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

28. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 October 1792 ⁠* 

Bristol. Sunday. 21. Octor 1792.

Dear Bedford

Since my last I have been continually journying backwards & forwards upon business which would not allow me to fix sufficient attention upon any thing else. it is now over — I have time to look about & I hope with fairer prospects for the future. one of my journeys was to my fathers brother at Taunton to request him to assist my father & enable him to recover that situation whence the treachery of his relations & injustice of his friends had thrown him. I had never seen this uncle & you may easily conceive how unpleasant so humiliating an errand must prove to so proud a spirit. he was absent I left a letter & two days ago received an answer & refusal. fortunately my Aunt had prevented the necessity but her goodness does not extenuate his unnatural parsimony. he is single & possessed of property to the amount of 100,000 pounds without a child to provide for. that part of his fortune which he inherited must one day be mine — it will I hope enable me to despise the world & feel myself independant.

I expect Lamb every minute & have expected him since Thursday. I need not say I shall be glad to see him as there are very few persons whose presence can give me so much pleasure — I shall certainly detain him as long as possible & when he departs set off to enter at Baliol. it wants not long to Xmas & these occupations will shorten the time till I proceed to London on my way to Rye. Your good friend the Reverend Doctor Vincent may perhaps visit his friends at Rye — our meeting would be curious — worse I am sure for him than me — I should only feel indignant. that man may probably one day be stiled the Right Reverend Father in God [1]  — unlike other titles this conveys some meaning. it conveys the idea of humility of charity of piety of Christianity — I cannot help fancying to myself the Doctor entering his allotted habitation in a more equitable world & the gentleman usher introducing him as a Right Reverend Father in God — & as one deputed to instruct the rising generation by his learning & edify them by his example — he & I may perhaps appear upon a more awful trial than that for a libel & instead of Ignoramus he may chance to hear “depart from me I know thee not”. [2] 

Look here thou hypocrite with studied face
Thou who attendest regular at church
Bring’st home the text but heedest not the comment
To this we all must come — the viel at length
Must be undrawn & all beneath exposed.
The sable gown, the wisdom of the wig
The sapient proverb & the lengthend prayer
Avail not then. the sevenfold shield of power
Weak, useless when Conviction strikes at once
The mouldering barrier — Conscience shrinks within
And Life & Pride & Falshood are no more [3] 

This Doctors liberality & generosity will obtrude upon me. I feel myself in his debt & even your splendide mendax will hardly tempt me to remain quietly so. I certainly could worry him incessantly & that knavish virtue Prudence is all that prevents me — may he be made a Bishop & Reformation take place in the church — what can I wish more mortifying for him?

have you seen any of our Whitehall friends since? have you called ever upon Mr Clarke? [4]  I should like to keep up an acquaintance with this last as he has been very civil & as I hope we shall one day employ him with more success.

I am almost tempted to reply to your “let the troops led by Brunswick &c but you shall probably know my sentiments in a flaming ode to the spirit of Milton. [5]  I can pity Louis the last  [6]  as one who is unfortunate — the man deserves not pity — the King less — the abject prisoner certainly claims it. perhaps they may canonize him alamode Charles 1st  [7]  I hope not. I think not. now I am upon the republic system I must tell you that Bristol seems preparing for it. a pamphlet [8]  proposes the abolition of the corporation as unconstitutional & arbitrary & hints the same to all other corporate towns it is very well written — these little attacks {upon the outworks} sap the foundations of the citadel. if France models a republic & enjoys tranquillity who knows but Europe may become one great republic & Man be free of the whole? [9]  you see I use Paines words. but politics must not make us quarrel. you know the fable of the oak & the reed. I have been the oak & was pulled up by the roots & cast up. let me try to be the reed.

some poems have been lately printed here by the Revd. E Holder [10]  written between the age of 17 & 20. I only mention them as he happens to have translated two pieces one which you sent me & the other I think you have seen translated by your humble servant & an original by Bunbury & another of your own. Integer vitæ etc [11]  is the one. Gray on the grande Chartreuse [12]  the other. & seriously the printed ones are the worst of all I will be obliged to you if you will send me your ode upon the grande Ch. as I have it not & if you wish it you shall have my translation in return or whatever else you may chuse to demand

“I promise to pay to C G Bedford any ode sonnet legendary tale satire or poem of any description which he may demand. value received.

Robert Southey.

this promissory note you know will not hold good till you have accepted it

to return to Holder. he has translated both in the stanza of my toasted cheese [13]  which naturally renders it too diffuse. they were lent me & are returned otherwise I would copy both for you to show you your superiority.

you promised me long ago eheu fugaces Posthume Posthume? [14]  have you yet finished the Penns parchments? [15]  if you have I shall have some hopes of hearing from you soon. that beast Pardulph has not wrote to me these last three months — tis true he wrote last but sent me no direction. I know he is now at Oxford but am almost too angry to write to him. at least he lies in bed all day scratching himself. you know where he itches.

there is only one motive which makes me regret my rejection at Christ Church. at Baliol I have no acquaintance & I conceive the different Colleges much like different boarding houses. I am much mistaken if their Wisdoms will not one day repent. there is more joy over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety & nine just persons. I was no sinner neither do I repent — but they may (& will) have ninety nine from Westminster without finding one Gualbertus [16]  amongst them. vain I own but all is vanity & I only differ from others in avowing mine without palliation.

I am ashamed of my neglect to Collins but as I hope for forgiveness I will deserve him & send him a very penitentiary epistle. ask him from me what he thinks of France now? when he wrote last he shook his head & turned up his eyes upon the subject — with a hum & ha like a wise man who is doubtful of the event & wishes to be thought in the secret.

you see I intended to fill up the sheet but the servant waits to take this & it will rain soon so believe me yours sincerely

R Southey.


Notes

* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ Old Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single Sheet
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: EOC/ 22/ 92
Watermark: Rampant lion holding scimitar with another figure; monogrammed initial
Seal: Red wax [design illegible]
Endorsement: 21. Octor 1792
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. 8–11; Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 163–164 [in part]. BACK

[1] That is, be made a Bishop. BACK

[2] An adaptation of Matthew 25: 12. BACK

[3] Look here … no more: Verse in double columns. BACK

[4] Charles Clarke (fl. 1781–1802), London printer. BACK

[5] If Southey wrote an ode to John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), it has not survived. BACK

[6] Louis XVI (1754–1793; reigned 1774–1792). BACK

[7] Charles I (1600–1649; reigned 1625–1649; DNB) was declared a martyr and added to the Anglican list of saints by Parliament in 1660. BACK

[8] The Reply of the Delegates of the Several Parishes, and of the Castle-Precincts, in the City of Bristol, to the Report of the Committee of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council, in Answer to the Objections Delivered by the Delegates on the 4th of August, 1792 (1792). BACK

[9] Thomas Paine (1737–1809; DNB), The Rights of Man. Part the Second (London, 1792), p. 77. BACK

[10] Henry Evans Holder (dates unknown). Born in Barbados, he settled in Bristol, where he was a prominent defender of the slave-trade. Copies of Holder’s book do not seem to have survived, but it was described in David Rivers, Literary Memoirs of Living Authors of Great Britain, 2 vols (London, 1798), I, p. 270, as comprising ‘miscellaneous Poems, composed from the age of seventeen to twenty’. BACK

[11] Horace (65–8 BC), Odes, Book 1, no. 22. BACK

[12] Thomas Gray (1716–1771; DNB), ‘O Tu Severi Religio Loci’ (1741). BACK

[13] Southey is referring to his poem ‘Patience & Toasted Cheese’, sent to Grosvenor Charles Bedford in [c. September 1792] (see Letter 23). BACK

[14] Horace, Odes, Book 2, no. 14, line 1. The Latin translates as ‘Alas [the years slide by] so fleetingly’. BACK

[15] Probably a reference to a work by Grosvenor Charles Bedford which has not survived. BACK

[16] John Gualbert (c. 995–1073), founder of the Vallombrosian order. The pseudonym ‘Gualbertus’ was used by Southey for his controversial attack on flogging as an invention of the devil in the fifth issue of The Flagellant (29 March 1792). BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009