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

124. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 8 [–9] February 1795 ⁠* 

Sunday. Feb. 8th. 95

I have been reading the four first numbers of the Flagellant [1]  — they are all I possess — my dearest Grosvenor they have recalled past times forcibly to my mind — & I could almost weep at the retrospect. why have I not written to you before? because I could only have told you of uncertainty & suspense — there is nothing more to say now — the next six months will afford more variety of incident — but my dear Bedford tho you will not love me the less you will shake your head & lament the effects of what you call enthusiasm. would to God that we agreed in sentiment — for then you could enter into the feelings of my heart & hold me still dearer in your own.

there is the strangest mixture of cloud & sunshine! an outcast in the world! an adventurer! living by his wits! yet happy in the full conviction of rectitude — in integrity & in the affections of a mild & lovely woman. at once the object of hatred & admiration. wondered at by all — hated by the aristocrats — the very oracle of my own party. — Bedford Bedford mine are the principles of peace — of non-resistance. you cannot burst our bands of affection — do not grieve that circumstances have made me thus. you ought to rejoice that your friend acts up to his principles even tho you think them wrong.

Coleridge is writing at the same table. our names are written in the book of destiny on the same page.

Grosvenor I must put your brains in requisition. we are about to publish a magazine on a new plan. one of the prospectus when printed shall be forwarded to you. tis our intention to say in the title page STC & RS editors. & to admit nothing but what is good. a work of this kind must not be undertaken without a certainty of indemnification, & then it bids very fair to be lucrative — so the booksellers here tell us. to be called the Provincial Magazine [2]  & publishd at Bristol if we settle here. we mean to make it the vehicle of all our poetry. will you not give us some essays &c? we can undoubtedly make it the best thing of the kind ever published. so your jokes Bedford be very wise & very witty — send us whole essays — hints — good things &c & they shall cut a most respectable figure. the poetry will be printed so as to make a seperate volume at the end of the year — & a most choice volume it will be.

& what think you of this? I should say that the work will certainly express our sentiments — so expressed as never to offend — but if Truth spoken in the words of meekness be offence, we may not avoid it.

I am in treaty with the Telegraph [3]  & hope to be their correspondent. hireling writer to a newspaper — sdeath tis an ugly title — but n’importe! I shall write truth & only truth. have you seen in Fridays Telegraph a letter to Canning signed Harrington? twas the specimen of my prose. [4] 

you will be melancholy at all this Bedford. I am so at times. but what can I do? I could not enter into the church nor had I finances to study physic. for public offices I am too notorious — & have not the gift of making shoes — nor the happy art of mending them. education has unfitted me for trade & I must perforce enter the muster roll of authors.

Monday morning. my days are disquieted & the dreams of the night only retrace the past or bewilder me in vague visions of the future. America is still the place to which our ultimate views tend but it will be years before we can go. as for Wales it is not practicable. the point is where can I best subsist? you will not my dear Grosvenor show this to any one — the vagrant ideas of my brain appear as they pass over it. London is certainly the place for all who like me are on the world. but I must marry. do not start or accuse me of imprudence. Bedford my brow assumes a very dark cloud at the thought that what would make you the happiest of men is to me a source of anguish as well as happiness. I am beloved infinitely beloved by her on whom my whole soul is fixed. she is very uncomfortably situated & in my absence has no enjoyment to counteract continual impressions of melancholy — when I am away anxiety prays upon her health & the knowledge of this destroys mine. when together — my dear Bedford I have been a fool & will gibbet myself as an example to all who have more heart than head in secula seculorum! what business had I a fortuneless fellow subsisting on the charity of a relation to think of love! oh I could lead you to a long train of conclusions from this beginning — for surely there must be something wrong in that state of society when two of its worthiest members are made wretched

London must be the place — if I & Coleridge can only get a fixd salary of 100 a year between us our own industry shall supply the rest. I will write up to the Telegraph. they offerd me a reporters place but nightly employments are out of the question. my troublesome guest calld honesty — (that starving quality) prevents me from writing in the True Briton. [5]  God knows I want not to thrust myself forward as a partizan — peace & domestic life are the highest blessings I could implore — enough. the state of suspense must soon be over — I am worn & wasted with anxiety & if not at rest in a short time shall be disabled from exertion & sink to a long repose. poor Edith! Allmighty God protect her!

You can give me no advice nor point me out any line to pursue but you can write to me — & tell me how you are — & of your friends — let me hear from you as soon as possible. moralize metaphysicize pun — say good things — promise us some aid in the magazine & shake hands with me as cordially by letter as when we parted in the Strand. I look over your letters & find but little alteration of sentiment from the beginning of 92 to the end of 94. what a strange mass of matter is in mine during those periods — I mean to write my own life & a most useful book it will be — you shall write the Paraleipomena [6]  — but do not condole too much over my mistaken principles — for such pity will create a mutiny in my sepulchred bones & I shall break prison to argue with you even from the grave. God love you — I think soon to be in London if I can get a situation there. sometimes the prospect smiles upon me. I want but fifty pounds a year certain — & can trust myself for enough beyond that — then do I take in the society of my friends — the seeing her happy — & a long train of delightful &cs — till the idea that fools are squandering away daily what would make us happy comes across me & I could curse them myself & the destiny that made me.

fare you well my dear Grosvenor. have you been to court? quid Roma facias? [7]  O thou Republican Aristocrat! thou man most worthy of Republicanism what hast thou to do with a laced coat & a chapeau? & a bag wig — & a sword?

ah spirit pure
That Errors mist had left thy purged eye! [8] 

remember me to your father & mother — & Horace — & all who may enquire for me. I am well & honest. needs a man more to be happy? x Bedford Bedford if you had known Edith you might have been most happy — I almost think I am so — at least there are hours in the days worth a little eternity of purgatory. write to me Wednesday I shall be at Bath Thursday. Peace be with you — & with all mankind is the earnest hope of your

RS.

Bristol.


Notes

* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: AFE/ 10/ 95
Watermarks: Monogrammed initials (final initial C); H
Endorsements: 8. Febry 1795; Ansd. Feb. 14. 1795
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 230–234 [in part; where it is dated 8 February 1795]. BACK

[1] The first four numbers of the schoolboy magazine The Flagellant, appeared between 1–22 March 1792. Southey was expelled from Westminster School for his authorship of a controversial essay against flogging in the fifth number, 29 March 1792. BACK

[2] Nothing came of this scheme, but it has affinities with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Watchman (1796) and William Wordsworth’s projected journal ‘The Philanthropist’. BACK

[3] A daily London newspaper, with radical leanings, which started publication on 30 December 1794. Southey certainly contributed to it (for example, a complete version of his ‘Race of Banquo’ appeared in 1797), but the patchy survival of copies of The Telegraph makes it impossible to determine the full extent of his involvement. The issue containing Southey’s letter does not seem to have survived. BACK

[4] The letter to George Canning (1770–1827; DNB) does not seem to have survived. Southey’s choice of pseudonym recalls both the political theorist James Harrington (1611–1677; DNB), author of Oceana (1656), and the latter’s cousin, the parliamentary commander and politician James Harrington (c. 1607–1660; DNB). BACK

[5] A daily loyalist newspaper which ran from 1793 to 1803. BACK

[6] A Greek word, which translates as ‘things passed over’, and is often used in the context of things missing from authorised biblical texts. BACK

[7] The Latin translates as ‘What is one to do away from Rome?’ BACK

[8] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘To Burke’, lines 13–14, published in the Morning Chronicle, 9 December 1794. BACK

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March 2009