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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1270. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 February 1807 ⁠* 

Feby 2. 1807

My dear Grosvenor

Before I touch upon any thing more serious let me take leave of this curst preface [1]  – (that epithet gets strength by being made a monosyllable, & I observe that when a woman ventures to use it she makes it cust half speaking – half spitting it like a cats anger – whence I derive this conclusion that a monosyllabic language is favourable to the expression of anger, & that is the reason why there are so many testy people in England) – I wrote that preface doggedly & without liking to do it, or liking it when done & here, when I thought my hands were washed of it for ever, down comes a proof in such a barbarous state, xxx so all beblotched & bedevilled with characters which may, for aught I know, be magical, & bring upon me the fate of the young man who lodged with Cornelius Agrippa [2]  if I were to make them out, – that I am swearing Master Bedford with very good reason. My Espriella Printer [3]  corrects every proof before I see them, & sends me a clean sheet without a single typographical error, so that there are none but my own to correct; – such work as this is intolerable.

Oh dear dear – Grosevnor! Zounds & the Devil – there it goes. It is all so scrawled that I know not where to find room for a correction!

I have numbered your annotations for the sake of answering them with least trouble

1. admitted & amended.
2. species is {only} plural here. a little altered
3. Every body who knows the Hist: of the {F} Revolution knows Hebert. [4]  the parallel is too exact to be altered.
4. I give an opinion here like one of the Twelve Judges, & cannot help appearing.
5. Bless your sharp sight. the name is Fraunce [5] 
6. Better as it is, as avoiding one s & therefore running more glibly off the tongue
7 – will this do – unless Apollo had wrought as great a miracle upon his ears as he did upon those of Midas, & with a more benevolent intention. – Do what you will with the sentence
8. The metaphysical style – still in view since mentioned a few lines back
9. altered to please you
10. No. and is not but better than and
11. Better as it is.
12. True.
13. altered for the better as you suggest.
14. I hate the French language
15. you are right
16. Out it goes
17. I like bedarkened best



And I hope the next news of the book will be by advertisement in the Courier beginning ‘this day is published.’ & we will review it nobly in the second edition. [6] 


I thought when in London that Horace looked miserably ill – as if some thing was out of order in him, – & I thought too that his mind had taken such a turn – that unless he took a sectarian turn bias & became Methodist or Quaker he was in danger of derangement. people are sometimes driven mad this way, but they are also sometimes saved from madness {by it.} their feelings find vent in a regular channel, & they themselves find persons who sympathize with them. Thus it is that where there are convents madmen are almost unknown. I wish he were acquainted with Wilberforce [7]  or some such man. Were he my brother Grosvenor – this is what I would do – I would learn who was the most eloquent of the Evangelical Preachers, & propose to him as a matter of curiosity to go & hear him. If what he heard there should harp in with his own feelings – it would be like Davids harp & charm the evil spirit out of him. The malady of his mind being thus indulged would abate, – it would become zeal – a source of pleasure to himself – & others would not regard it as a malady. I could show you cases in point. Perhaps no man living is so well acquainted with the history of enthusiasm as I am, & that history throws as much light upon the morbid anatomy of the human mind, than as all Dr Willis’s [8]  practise can do.

Such prints as yours were too costly a collection – they were it was so large a sum of money locked up that the interest would be almost a childs portion. The books are a heavier loss, & I wish for your sake the next half year were over. You have said nothing of your own state of health – & it is for that that I am most anxious.

You ask about my removal from hence – I am fixed here for some time longer – in fact till I can get three hundred pounds to move with – which is not so soon got. Luckily I am well contented to stay – spite of inconveniences – & should the Coleridges quit the house (as there is some hope they may) then would there be room for me conveniently, & I should feel much disposed to take root here: for leave it when I will it would be a sore pang to me. [9]  I do’nt talk much about these things – but these Lakes & mountains give me a deep joy for which I suspect nothing elsewhere can compensate, – & this is a feeling which time strengthens instead of weakening. – I began yesterday my history of Brazil [10]  & you will see me, I expect – in London early in the winter, xx to fill up gaps in the first volume, & to commit it to the press.

God bless you – Tis time for the post or I should have filled the sheet.



* MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 412–414 [in part]. BACK

[1] The preface to Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[2] In Elogia doctorum virorum (1554) the historian Paolo Giovio (1483–1552) related the story of a lodger who used the spell book of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486–1535) to raise a demon, who strangled him. Finding the lodger’s corpse in his study, Agrippa made a demon enter the body and walk it outside, so that it would seem to have died in the street. BACK

[3] Southey had been sending copy for Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807) to Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB). BACK

[4] Jacques René Hébert (1757–1794), editor of the radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne. BACK

[5] Abraham Fraunce (1558/1560–1592/1593, DNB). See the preface to Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, p. xxii. BACK

[6] The Specimens of the Later English Poets did not go into a second edition. BACK

[7] William Wilberforce (1759–1833; DNB), the evangelical M.P. and anti-slavery campaigner. BACK

[8] Francis Willis (1718–1807; DNB), the ‘mad doctor’ who, among others supervised George III during his period of insanity. BACK

[9] Samuel Taylor Coleridge did not return to live at Greta Hall, meaning that Southey did decide to stay there later in 1807. BACK

[10] Southey’s History of Brazil appeared in three volumes from 1810 to 1819. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013