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

4. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 14 April 1792] ⁠* 

When Astrea disgusted with the injustice of mankind fled from the guilty scene, Jupiter [1]  beheld the mortal race with pity & sent Philosophy & Common Sense to alleviate their misfortunes — Common Sense said the Deity will warn them of approaching ills & the gentle hand of Philosophy will at least soften the misfortunes it cannot prevent — such were the sentiments of the cloud-compelling God but they were disappointed by Fate, for to Fate even Jove himself must yield. wandering over the world in vain did Common Sense seek wherein to rest her head, when she perceived a form stalking slowly along with his eyes fixed upon the ground. his head was enveloped in a mass of hair his brows knit & his arms folded in contemplative semblance — ever was he muttering ancient saws which few could understand & fewer still thought worth the understanding. need I say it was Ignora{nce.} in vain did she resist for power aided Ignorance & the offspring of the union was Pedantry a child whose small portion of his mothers wisdom was buried in all his fathers folly. a happier lot was destined was Philosophy she was destined for the wife of Freedom the vigorous daring Freedom. but possessd of his fathers fire & his mothers strength of mind Presumption viewd himself as a being nearly equal to the Gods. provoked at length by the folly of Pedantry & the arrogance of Presumption Jupiter sentenced the latter to become the pupil of the former — thus the one conscious of his superiority viewd his master with indignant contempt whilst the other beheld his pupil as ridiculous & rebellious. the punishment of Presumption has attended his descendants & they feel its force — but the folly of Pedantry serves as an antidote & amongst all the SCHOOL-MASTERS there exists not one who does not think himself a paragon of wisdom.

__________________________

If this allegory be not dangerous at some future period publish it — at present it will not do for I am not admitted at Oxford. I live in the charitable hope of one day dosing Vincent till I kill him. go to Egertons & oblige him to give up the numbers. the paper must succeed for it has enemies. if we could non-suit the Reverends & bring an action against them for damages I should be happy — for expulsion is a bitter pill & will not go down unless I sweeten it over, but for every pill I swallow Vincent shall have a bolus — “thus by myself I swear”. [2]  the first religious paper comes next that is if you think to continue the Flagellant — if that is to be dropt it would be a pity to lose the series. we must advertise it once; make Egerton send the papers & it will succeed.

your last was extremely correct & I hope & have vanity enough to believe will acquire us some credit — it will be prudent to tell Greville [3]  what a fool the Dr has made himself. conceal the names & it will improve the sale at Cambridge. At Oxford I hope one day to see a strong party in its favor. perhaps I may see you at breakfast on Tuesday next but if you could ride down I should be glad to see you & hear how matters go on. you do not in your letters do as you would be done by but send short scraps & in return receive long epistles pe[MS damaged] while I am avoiding Scylla I fall upon Charybdis [4]  but no[MS damaged] so affected as one for a long letter. desire Collins to speak to Rough & to compleat the philosophers.

Basil.  [5] 


Notes

* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Brixton Causeway/ near/ London
Stamped: WALTHAM CROSS
Postmark: [partial] AP/ 14/ 2
Watermark: Crown and anchor
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. 4–5 [where it is dated 13 April 1792]. BACK

[1] Astrea, in Greek mythology the goddess of justice, who lived on earth during the golden age and was forced to flee to heaven because of mankind’s wickedness; Jupiter, king of the gods in Roman mythology. BACK

[2] William Mason (1725–1797; DNB), Odes (Cambridge, 1756), ‘Ode IV. On the Fate of Tyranny’, p. 31. BACK

[3] Joshua Greville (1771–1851) of Westminster and Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1794). Later curate of St James, Westminster. BACK

[4] In Greek mythology, two sea monsters situated so close to one another that sailors trying to avoid one were liable to encounter the other. BACK

[5] St Basil (c. 330–379), founder of eastern monasticism. A pseudonym used by Southey when writing in The Flagellant (1792). BACK

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March 2009