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

157. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 May 1796 ⁠* 

Friday May 27. 1796.

I have written to Wynn & asked him to accompany you. give me due notice of your coming that I may procure you beds as near as possible, if this house be full. I will meet you at the coach.

poor Lovell! — I am in hopes of raising something for his widow by publishing his best pieces — if only enough to buy her a harpsichord. his father afflicted as he is seems to have transferred his affection to her & behaves with a liberal kindness rarely to be found. the poems will make a five shillings volume which I preface — & to which I shall prefix an epistle to Mary Lovell. will you procure me some subscribers? — I have forgotten his foibles & faults — & many a melancholy reflection obtrudes. what I am doing for him — you Bedford may one day perform for me. how short my part in life may be he only knows who assignd it — I must only be anxious to discharge it well.

how does Time mellow down our feelings opinions! little of that ardent enthusiasm which so lately fevered my whole character remains — & what little is suffered I have contracted my sphere of action within the little circle of my own friends — & even my wishes seldom stray beyond it. a little candle will give light enough to a moderate sized room. place it in a church it will only “teach light to counterfeit a gloom” [1]  — & in the street — the first wind extinguishes it. do you understand this? or shall I send you to Quarles Emblems? [2] 

Of my situation & employments Wynns letter has probably informed you. I am hardly yet in order.

& whilst that last word was writing arrived the parcel containing what thro all my English wanderings have accompanied me — your letters. aye Grosvenor our correspondence is valuable — for it is the history of the human heart during its most interesting stages — I have now bespoke a letter case — where they shall repose in company with another series — now blessed be God! compleat. my letters to Edith. — Bedford who will be worthy to possess these when we are gone? Odi profanum vulgus [3]  — must I make a funeral pile by my death bed?

Would that I were so settled as not to look on to another removal . I want a little room to arrange my books in — & some Lares [4]  of my own. shall we not be near one another? aye Bedford as intimate as John Doe & Richard Roe [5]  with whose memoirs I shall be so intimately acquainted.

& there are two other cronies John a Nokes & Jack a Stiles [6]  always like Gyas & Cloanthus [7]  & the two Kings of Brentford hand in hand. [8]  oh I will be a huge lawyer.

With all this bustle you will easily see I have no time for my promised letter yet. nor will I hurry it for it shall be as good as I can make it.

remember me to your father & mother — & Horace & HarryWynn told me of Harry musical mechanism! take care of that boy — for I never knew his capabilities equalled.

come soon. my “dearest friend” expects you with almost[MS torn] as much pleasure & impatience as

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: BMA/ 28/ 96
Watermark: [Obscured by MS binding]
Endorsement: 27 May 1796
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. 275–276 [in part]. BACK

[1] John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), ‘Il Penseroso’ (1632), line 80. BACK

[2] Francis Quarles (1592–1644; DNB), Emblems (1635). BACK

[3] Horace (65–8 BC), Odes, Book 3, no. 1, line 1. The Latin translates as ‘I hate the vulgar rabble’. BACK

[4] In Roman mythology, deities who presided over households and families. BACK

[5] Fictitious characters, often used to signify the plaintiff (Doe) and defendant (Roe) in legal suits. BACK

[6] Fictitious characters, often used to signify the plaintiff (Nokes) and defendant (Stiles) in legal suits. BACK

[7] In Virgil’s (70–19 BC) Aeneid, two companions of Aeneas. BACK

[8] Two mythical characters (‘Kings’ of the Essex town of Brentford – a place renowned for its dirtiness), whose existence seems to derive from George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687; DNB), The Rehearsal (1672), a satire on heroic tragedy. A ‘mock’ play within Villiers’s play includes a scene in which the two Kings of Brentford enter hand in hand. In the next century, the phrase entered into wider cultural use; see, for example, William Cowper (1731–1800; DNB), The Task, a Poem, in Six Books (London, 1785), p. 5. BACK

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Published @ RC

March 2009