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

161. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [22 June 1796] ⁠* 

Curse this little sheet! I have no other.

I expected such a letter notwithstanding the vauntful prophecies of Old Batchelorship. I renew my first advice — persevere & prosper. she was agitated but not angry. if I know the human heart — she will be yours if you have courage to ask her.

Bedford this is a ridiculous world — & a beastly world — & a worthless world — notwithstanding it is the best of all possible worlds. & I dont know how the devil you & I & half a dozen more dropt into it. but such as it is we must make the best of it. if you marry you may be happy. if you live single you cannot be even comfortable. I hate the world as much as is possible for a man who thoroughly despises it — yet I would once have sacrificed all to the prospect of amending it — aye I would now.

Persevere & prosper. no one can resist the assiduity of affection. apathy is only attainable by a heart hard by nature or rendered callous by misfortune — by the wisdom of Diogenes or the experience of Timon. [1] 

would to God I were with you. there are a thousand things that cannot be written. I would see HER. if I could but be in her company one evening I would make her think seriously & yet she should not suspect my drift.

my threatened letter is untouched! you shall have it in a fortnight — if I sit up the whole time.

You have a plan of making some 50 or 100 very happy — do you include yourselves in the number? I have plans of that kind too — but shall probably never have leisure or power to execute them. what a game of chance is the world. happiness is the stake & I could play well enough to win it — but my cards are good for nothing — Zounds Grosvenor you have a hand full of trumps — why should you lose?

I tell you again if she does not love any one else — she will love you. if xxx xxxx as for her father & mother — if they do not like it — what is that to you? down with paternal tyranny. that sacred guardianship must never be perverted into oppression.

You say my style is altered. a sombre assumption of gravity at two & twenty — true Grosvenor but look back on the two last years of my existence — count by events not minutes — & you will find me an old man. what vicissitudes have I not experienced? I have even now the millstone of dependance hanging round my neck. show this to no one — not to Wynn. he it is who gives me my future support. there —

if I could go to sleep & forget this it were well — but while I know it it ought not {to} be secret from you.

do not mention this even to me again.

God bless you. when will you come down?

I will begin another letter tomorrow.

RS.

Wednesday. dinner time.  [2] 


Notes

* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: [partial] U
Endorsement: 22 June 1796
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 109–110. BACK

[1] The Greek philosophers Diogenes (c. 400–325 BC), founder of Cynicism, and Timon of Phlius (c. 330–230 BC), sceptic and poet. BACK

[2] The date ‘June 22 1796’ follows, inserted in another hand. BACK

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Published @ RC

March 2009