1263. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 [January] 1807

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1263. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 [January] 1807 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

I have let one of your emendations pass & no more. [1]  How comes it man that thou who hast often enough a smile upon thy own face wilt never allow me to have one upon mine when I am writing in my authoritative capacity? Who can think of King James without thinking of King Solomon? – if one does not mention with <him with> contempt one must with abhorrence, & I incline to the side of mercy. [2]  – There is a fitness in the word unreadably – which by the by is to be found in many a modern book – however not withstanding the sentence subscribed thereunto you may substitute intolerably if your Worship pleases. [3]  The passage relating to Milton must stand: it means his Defence of the People of England ‘Libertys defence’ – as he himself calls it in the former part of the line quoted. [4]  nor if it meant Regicide alias Rascalicide xxxxx exclusively, should I alter it, as it is not irrelevant, but on the contrary, essential in this place, as one cause of the neglect of his great poem. – The Creed is not mentioned disrespectfully [MS obscured] the passage again & you will see this – it is coupled with the Paradise Lost – as what people believe – & ought to believe – but cannot comprehend – This is its meaning – if more be looked for in it than ought to be looked for, – for certainly I do not mean to imply that belief in myself. [5] 

Poor Isaac Reid. [6]  – I have a vile influenza upon me, & some vile ipecacuanha [7]  upon the table waiting to be taken —

God bless you


Friday 23. 1807.

If your worship is very obstinate you may omit the sentence containing the quotation from Milton – as the wise Mr Winstanleys remark (the dog had been a Barber) fills up the sense sufficiently. [8]  Only please you to remember Mr Bedford that in the case of Charles I <I hold> Regicide & Rascalicide xxx to <be> synonimous, & that in my sober & serious purpose no man could leave behind him a more honourable autograph than at the bottom of his sentence.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr
Endorsement: 23 Janry 1807
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] This letter is concerned with the preface to Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), the anthology which Southey was editing with Bedford. BACK

[2] Southey mocks the pedantry of King James I’s (1566–1625; reigned 1603–1625; DNB) rules for Scots poetry, by contrast with Solomonic wisdom, in the preface to Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. viii–ix. BACK

[3] The phrase ‘unreadably dull’ describes Henry More’s (1614–1687; DNB) ‘Song of the Soul’, in the preface to Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, p. xxv. BACK

[4] This passage concerning Milton and his times does not appear in Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

[5] The passage concerning the Creed stood: ‘Every-body believes in the merit of Paradise Lost as they believe in their Creed, and in ninety-nine instances out of a hundred, with as little comprehension of the mysteries of the one as of the other’. See the preface to Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, p. xxviii. BACK

[6] Isaac Reed (1742–1807; DNB), editor of Biographia Dramatica, or, a Companion to the Playhouse (1782), and proprietor of the European Magazine, had died. BACK

[7] A popular medication for a variety of illnesses, it was used as an emetic and an agent to cause sweating. BACK

[8] ‘His fame, says Winstanley, is gone out, and stinketh like the snuff of a candle, because he was a most notorious traitor, and did belie the memory of that blessed martyr King Charles I’. See the preface to Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, p. xxvii. Southey quotes The Lives of the Most Famous English Poets (London, 1687), p. 195, by William Winstanley (c.1628–1698; DNB), poet and biographer, and formerly a barber. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013