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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

10. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 14 May 1792] ⁠* 


Look back on History’s eventful page
Retrace the actions past of every age
Climes — centuries — nations — go, inspect them all
See them successive rise — successsive fall
Still still you find dull Ignorance maintain
In state illiberal his drowsy reign.
Look where oer Europe wild the natives roam
The forest coverts of the cave their home
Then raisd the God his savage visage bold
And ruld supreme unlicensed uncontrolled —
Then mark where beaming first his morning ray
The sun of Science brightend into day
No lower nature would be made his tool
So he clapt on a wig & set up school —

Ah Bedford — not alone do we complain
Our laurels blasted & our labors vain —
Like us full many a hapless victim led
Before fell Ignorance has bowd & bled —
Lo Homer. sad fromx clime to clime he goes
No friend to soothe the wandering minstrels woes
A dog perhaps his sightless footsteps led
As sad from house to house he beggd his bread
Thus like his own Ulysses doomd to roam
More hapless, in the grave he found his home.
See Ovid pining on Sarmatic shores [1] 
His wife his country & his all deplores —
List to the strains that flow from Lucans [2]  tongue —
He meets the fate himself so well had sung
Ah let me from the mournful number cease
Companions in misfortune bring not peace —

Tis night — alone & pensive thro’ the air
I see the dismal taper’s dreary glare —
Ha — hollow murmurs all my spirits daunt
The Ghost arises of the Flagellant! [3] 
Not bound & gilt as once I hopd to see
The ornament of all the library
No ———— a vile grocers hand the paper handles
To wrap up butter or a pound of candles —.

“Sleepst Gualbertus  [4]  {thou my Basil [5] }? must my restless sprite
Rise from the hucksters shop to bid thee write?
Thus from my low abode in seemly show
Where tallow candles hang in orderd row
Soap sugar cinnamon oil mustard cheese
Bread butter earthern {ware} or what you please
To these to all the masters various hoard
Where my polluted leaves their aid afford
Thence in my greasy state must I arise
And strike new horror to thy ghastly eyes?
Hard is my usage & my grave unmeet
For I myself am made a winding sheet —
Dissected thus, by filthy fingers torn
I only serve to wrap a peppercorn.
Rise Basil rise — tho dead is number five [6] 
The Doctor & the Devil are alive —
Tho’ Gualbertus sleeps nor sleeps forgot
Why should oblivion be St Basils lot?

Why should the Hermit [7]  thus in sloth remain?
Why rests in Idleness the satires strain?
Can Satire want an object? turn thine eyes
Where high in air St Peters towers arise
Where Mr Wingfield sits in Hayes’s [8]  chair
Where Dr Vincent scowls with angry stare
Where all attend to Pedantry’s dull nod
“Adultery Lust & Incest thrive in Dodd
Say can thy Satire want an object here?
Turn to Whitehall — the Egertons appear —
Write Peter [9]  - Basil write redeem my fame
Redeem the tarnishd honors of my name —
When Time shall sound your praises thro the sky
When even Envy shall not dare to lie
When some new paper shall avenge the old
Where Truth may speak more open & more bold
Where Decency may dare attack the rod
In spite of Devil Doctor or of Dodd
Then on the counter will I rest in peace
Then — not till then shall all my sorrows cease.

Appease the spirit Bedford hear o hear
My eldest born my Flagellant too dear
Dearer by all my hopes of Fame een now
Then when the laurel bloomd around thy brow —
Hear & attend. by all the hopes I bear
Of glorious great REVENGE — by thee I swear
Soon shall new numbers issue from my pen
Regardless or of Doctors Wigs or Men —
I dare treat flogging with contempt anew
I dare to give the Devil whats his due —
I dare to call him author of the rod
And give him Vincent Egerton & Dodd.

———

Direct to me at Thomas Phillips Lambs Esqr

Mountsfield Lodge

Rye

Sussex


Notes

* Address: G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Old Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: RYE
Postmark: [partial] DMA/ 14/ 9
Watermark: Crown with G R beneath and figure of Britannia
Endorsements: 14. May 1792; Recd. 14th May 1792
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC–AD 17) was exiled from Rome to Tomis on the Black Sea. BACK

[2] Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (AD 39–65), author of the Pharsalia, was forced to commit suicide when his involvement in the Pisonian conspiracy against the Emperor Nero was discovered. BACK

[3] A schoolboy magazine devised by Southey and his friends, it was forced to cease publication after nine issues. BACK

[4] John Gualbert (c. 995–1073), founder of the Vallombrosian order. The pseudonym ‘Gualbertus’ was used by Southey for his controversial attack on flogging as an invention of the devil in the fifth issue of The Flagellant (29 March 1792). Perhaps as an attempt to defuse the resulting controversy, the death of ‘Gualbertus’ was announced in the sixth issue, 5 April 1792. BACK

[5] St Basil (c. 330–379), founder of eastern monasticism. A pseudonym used by Southey when writing in The Flagellant (1792). BACK

[6] Southey’s authorship in the fifth issue of The Flagellant (29 March 1792) of an essay which claimed flogging was an invention of the devil and parodied the Athanasian creed, caused a scandal and led ultimately to his expulsion from Westminster School. BACK

[7] Peter the Hermit (d. 1115), religious fanatic, instrumental in preaching the First Crusade. ‘Peter’ and ‘P.H.’ were pseudonyms used by Southey’s friend Grosvenor Charles Bedford. BACK

[8] Samuel Hayes (d. c. 1795), a master at Westminster School during Southey’s time there. His nickname was ‘Botch’ Hayes. He was renowned for being lax on discipline, so much so that Southey later recorded that pupils used to ‘stick his wig full of paper darts’. Hayes was also a writer of poems and sermons, and co-author of a tragedy, Eugenia (1766). BACK

[9] Peter the Hermit (d. 1115), religious fanatic, instrumental in preaching the First Crusade. ‘Peter’ and ‘P.H.’ were pseudonyms used by Southey’s friend Grosvenor Charles Bedford. BACK

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Published @ RC

March 2009