Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

16. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 21 June 1792] ⁠* 

My dear Bedford

This is a damnd world & the sooner I quit it the better. God gave me the happiest disposition ever mortal was blessd with had he not I must have sunk long ago — but all will not do I am tired of life I am disgusted with three parts of mankind — one half are knaves those I detest I despise the fools & where am I to seek the residue! reflection Bedford will not do for me so I fly from it — I roam the fields while my strength lasts & return to my pen or my book — what will conversation do where the only subject is damnable.

not one reproach have I heard concerning Westminster. it does not hurt me for I have not acted improperly — Dr V is a fool & a knave both. forgive me for my hurrying home. to take leave of friends is terrible — particularly so when it is doubtful whether you may ever see them again. if I could get an appointment to the East Indies I should like it. the church is a hypocritical line of life — the law as dishonest one — my friends the Doctors have no interest at Calcutta —

I am at No 9 Duke Street Bath — write to me if you can forgive my neglect — but I am not composed enough to write decently since I left Rye the moment I mounted the coach I smelt London & it sickend me. when I left London I smelt a charnel house & when I got home old Nicks brimstone.

I have been looking for wild flowers & found a beautiful one of an unknown species to me — such employments pass the time. I have begun “an improbable tale” [1]  — why it is calld so I will tell you — the world is so bad that any uncommon virtue or tolerant sentiment is unnatural therefore improbable — I will copy some verses which I have just wrote for it

Lo where emerging from the womb of night
Yon glorious orb exalts his brightening ray
The clouds assume the livery of light
And pearly dewdrops glimmer in the day

The choir of Nature raise their chearing sound
The tender stalk uprears its glistening head
Awd by the morn each reptile flies around
And wolves in grim retreat go seek their secret bed.

Yet now when Natures universal frame
Feels the bright joy of life & light & day
Still miserys sable cloud remains the same
Still Melancholy glooms the darkling lay

To me the purple radiance of the air
To me the choral harmony of song
Weak to dispell the shade of deep despair
That haunts each culturd plain or forest wild among.

Fixd sullen tyrant still thy iron chain
Corrodes my heart & rankles in my breast
Youth — Hope — would fly — but ah all hope is vain
To seek with thee for happiness or rest.

Sweet are to me the Convents gloomy walls
Where Contemplation trims the midnight lamp
To rove the high archd solitary halls
Or tread the cloyster gloom with weeds oergrown & damp

Sweet is at Nights most secret hour to rise
And pour my spirit in energic prayr
Till full Devotion soar above the skies
And Hope expands her wings & flies beyond Despair —

Sad Memorys hand withdraws the distant viel
And points a father to my streaming eyes
Friendless & chill as weak & worn & pale
Far from his wife his son the captive lies —

No chearing sun there darts his glorious day
Nor perfumd morning breathes her orient breath
Nor Hope emits to him her gladsome ray
Nor Freedom voice exalts — she only leads to Death

Spirit of Ella [2]  from yon azure sky
Look down support the sorrows of thy child
Let Resignation lift my hopes on high
With Friendships softer voice & Pitys influence mild.

your brother I hear has tyed his hair — there is a plot to crop & dock him.

if you have heard of the fox without a tail — did you ever hear of the Ass in the same situation —

x Tell Collins my direction — & pray write.


Notes

* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ Old Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: DJU/ 21/ 92
Watermark: [Obscured by MS binding, possibly W S]
Endorsement: Recd. June 21st. 1792
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The manuscript of an ‘Improbable Tale’ is in the Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Misc. e. 22. BACK

[2] Possibly the eponymous hero of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB), ‘Ella, A Tragical Interlude’ (1768–1769). BACK

About this Page

Published @ RC

March 2009