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

2196. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 January 1813 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

1st When you have some charr sent how many will you please to have? one dozen, a dozen & half, or two dozen?

2dly When you send me some money, quod quanto citius, tanto acceptius, [1]  – it will be very convenient to have as much of it as may be sent in bills of five pounds & under; – for we are in bodily fear of this vile country currency, & grievously inconvenienced by the last failure, which leaves this place without any thing in the character of a banker.

3dly Can you viâ Primi Domini, [2]  procure for the me the names of the Midshipmen who fell on board Nelsons ship in the battle of Trafalgar. There is a curious fact connected with one of them, about the man who killed Nelson; & neither Tom nor I can recollect his name, but we should recognize it. [3] 

By some strange miscalculation which lies between Murray & the Printer, [4]  my life of Nelson makes two volumes instead of one, – a blunder which will be very detrimental to its success, & may very probably ruin it. For speculating upon one volume I dare say Murray has struck off a much larger edition than is likely to go off at a double price, as a library book, instead of a midshipmans manual. It costs will cost me about a weeks additional work to ballast the volumes. I am just now finishing the battle of Copenhagen, which by help of the Danish account [5]  & of some valuable circumstances gleaned from original sources, (Tom, [6]  Ponsonby, [7]  & Capt Quilliam, [8]  who was Rious [9]  Lieutenant that day) is made an impressive narrative. I have also some original Trafalgariana. [10]  The blunder about the form of the book is exceedingly unlucky, as under favourable circumstances I really think it would have answerd Murrays expectations. I have taken infinite pains with it, & made a much better book than he had any reason to look for.


A happy new year to you, & plenty of them!

I spent two days of the Xmas week under the Doctors hands, which is not the pleasantest way of spending them. At dinner one day I was without the slightest previous ailment, seized with so sudden a sickness that I could scarcely make my way upstairs before half my dinner which I had made was unmade. There was no nausea or sense of sickness of any kind, – nor can I in any way account for it. It began with an unusual sensation in the abdomen which if you can understand such a phrase, was as it were reflected by another in the head; this latter however was what I have been accustomed to for years, – a sudden sense of sudden apprehension, such as a person feels when startled from as he is falling to sleep, & x it began with me in my xx in 1799: & before I went to Lisbon alarmed me much. But since that time tho it has never entirely left me I have it has been unfrequent, & when it does recur, more easily by a mental effort represt, for it is no doubt nervous.

I was very unwell the remainder of the day, & annoyed with a sense of fullness in the abdomen. Some swinging doses of rhubarb I hope have set me to rights, & as soon as this part of the process is over, I shall delight the great Doctoress by going thro a course of her tonics.

Tell Gifford that I have been thus indisposed, – as the reason why he has not had the conclusion of my article on the poor. [11] 

I will look over your MS. [12]  with all due care whenever it arrives. But even before I see them my advice would be not to publish publish the book; – because if it were to be received with neglect Mr Roberts would probably feel a kind {some degree} of pain, which & that it would be so received is most likely, not so much from the reason which you so well state, but as from the doctrine of chances in the lottery of publication, – for a lottery it is. Had Barré been a Methodist the book would have been sure of popularity. As it is, private circulation by ensuring a certain value to the book ensures it also a certain reputation. It will be more xxx sought after, ten to one, & more talked of than if it were published. – & no disappointment is risqued.

God bless you


Jany 3. 1813.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 6 JA 6/ 1813
Endorsement: 3 Janry 1813
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] ‘so much and as speedily as is agreeable to you.’ BACK

[2] The ‘First Lord’ i.e. via the First Lord of the Admiralty, at this time, Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville (1771–1851; DNB), First Lord of the Admiralty 1812–1827. BACK

[3] The Frenchman who shot Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (1758–1805; DNB) during the battle of Trafalgar. For Southey’s account of Nelson’s fatal wound, see The Life of Nelson, 2 vols (London, 1813), II, pp. 257–258. Southey recounted that the French sniper was in turn shot dead by two midshipmen in HMS Victory, Francis Edward Collingwood (1785–1835) and John Pollard (d. 1868); see The Life of Nelson, 2 vols (London, 1813), II, pp. 264–265. BACK

[4] James Moyes (d. 1839), of Greville St, Hatton Garden, London. BACK

[5] Andreas Andersen Feldborg (1782–1838), A Tour in Zealand, the Year 1802; with an Historical Sketch of the Battle of Copenhagen (1805). BACK

[6] Tom had served in HMS Bellona at Copenhagen. Amongst the information he supplied was the fact that seventy-five of his fellow crew had been killed when their elderly cannon burst; see The Life of Nelson, 2 vols (London, 1813), II, p. 126. BACK

[7] Lieutenant John Ponsonby (dates unknown), who was in 1813 living at Ormathwaite, near Keswick. BACK

[8] John Quilliam (1771–1829), First Lieutenant on HMS Amazon and later on HMS Victory. BACK

[9] Edward Riou (1762–1801; DNB), Captain of HMS Amazon. He was killed at the Battle of Copenhagen. BACK

[10] Material relating to the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). BACK

[11] Southey’s review of Patrick Colquhoun (1745–1820; DNB), Propositions for ameliorating the Condition of the Poor: and For Improving the Moral Habits, and Increasing the Comforts of the Labouring People (1812), appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. BACK

[12] The MS of Bedford’s Letters and Miscellaneous Papers by Barré Charles Roberts (1814). BACK

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August 2013