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

94. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 [–?] June 1794 ⁠* 

Thursday. June 12. 1794. Balliol.

Your last letter is now with Wynn, he purposes answering it himself, but whether or no that purpose is yet accomplished I am ignorant. I wish much to see you. cannot you contrive to come speedily to Oxford? we leave it very early in July — about the 4th or fifth, & time lags sadly till that period. I could explain more fully why this college life is so irksome to me, were you here, & more clearly convince you of the propriety of my wishes. your last was calculated to raise my hopes tis a tormenting phantom which I fear to indulge.

my poor trullibubs are empty. a dose of salts yesterday & another this morning has been scouring out my tripes. this may possibly remove indisposition for a little while, but I am not fool enough to hope it will remove the cause. continual anxiety will wear out a stronger frame than mine — oh that gripe —

one week has elapsed since my letter was so unpleasantly interrupted. in the interim the salts have worked & your last arrived. at present my situation my situation resembles that of a poor devil executing for high treason, at the interval when he is cut down from the gallows to have his heart torn out — for I am delaying the pickling of my tripes again till the departure of a Cantab one whom I very much esteem & admire tho two thirds of our conversation be spent in disputing on metaphysical subjects. the latter part of your letter leads to a wide & interesting subject — I am as far from pleading the cause of incontinence as you. yet the philosopher should pardon in another what he would not pardon in himself. the passions are not vicious — tis society makes the indulgence of them so. they resemble an assemblage of waters destructive if they run wildly over the country, but the source of abundance if properly guided.

Wynn has started an objection to the plan on which I presumed too much. — they will enquire & find me a Republican. right. they ought to enquire & they must know. perish every hope of life rather than {that} I should forfeit my integrity. I am a Republican & thxx did wrong in even thinking of the situation. twas a fallacious reasoning that said — there is no criminality in accepting a situation where for a certain salary I give up a certain portion of time. — the false hopes which deceived me are gone & it is but turning adventurer at last. or be villain enough to take orders & grow fat in ease indolence & iniquity. blessed be God that my principles are notorious enough to keep me necessarily in integrity. who can answer for his perseverance in rectitude when every passion of the human heart prompts him to dissimulation?

they will enquire & find me a Republican. even at the moment of disappointment — when every delightful hope melted away like the shadows of a dream — I exulted in the reflection. my practice flows from my principle. if the one be wrong the other must be so. if my first principles are vicious the actions resulting from them must be vicious likewise — & where is the being who shall throw the first stone? I am already too much the victim of affection — my heart is too often consulted where the head should have determined, & it is better to sacrifice happiness than integrity. had my situation been like yours tis more than probable that my theoretical principles had been the same. but I am too notorious to be tempted — & when from the triumph of affections over honesty I had placed myself in the way of temptation — the character of Republican man saved me the trial.

So be it. I will hasten nothing. as I am I may yet remain two years — should any thing devolve to me then it will be well. & if not why the same world will still lie before me, & whether I linger out existence in England in America or among the convicts of New Holland is a matter of indifference. thus much (& too much) for self.

Lightfoot is gone, AB. I have quarrelld with J Collins so my Balliol friends are reduced to George Burnett. but he is worth an hundred. Allen is with us daily & his friend from Cambridge — Coleridge whose poems you will oblige me by subscribing to either at Hookhams or Edwards’s. [1]  he is of most uncommon merit — of the strongest genius the clearest judgment & the best heart. my friend he already is — & must hereafter be yours. tis I fear impossible to keep him till you come but my efforts shall not be wanting. Allen you will see. & as Allen most probably will be in London in the Long Vacation I trust you will find {in} him as I have done — a good friend. to me he is similar in every respect. from you he differs only where I differ. the constant society of Allen has rendered many hours delightful which would otherwise have passed in the destructive day dreams of solitude. him I lose from Oxford when I depart but tis my wish never to reside again & I shall grasp at any situation of independance during the next six months. were not the vacation so near — I would try the press & print my Botany Bay Eclogues with my name in the title page.  [2]  “the world is all before me”, [3]  & a wide & wearying world it is when I cast my eyes around & see no haven of shelter! let me see you very shortly. write & fix the day. I depart early in July — possibly sooner if my brother gets leave of absence. I have much to tell you but neither room or time.

what attaches you to King? [4]  there is a something in my nature repugnant to that man. your pun is good. your moralizing good. God bless you & save you from that eternal anxiety which preys upon me.

yours sincerely.

Robert Southey.

why Esquire one who loathes titles? my name needs no addition.

Horace is very indolent. tell him to write. my remembrances to your friends. particularly Harry. [5] 


Notes

* Address: June 22nd/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Single
Stamped: OXFORD
Postmark: [partial] AJU/ 9
Endorsements: Recd. June 23d. 1794. Ansd June 24. 1794/ and send same day; First mention of/ Coleridge
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. 56–58; Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, p. 210 [in part; 1 paragraph, where it is dated 12 June 1794].
Dating note: The letter is probably written over several days in June 1794. BACK

[1] Probably a reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s projected — but unrealised — subscription volume, ‘Imitations from the Modern Latin Poets’, which had been advertised in the Cambridge Intelligencer on 14 June 1794. Hookham’s: the London booksellers Thomas Hookham and James Carpenter of Old Bond Street. Edwards’s: the London booksellers Edwards & Sons of Pall Mall, headed by James Edwards (d. 1816). BACK

[2] Southey published four ‘Botany-Bay Eclogues’ in his Poems (1797). One, ‘Elinor’, had previously appeared anonymously in the Morning Chronicle (18 September 1794). A fifth, ‘Edward and Susan’, was published in the Monthly Magazine, 5 (January 1798). He may have attempted to print the ‘Botany-Bay Eclogues’ himself, as a few printed sheets of ‘Humphrey and William’, reputedly set up by Southey, survive in the Beinecke Library, OSB MSS File, Folder 14213. BACK

[3] An adaptation of John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), Paradise Lost, (1667–1678), Book 12, line 646. BACK

[4] Isaac King (1776–1832), educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was later chaplain to the Prince Regent. BACK

[5] Horace ... Harry: Written parallel to address. BACK

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Published @ RC

March 2009