1105. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 September 1805 

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1105. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 September 1805 ⁠* 

If I remember right I selected from Swift the Description of Morning, & the City Shower P.14 & 15 [1]  in Anderson. [2]  these are not enough. Add Baucis & Philemon, long tho it be, for Swifts wit is no where else so clean: – & then pick out – for you have a better edition of Swift at Brixton, I think, some of his oddities, – those Latin English doggrels – like

Dic peris agro at an da quarto finale.
Puta ringat ure nos an da stringat ure tale. [3] 

These fooleries amuse me very much coming from such a man as Swift – whom I like to see dissipating in a place, to use your own translation. add also one of those odd letters in lines of a mile long – that P. 81 to Dr Sheridan with its three postscripts may do. [4]  These things are so unlike each other & indeed any thing else. that & Swift so truly great a man that I should not think 12 14 or 16 pages too much for him.

The Preface will be from 20 to 30 pages – must be for decencys sake, & I shall begin it forthwith.

I like what you have said of Pope better in manner than its matter. it would have stood point–blank in the teeth of what I have to say in the preface, [5]  – in which however con licencia [6]  I shall like to ingraft your last idea of the machine. To names of such celebrity no notice is needful – you see Prior without any [7]  & so should Swift be – unless you give a reason for xxx inserting some of his doggrel. [8] 

Your Bedfordship has I warrant been hunting thro 8 volumes of the Spectator [9]  like a wise acre. In the first place I never sent you hunting there, – only saying the Cave of Poverty [10]  was praised there – but there is no extract long enough & compleat enough there. In the second place I said it was in the 9th volume of the Spectator which very rarely goes with the rest. But if your worship chuse to look there for curiosity to satisfy yourself you will find the said poem praised – or in modern language puffed in No 658 & 660. The volume is now open before me.

You may print 440 pages without preface – but you had better look over your list & calculate, that our volumes may be as nearly of a size as possible. [11] 

I’ll tell you a secret. I am very far advanced in a book [12]  of which I will tell you nothing more – than that if you will go next Sunday to the New Jerusalem Chapel – or Swedenborgian Meeting house, & write me a faithful account of the ceremonies then & there observed, the fine dress of the Priest &c &c &c. that said account will furnish matter – or form part of this said book [13]  – of which moreover I beseech you say not one word to any one person. the Chapel is somewhere near St James’s Square. I am deep in the mysteries of Swedenborgianism, & have actually made such a discovery therein that if I were crazy enough I might on very sufficient ground set up as the successor of Emanuel himself, & the fulfiller of the revelation which he has left imperfect. – One word {more} about this Liber of mine – if it bring me to London, which is not improbable – one weighing motive will be the desire that your worship should interpolate the MSS. In my next I will tell you more – now farewell in haste


Sept 7. 1805.


* Address: To/ G.C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ SEP10/ 1805
Endorsement: 7 Sept. 1805
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey is instructing Bedford on entries to include within their jointly-compiled anthology Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), published as a companion to George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn 1801, 3rd edn 1803) (1807). The entry on Jonathan Swift (1667–1745; DNB), which includes these two poems, is in II, pp. 40–56. BACK

[2] Robert Anderson (1749–1830; DNB), The Works of the British Poets (1792–1795), which included biographical and critical articles. The work consisted originally of thirteen volumes, to which a fourteenth was added in 1807. BACK

[3] ‘Baucis and Philemon’ is included in Specimens, II, pp. 41–48. The ‘Latin English doggerel’ suggested by Southey, also features on page 56 thus: ‘Dic peris agro at an da quarto finale/ Fora ringat ure nos an da stringat ure tale’, meaning ‘Dick, here is a groat, and a quart o’ fine ale/ For a ring at your nose, and a string at your tail’. BACK

[4] ‘Mary the Cook-maid’s Letter, to Dr. Sheridan, Written in the Year 1723’ is included in the Specimens, II, pp. 49–52. BACK

[5] There is no ‘preliminary notice’ introducing the selection from the poetry of Alexander Pope (1688–1744; DNB) included in the Specimens, II, pp. 10–14. Pope is, however, mentioned in Southey’s ‘Preface’ to the Specimens, I, pp. xxix–xxxi. BACK

[6] Meaning ‘with licence’. BACK

[7] Matthew Prior (1664–1721; DNB), poet and diplomat, whose work is included without a ‘preliminary notice’ in the Specimens, I, pp. 227–233. BACK

[8] Swift’s entry does include a ‘preliminary notice’ in Specimens, II, pp. 40–41. BACK

[9] A daily publication during the years 1711–1714, The Spectator was edited by Joseph Addison (1672–1719; DNB) and Richard Steele (1672–1729; DNB). BACK

[10] Extracts from Lewis Theobald (bap. 1688, d. 1744; DNB), The Cave of Poverty, a Poem: Written in Imitation of Shakespeare (1715) appear in the Specimens, II, pp. 17–20. BACK

[11] The Cave of Poverty is discussed in volume 9 of The Spectator (1715) in the numbers for 25 March (658: pp. 108–12) and 1 April (660: pp. 117–23). BACK

[12] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[13] A religious movement that developed from the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), a Swedish scientist and theologian, who claimed to have received a new revelation from Jesus Christ. In 1788 his followers styled themselves ‘The New Church’. Southey’s account of Swedenborgianism is given in Letter 62 of Letters from England (1807). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013