Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2012. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 4 January 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany 4. 1812.

My dear Grosvenor

Concerning the Devils Advocate [1]  I believe in every instance the text of his speech will justify the comment. You have heard of x xxxxx taking the ear the wrong sow by the ear, – he had better take a wild boar by the ear than hawl me up to London upon this quarrel. I should tell him it was true that I had said his speeches were translated into French & circulated thro all the departments of France, but I had not said what has since come to my knowledge, – that when they were thus circulated nobody believed them genuine, – nobody believed it possible that such speeches could have been uttered by an Englishman. I should ask the House (that is his side of the House & of course in that humble language becoming a person at the bar) – at what time they would be pleased to let their transactions become matter for history, – & I should give him {the party} a gentle hint not to delay that time too long, for when a few years had reduced their reputations like every thing else find their level, & if he & such as he do not get into history soon, – they may run a risk of not getting into it at all. I should speak of the situation in which Spain & England stand to each other, & contrast my own feelings with those which he has continually expressed. I should appeal to the whole tenour of the book whether the design of the writer was to vilify Parliament, or to bring the Government into contempt. And as an Englishman, – a man of letters – & an historian I should claim my privileges.

Phillidor [2]  has made his appearance, & shall be returned in the first parcel, – with the reviewal of Azara. [3]  Out of pure conscience I have promised Gifford to take all their S American travellers myself, because I cannot bear that the Edinburgh should gain credit upon this subject, when I am so much better versed in it than any other man in England possibly can be. I am heartily glad the State of S America is in Blancos hands, [4]  – it will be highly useful to the review, – & I hope to himself also, – for he works hard with little benefit, to h & when he has once tried his strength in the review it will not be difficult to find other appropriate subjects for him. I have a high respect for this mans moral & intellectual character, & earnestly wish it were possible to cure him of his vexation by a pension, which never could be more properly bestowed. Canning has smitten the Q. with a dead palsy upon the Catholick question, [5]  – or else Blanco could supply such an exposition upon that subject as would entitle him to any thing which Mr Perceval could give.

Here is a man at Keswick who acts upon me as my own Ghost would do. He is just what I was in 1794. His name is Shelley – son to the Member for Shoreham, [6]  – with 6000 £ a year entailed upon {him}, & as much more in his fathers power to cut off. Beginning with romances of ghosts & murder, & with poetry at Eton, – he past at Oxford into metaphysics, – printed half a dozen pages which he entitled ‘the Necessity of Atheism” – sent one anonymously to Copplestone in expectation I suppose of converting him, – was expelled in consequence [7]  – married a girl of 17, after being turned out of doors by his father – & here they both are in lodgings, living upon 200 £ a year which her father [8]  allows them. He is come to the fittest physician in the world – At xxx At present he has got to the Pantheistic stage of philosophy, & in the course of a week I expect he will be a Berkeleyan, for I have put him upon a course of Berkeley. [9]  It has surprized him a good deal to meet for the first time in his life with a man who perfectly understands him & does him full justice. I tell him that all the difference between us, is that he is 19 & th I am 38. & I dare say it will not be very long before I shall x succeed in convincing him that he may be a true philosopher & do a great deal of good with 6000 £ a year, – the thought of which troubles him a great deal more at present than ever the want of six pence (for I have known such a want,) did me. He is brimfull & overflowing with every thing good & generous, – tho the Oxford-men were as much shocked at him as if he had had hoofs & xxx horns, four & forty iron teeth, & a tail with a sting at the end of it. God help us, the world wants mending tho he did not set about it exactly in the right way. – The worst thing which I hate in the world is a rogue atheist, who talks about xxxxx toleration for the sake of destroying religion – the next thing is a Bigot who makes religion a scare-crow, & by his manner of belief proves that he would have believed in one faith just as well as in another. I do not say that it would have been either right or expedient to keep Shelly at Oxford, – but this I will xxxxxx swear that when they expelled him they sent away more genius & better principles than they kept behind, – that is better in their root, & which will one prove themselves so by the fruit which they will bring forth.

God bless you Grosvenor



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr./ [in another hand] Exchequer/ J. C. Herries
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 323–326 [in part]. BACK

[1] Henry Brougham, whom Southey believed was encouraging parliament to summon him to Westminster to explain comments he had published in the Edinburgh Annual Register. These had been drawn to parliament’s attention in a long aside in the Edinburgh Review, 18 (August 1811), 420–423n, which had questioned whether the ‘virulent personal abuse … levelled at the most respectable members of the Legislature’ in the Edinburgh Annual Register was in breach of Parliamentary privilege and hinted that action against the author and publishers might be taken. In the event, nothing happened. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[3] Felix Manuel de Azara (1742–1821), Spanish solider, engineer and naturalist. Southey was particularly interested in his writings on Paraguay and owned copies of his Essais sur l’Histoire Naturelle des Quadrupedes de la Province du Paraguay (1801) and Voyages dans l’Amerique Meridionale depuis 1781, jusqu’ en 1801 (1809), nos 89 and 90 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. He did not review Azara for the Quarterly, but did make use of him in numerous writings, including the History of Brazil and the Tale of Paraguay. BACK

[4] Blanco White’s review of William Walton (1783/4–1857; DNB), Present State of the Spanish Colonies; Including a Particular Report of Hispanola, or the Spanish Part of Santo Domingo (1810), appeared in Quarterly Review, 14 (June 1812), 235–264. BACK

[5] Canning favoured Catholic Emancipation. BACK

[6] Timothy Shelley (1753–1844), MP for New Shoreham, Sussex, 1802–1818. BACK

[7] The Necessity of Atheism, published in March 1811. It was co-authored with Thomas Jefferson Hogg (1792–1862; DNB), who was also expelled from the university. BACK

[8] John Westbrook (1751–1835), had retired from his main business as a vintner and hotel manager, but still owned a London coffee shop and a tavern. BACK

[9] George Berkeley (1685–1753; DNB). Southey had given Shelley a copy of Alciphron: or, The Minute Philosopher (1735), no. 270 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, a series of dialogues designed to combat unbelief; see Southey to John Rickman, 6 January 1812, Letter 2013. BACK

About this Page

Published @ RC

August 2013