165. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [started before
and continued on 17 July 1796]
I am vexed that I do not see you — & more vexed for the
occasion. Pain is an evil — curse all pains — except Tom — & he is dying
of an abscess (curse all abscesses) in his side — now could I curse all sides
too in my detestation of party spirit. Wynn is gone to Oxford — but your abscess — by its situation — if I
understand it — there is no kind of danger — is there?
by God Grosvenor you must not die.
for not being in the best of humours with the world I cannot afford to lose him
whom I most love in it. poor Edmund
Seward! there snapt one cable — if you were to make your escape I
should have but one cable left — heigh ho! Life is but a bad voyage at the best
— particularly if we be sea sick on it. No more of this. your abscess is in a
good part — there is cut & come again there — as old Smith  would have said. there tis none of your delicate parts where you
must cut to a hair — there is a good bottom to work upon & an inch or
two one way or the other is not much matter — Collins could spare a square foot
on either side — you might cut down the barge into a Canoe — & he’d go
the lighter for it.
But Grosvenor — you must send me daily accounts of yourself. when his
Majesty  was ill the state of his health was daily
announced in the newspapers. now am I more concerned about the worst part of you
than the whole body politic — all that is corrupt — & no knife can cut
deep enough to cure it.
Seriously I am very anxious. write to me immediately — or if you
cannot tell Horace.
I have your letter franked by Sir W. 
I cannot say where it give me more pain it was a
kind of Achilles spear  —
was it not Grosvenor —
healing the wound it made? I wanted to write before but I have been occupied by
landing some books from Lisbon — (curse all Custom Houses!) & my time is
much engaged. thank God I shall be with you before Xmas.
besides my letters — I write for the Monthly Magazine — this is a
new job — you may easily trace me there if it be worth your while. they give
five guineas a sheet — but their sheets are sixteen closely printed pages. I
manufacture up my old rubbish for them — with a little about Spanish literature
— I shall be glad to get rid of all this.
So you abuse Anna St Ives  & commend the Pucelle of
the detestable Voltaire.  now Grosvenor it was not I who said — I
have not read that book — I said —
God be thanked that I did say it — & plague take the boobies who
mutilated it in my absence — I said — I have never been guilty
of reading the Pucelle of Voltaire — report speaks it worthy of its
author — a man whose wit & genius could only be equalld by his
depravity. I will tell you what a Man, not particularly nice in his moral
opinions said to me upon the subject of that book. “I should think the worse of
any man who having read one canto of it could proceed to a second”. it is
blasphemy & obscenity highly seasond with wit — or wit highly seasond
with blasphemy & obscenity. now my opinion of Anna St Ives is
dramatically opposite to yours. I think it a book of consummate wisdom.
& I shall join my forces to Mr Knowles  — to whom I desire you will
make my fraternal respects —
I agree with you that Man is a beast & an ugly beast. but
what makes him so??? not God — God made him — in his own image — tell me — do
you think yourself a beast? do you think me a beast? do you think Carlisle a beast? do you think
Wynn an ugly beast — do you
think your brother Harry an ugly
beast — do you think such a Woman as you could love — an ugly beast? No. No.
are you yourself capable of virtue & happiness? if you
are — why are not the rest of mankind? Now — they are a blackguard mob — but
remember God made them for young Angels. prove to me that God has made any one
being naturally vicious — & I will make you & myself Atheists —
I am an Optimist — & believe all things are working for
the best. for the mob of mankind I should feel abhorrence if it could exist with
contempt. this is the best of possible worlds — yet I wish there were no such
things as abscesses in it.
but can you not get well & then come down?
I have a thousand things to say to you & a thousand
things to show you. if I were within twenty miles of Brixton I would come & sit by you
& you should talk any thing — but Metaphysics to me — them we would keep
So you have found five translations of Musæus!!!!!  & I could show
you an infinity of Spanish poems on the same subject. & if you have a
mind to make a learned preface I will send you the names of them & some
of the Sonnets.
how has this letter been neglected! no more delays however. I am
continually writing or reading — the double cacoethes grows upon me every day —
& the physic of John a Nokes  by which I must get cured is sadly
nauseous. n’importe. — I wish I were in London for if industry can do any thing
for any body it shall for me. my plan is to study from five in the morning till
eight — from nine to twelve & from one to four. the evening is my own.
now Grosvenor do you
think I would do this if I had a pigsty of my own in the country?
so goes the world! there is not a man in it who is not
discontented. however if no Man has more reason for discontent than you
& I have, twould be already a very good world for after all I believe
the worst we complain of is that we do not find mankind as good as we could
wish. — I had forgot the abscess — that is an evil. many of our mental evils —
& God knows they are the worst! we make ourselves.
If a young man had his senses about him when he sets out in life
he should seriously deliberate whether he had rather never be miserable or
sometimes be happy. I like the up & down road best but I have learnt
never to despise any mans opinion because it is different from my own. surely
restlessness in this world seems to indicate that we are intended for a better.
we have all of us a longing after happiness — & surely the Creator will
gratify all the rational desires that he has implanted in us. — if you die
before me will you visit me? — I am half a believer in apparitions &
would purchase conviction at the expence of a tolerable fright.
George Burnetts Uncle was fore three months terribly afflicted by the night
mare. so much so that by being constantly disturbd his health was considerably
impaird. one night he determind to lie awake & watch for HER
If ever though didst a good story love!
One night, he says he determind to lie awake & watch for HER. at the
ritual hour he heard HER coming up the stairs — he got up on his bed — in a cold
sweat — he heard HER come into the room — he heard her open the curtain
& then ——— he leapt out of bed & caught HER by the hair before
SHE — for SHE it was — could fall upon his breast. then did this most
incomparable hero bellow to John for a candle — they fought —she pulld &
he pulld & bellowed. till John came with a light & then ——— She
vanishd immediately & he remaind with a handful of HER hair.
Now Bedford would not you have had that made into a locket? the tale
methinks is no bad companion for your Fathers dream. was the exploit of Mr Burnett is far beyond that
of St Withold  — tho by the by he
met the Nine foals into the bargain. & they made a
I have written you an odd letter & an ugly one upon very
execrable paper. by the by if you have a Prudentius  you may serve me by
sending me all he says about a certain Saint Eulalia who suffered martyrdom at
Merida.  I passed thro that city & should like to see his
hymn upon the occasion & if there be any good in it, put it in a
how mortifying is this confinement of yours — I had planned so
many pleasant walks to be made so much more pleasant by conversation.
for I have much to tell thee. much to say of the odd things we
saw upon our journey Much of the dirt & vermin that annoyd us. And you
should have seen my letters before they went to press & annotated them —
& heard the plot of my tragedy — & laughd — not at my tragedy
tho — but now! — I have a mortal aversion to all those disjunctive particles —
but — & if — & yet — always herald some bad news.
Bedford you must shame
for me my long silence by writing directly. perhaps if you are escaped from your
bed & able to bear the journey change of air may benefit you — by
helping to recruit your strength. would I were nearer you — however I shall be
settled in London I hope before Xmas. I do not remember a happier ten weeks than
I passed at Brixton — nor indeed a
better employd period. God grant me ten such weeks of leisure once more in my
life & I will finish Madoc.
God bless you.
* Address: For/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Postmark: OJY/ 18/ 96
Watermarks: Figure of Britannia; COLES/
Endorsement: 17 July 1796
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols
(London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 283–286 [in part]. BACK
 George III (1738–1820;
reigned 1760–1820). BACK
 Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 5th Baronet (1772–1840), brother
of Southey’s friend and patron Charles Watkin Williams Wynn. BACK
 A reference to a
legend (found in Homer’s Iliad) that the spear of
the Greek hero Achilles was able to heal any wound it inflicted. BACK
 Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809; DNB), Anna St Ives (1792). BACK
(1694–1778), La Pucelle (1755). Southey regarded
Voltaire’s poem as obscene. BACK
 The Greek translates as ‘Snivel’, the name
of Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s dog. BACK
 Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s translation of
Musæus (fl. c. early 6th century), The Loves of Hero and
Leander, was published in 1797. BACK
 John a Nokes was a fictitious character, often used to signify the
plaintiff in a legal case. BACK
Lear, Act 3, scene 4, lines 120–124. BACK
 The Spanish poet Prudentius (348–c. 405), author of Psychomachia (c. 405). BACK
 St Eulalia (d. 304), patron
saint of the Spanish town of Merida. Southey published an ‘Inscription for a
Monument at Merida’ in the Morning Post, 30 March
1798. Unusually, and accidentally, the poem appeared under his own name. For
his brief stay in Merida, see Letters Written During a
short Residence in Spain and Portugal (London, 1797), pp.