he sacrificed the higher character to the inferior one, did he diminish the permanent value of his writings – giving up as Goldsmith [5]  so admirably struck off the moral portrait – to party what was meant for mankind.

I do not mean by all this to say that party writers are not very useful in their generation, & that this is not a good party pamphlett. On the contrary it is good for its purpose, & its purpose is good. But it bears with it no indication that the writer could produce any thing better. – Of course you will not say any thing of this to Herries, – one should never say any thing to a man which tends to depreciate his friend

I must say something about Tom. You will readily believe that I am exceedingly obliged to Herries even for the wish to serve him, & you know that no one circumstance in the world would gratify me so much as to be {the} means of obtaining promotion for him. If He was acting Commander in the Lyra [6]  when he last at sea, & came home superseded. I wish him no better fortune than the command of such a vessel, – till he could make his way to a larger, which {& that} he would soon do if opportunity were afforded him.

I cannot send you the sheets of the Register [7]  for this good reason that the Printer has not got thro the Parl. part of the volume, – & good part of the rest is not written. The proof before me goes to page 304. – containing upon the subject of Parl. Reform (ni fallor  [8] ) some of the best matter that even came “from my {heart, then to my} head “& so into my fingers trickeled”, as old Bunyan says. [9]  – The volume will be unmercifully long owing to the unusually quantity of parl. affairs, – & to the Austrian war. [10]  – I fear full 200 pages longer than the last. Neither The Booksellers will neither pay me nor thank me for this, & very likely the public will be graceless enough to complain of having too much of it, [11]  And This is all the reward I expect {look to} for sitting so close at my desk, that in a short time I expect Mr Edmondson & John Cockbaine [12]  will be called in to consult together concerning diacolon drawers [13]  for me.

Not a syllable yet from Coleridge – if you see {him} tell him that I request him to write, & that I hope he will soon return to Keswick. [14] 

When will the cursed practise of exposing troops in transports be altogether left off? Embark them in ships of war, & every single ship might then run whenever a wind served. but of this in the next Quarterly. – By the by I am in mortal fear that Gifford because of an unfortunate & very fallacious article in the first number, [15]  – will cut out all I have said [MS torn] Sicily. – [16] 

God bless you


The halves [17]  are arrived.

March 3 – Keswick. 1811.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 6 MAR 6/ 1811
Endorsement: 3 March 1811
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Possibly Frederick John Robinson, later Viscount Goderich and Earl of Ripon (1782–1859; Prime Minister 1827–1828; DNB), Sketch of the Campaign in 1809, in Spain and Portugal (1810). Robinson was at this time MP for Ripon 1807–1827. BACK

[2] Followers of the leading Whig politician Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; Prime Minister 1830–1834; DNB) and William Grenville. Gregres were idols of wood and clay in West Africa. BACK

[3] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810); reviewed by Southey in the Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–457. BACK

[4] The politician and polemicist Edmund Burke (1729/30–1797; DNB). BACK

[5] Oliver Goldsmith (1728?–1774; DNB), ‘Retaliation. A Poem’ (1774), lines 28–32: ‘Here lies our good Edmund, whose genius was such,/ We scarcely can praise it, or blame it too much;/ Who, born for the universe, narrow’d his mind,/ And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.’ BACK

[6] HMS Lyra, a 10-gun class brig-sloop, launched in 1808. BACK

[7] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811). BACK

[8] ‘if I err not’. BACK

[9] John Bunyan (1628–1688; DNB), The Holy War (1682), ‘An Advertisement to the Reader’, lines 11–12. BACK

[10] The defeat of Austria by France in 1809. BACK

[11] Ballantyne was concerned enough about the length of the historical section to insist that Southey explained himself to the readers in a prefatory note; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), [v]–vi. BACK

[12] John Cockbain (dates unknown), a Keswick tailor; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 April 1811, Letter 1904. BACK

[13] Trousers made from a soothing plaster that was applied to sore parts of the body. BACK

[14] Coleridge had left Keswick on 18 October 1810. BACK

[15] Review of Gould Francis Leckie (1760–1850), An Historical Survey of the Foreign Affairs of Great Britain (1809) in Quarterly Review, 1 (May 1809) pp. 405–419. The review was by Robert Walpole (1781–1856; DNB), clergyman and traveller, son of Robert Walpole (1736–1810). BACK

[16] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB) had questioned whether British conduct to Sicily had been unwise and had suggested Britain should have ‘taken possession of Sicily for ourselves’, Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (London, 1810), pp. 171, 163. Southey undoubtedly agreed with this, making the interventionist case in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 99. In contrast, the published version of Southey’s review of the Essay, which had been rewritten by Croker, in consultation with Gifford and Murray, dismissed Pasley’s ideas as ‘fraught with dangerous principles’ (Quarterly Review, 3 (May 1810) pp. 429–431). BACK

[17] Half of a banknote – a secure way of sending money in the post, by tearing banknotes in half and sending the two halves separately. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013