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

105. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 27 September 1794] ⁠* 

Your letter my dear Bedford vexes me considerably. you must be sensible that I have avoided writing to you upon those philosophical principles which form the basis of my character — if you wish to see them ably elucidated read Godwin. [1]  if you are content with to shield yourself in the cloak of humility — I will never rudely rendx away the mantle which you chuse to interpose between yourself & the sun of Truth. the arguments you adduce to detain me have been often urged — indeed Bedford they merit not a second refutation. with those I most love I am going. even should they remain I do not. of gratitude — but it were useless to enter into disquisition. sorry am I that circumstances should ever make my friend fearful of investigation.

I could point out a strange inconsistency in your letter. but n’importe.

March! March! I would it were come.

the Botany Bay Eclogue I would send but have no copy. they are in the hands of Johnson in Pauls Ch. Yard [2]  — for purchase if he chuses to give 15 guineas for them. if not I take the MSS with me & wait a better opportunity.

Of the Joan. — take the will for the deed. public testimony adds little to private esteem. much of it — particularly the sacrifice of publ private feelings to public duty will not harmonize with your ideas.

Bedford. the man [3]  whose principles make you shun him — is most exemplary in his life. those very principles have rescued him from libertinism — & made him deserving of my friendship. those same principles make me what I am. on religion we differ. I hope where he doubts or denies. is he the worse? am I the better for this?

refine away the feelings! Bedford because I hold gratitude a vice — does my heart beat less warmly to affection. think you that Brutus loved not his children when he condemned them? [4] 

you will be happy your way. I mine. your happiness will be less disturbed — mine more keen. God bless you.

in the hour of anguish I can look back upon my past actions & be comforted. the hour of anguish is over.

farewell

yours affectionately

Robert Southey

when I shall see London is quite uncertain. I wish much to see you. I would fain shake hands with Strachey before I quit England.


Notes

* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: [partial] 27
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 27
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 79–80. BACK

[1] William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness, (1793). Southey borrowed the first volume from the Bristol Library Society between 25 October and 8 November 1793 and the second volume between 9–19 December of the same year. BACK

[2] Joseph Johnson (1738–1809; DNB) did not publish the ‘Botany-Bay Eclogues’; four appeared in Southey’s Poems (1797) and a fifth in the Monthly Magazine, 5 (January 1798). BACK

[3] Unidentified, but Southey is possibly referring to either Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who had met Bedford in autumn 1794) or Robert Lovell (who was to visit London in October 1794). BACK

[4] Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic and one of the first Consuls in 509 BC, condemned his two sons to death when they rebelled against the state. BACK

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Published @ RC

March 2009