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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1022. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20 January 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

First thanking you for what you have done in this business & also for what you did & did not say in the affair of Tom – I proceed.

There is a civil office for the Inspection of Accounts – & I am adequate to be Inspector –, so if you cannot learn of xxx that there be any thing more proper let that be the thing asked. but – consult Rickman – I have only proceeded on newspaper authority – & if the expedition be not going to Portugal – would not take the best office any where else. – Actual work I expect, & have seen enough of the last army at Lisbon to know that Commissaries & xxxx Inspectors have plenty of leisure. – This much General Moore must know, [1]  whether we are to send x forces to Portugal {or not,} for it depends upon his report – if the papers lie not. If we do – the place where all the civil operations are carried on is Lisbon – there the Commission – xxx xxxxx &c remain if the army takes the field. there I want to go – you know for what purpose. To say that I do not wish to make money would be talking nonsense – but the mere object of making money would not take me from home. I can inspect accounts, – I can make contracts – (for beef & xxx oats are soon understood.) – & doing these things can yet have leisure for my own pursuits. – Rickman perhaps knows more of these things, what situations there are to which I am competent, & what are the most desirable. show him this & follow his suggestions rather than mine. What efforts I make are more because the thing is prudent, than agreeable.

Tom is well out of a scrape into which he was got by no fault of his own. if he scapes the fever the Court Martial was a lucky days work for him. [2] 

Madoc is provokingly delayed. Job once wished that his enemy had written a book. if he himself had printed one it would have tried his patience. [3]  I am every day expecting the Great Snake [4]  in a frank from Duppa. My emblem of the cross prefixed to the poem – with the In hoc signo [5]  – & what I have said in the poem of the Virgin Mary is more liable to misconstruction than could be wished. [6]  In what light I consider these things may be seen in the Reviews of the Missions to Bengal & Otaheite. [7]  I have just finished another article for this year upon the South African missions. [8]  the great use of reviewing is that it obliges me to think upon subjects on which I had been before content to have very vague opinions, because there had never been any occasion for examining them & this is a very important use.

It will do me a world of good to see the first proof sheet under favour of the Grand Parleur. [9]  I shall begin to think seriously of the preface. – you will find it worth while to go to Longmans for the sake of seeing the new publications, which all lie on his table. a good way of knowing what is going on in the world of typography – to call it the world of letters would be paying a very undeserved compliment to my contemporaries.

God bless you

RS.

Jany 20. 1805.


Notes

* Address: To/ G.C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: 20 Jany 1805
MS: Bodleian Eng. Lett. c. 23
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 311–313 [in part]. BACK

[1] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), Scottish General with a long and varied military career. He was also MP for Lanark Burghs 1784–1790. After the controversial Convention of Cintra (1808), Moore was given the command of the British troops in the Iberian peninsula. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna. In December 1804 he was sent to review the practicability of defending Portugal from a French invasion. His favourable report was widely leaked to the press, e.g. Aberdeen Journal, 9 January 1805. BACK

[2] On 14 August 1804, the boats of Thomas Southey’s ship the Galatea made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. 65 of the 90 men sent on the mission were killed or wounded. Due to Thomas having been placed under arrest (and subsequently court-martialled) he was replaced on the raid by Lieutenant Charles Hayman (dates unknown) who died. BACK

[3] The biblical character, Job, who remained steadfast to God despite the extreme tests sent to try his patience. BACK

[4] Madoc (1805), was published with three illustrations: the engraved titlepage with Wynn’s shield upon a trophée; the palm and cross upon the rock (after the Table of Contents); and the snake before the cave, intended as the title-page of the second part, ‘Madoc in Aztlan’ but placed incorrectly (after page 320, instead of after page 184). BACK

[5] Meaning ‘in this sign’, alluding to the early Christian tradition that the Emperor Constantine I (272–337) had a vision of the sun with a cross above it and the words ‘εν τούτῳ νίκα’ (meaning ‘by this, may you conquer’), which is often translated in Latin as ‘In hoc signo vinces’. Constantine adopted the phrase for his battle standards. BACK

[6] Southey was concerned that he might seem to Protestant reviewers to be endorsing ‘superstition’ because he portrayed, for reasons of historical accuracy, the Catholic beliefs of his medieval Welsh heroes. He was indeed criticised, but rather for aligning Christian rituals with the ‘savage’ ceremonies of the Aztecas, than for Catholicism, in the Eclectic Review, 1 (1805), 899–908. See Robert Southey: The Critical Heritage, ed. Lionel Madden (London, 1972), pp. 106–108. BACK

[7] Southey reviewed the Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (1800–1801) in the Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 207–218, and the Transactions of the Missionary Society (1803) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 189–201. BACK

[8] Southey’s review of Transactions of the Missionary Society (1804) in Africa, appeared in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 621–634. BACK

[9] The privilege of using the Royal Mail gratis was available to Southey, because his friend Rickman was Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Abbott. BACK

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August 2013