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

131. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [12 July 1795] ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

I have forgotten Duppas number in Newman Street. do send him on the enclosed. it is concerning the frontispiece, [1]  & contains in it some lines which you have not seen. if Loutherbourg [2]  can be got to design it it will make a very wild piece.

Drydens denunciation of Time & Space [3]  is by no means so ridiculous as Critics have pretended — I cry out against them most heartily.

Sunday Morning

it is now nearly two years since I sojournd at Brixton. during this period how strange an alteration is there in all my views of life! I am afraid Grosvenor it is with xx life as with a days journey. the prospect looks lovely in the morning — every object glitters in the sun & the birds sing cheerily, as the traveller advances the rough road wearies him & when the evenings mists shadow over the solitary landscape. he comforts himself with the reflection that he shall soon be at the journeys end. but when {of} the companions of our journey some strike off into different paths & some die by the way — when the noon is comfortless & cloudy & the traveller scarcely sees a step forwards — it is better to contemplate the white side of the shield.

I shall soon be with you. perhaps I never spent three months happier than at Brixton — tis a period I love to think of. the wasps — Mr Coyte [4]  — & the imminent danger from my republican neighbour in the ditch , in which {when} I wrote Joan of Arc. — therefore Grosvenor is it a misfortune to love — because he who loves is restless in every company but that of one — oh I could xxxxxxxxxx however I mean to leave care behind me at Bristol — or if I carry the burthen with it will drop off like Christians in the Pilgrims Progress [5]  when I see you.

Whatever the Lady might say (was it Mrs D?) in opposition to early marriages I see but little danger arising. either from the chance of inconsistency — the false judgment of youth — or the want of knowledge of the world. affection is gained by the wish to gain it — & how marriage that ought to strengthen that wish can possibly destroy it is perfectly paradoxical to a mind regulated like mine. — by the by I am teaching my Edith — Greek. you will not laugh at me & yet the idea will raise a smile. it is in my opinion better to learn Greek before Latin — if the Lexicon was in English — however a walking Lexicon will remove that difficulty. a man of the world would stare could he hear us tete a tete — αγαθος — αγαθη — αγαθον. [6] 

Your receipt for melancholy — probatum est. [7]  a wooden bridge near a church about ten o clock on Sunday morning would make an admirable picture of the happiest idleness. now mark the strange concatenation of ideas — thinking of a bridge reminded me of water — of the water where Horace took me to bathe at Carshalton — that walk led to one when you & I saw a fine generous mastiff at Dulwich — & this dog put me in mind of — a little whelp whom I have accepted that he may not be drowned — of the rough black brindled dandy-grey-russet colour — & his name is Cupid.

how wonderfully must the brain be organized to form all these sensations in a twentieth part of the time I wrote them in. how can motion be thought? & yet how can thought be any thing else? is it not as difficult to conceive colour as nothing but motion — & this is demonstrated by Darwin. [8]  — & what consequence is it what it is! all useful knowledge is easily acquired.

I have desired Duppa to get a vignette designed from Elinor. [9] 

farewell. remember me to your father & mother affectionately — & give my love to Harry.

write to me. I never hear either of or from Horace.

yrs

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: G C Bedford Esqr./ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Only Double
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: CJY/ 13/ 95
Watermarks: Figure of Britannia; COLES/ 1794
Endorsements: Recd 13. July/ 1795; Ansd. & sent same/ day; 13 July 1795
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s proposed frontispiece to the first edition of Joan of Arc did not materialise, though the poem’s second edition did have a frontispiece. BACK

[2] Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (1740–1812; DNB), landscape painter and scene designer. BACK

[3] John Dryden (1631–1700; DNB), Of Dramatick Poesie, an Essay (1668). BACK

[4] Unidentified, but the context suggests he was a friend of the Bedford family and that Southey had met Coyte during his stay at Brixton in 1793. BACK

[5] John Bunyan (1628–1688; DNB), The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678–1684). BACK

[6] The phrases are the equivalent in Greek of the Latin ‘bonus, bona, bonum’ (or in English, ‘good’, ‘better’, ‘best’). A schoolboy learning the language would recite the adjective in all its forms. BACK

[7] The Latin translates as ‘it is proved’. BACK

[8] See the first volume of Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802; DNB), Zoonomia; or, the Laws of Organic Life (1794–1796). BACK

[9] Southey’s ‘Botany-Bay Eclogue’ ‘Elinor’ had first been published anonymously in the Morning Chronicle on 18 September 1794. Richard Duppa did not illustrate the poem. BACK

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March 2009