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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1396. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 December 1807 ⁠* 

11 Dec 1807

My dear Grosvenor

The severed halves are united, & both afloat in the world, such visitors making no long tarriance with me. [1] 

Your question where Henry Kirke Whites Remains [2]  are to be had is that xxxx same provoking question which has been often put to me about my own publications, & xxx implies a sort of ignorance by which I xxx am continually a loser. Any bookseller will get any book if it be wanted. Longman is one of the publishers of this.

Do as you please about the Specimens, [3]  – only do not let the Courier be the paper in which you make the attempt – because that paper is pushing Espriella in the best way imaginable, [4]  – & if any other book of mine be puffed there it will do me mischief, & counteract the object in view, & hurt the effect of what is doing there. I do not think any thing can ever carry off a book so mangled by the printer, to say nothing of other faults, – & yet am I exceedingly desirous it should go off, for the sake of showing how good a one it may be made.

Here is something which I do not wish to be talked about. – Overtures were made me to bear a part in the Edinburgh Review ‘chusing my own books, & expressing my own opinions.’ The pay is now ten guineas per sheet & soon to be greatly increased, – & I was assured that I might thus add one or two hundred a year to my income. – I have returned a decided refusal, [5]  couched in language of much personal civility respecting Jeffray, xx upon the grounds of my utter disapprobation of the system on which he proceeds. Tell Elmsley this, tho he may perhaps think I have done imprudently. The overtures were made thro Walter Scott who will probably be sufficiently surprized at the reply, tho especial care was taken to make it as courteous as it was decisive. The Annual pays only seven pounds – not equal to five Scotch measure: the advantage to have been gained from the civility which would have been insured to my future publications was still greater than the increase of immediate pay – but it was impossible for me to coalesce with a man whom I consider as ‘a bad politician, a worse moralist, & a critic in all matter of taste equally incompetent & unjust.’ These were the words I used.

Grosvenor there is ‘a sting in my tail as long as a flail which makes me grow bolder & bolder! like the Dragon of Wantley, – & Jeffrey is not the Moore of Hall Moore-Hall of whom I can stand in fear. [6]  If I can learn to with certainty who reviewed Thalaba in the British Critic & Madoc in the Monthly, [7]  I shall very likely pay them in kind with Jews interest. I have a notion of a satire in my head, wild enough & original enough – & as it is not possible to draw upon myself more abuse than already comes to my share, it may not be amiss to make those fear who already hate. [8] 

Espriella is coming again to England. [9]  I wish you would take a sheet of paper for his benefit, & write down thereon such facts & memoranda as come into your head from time to time & may be of use to him.

God bless you.

RS.

Dec. 11. 1807


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ DEC 14/ 1807
Endorsement: 11 Dec 1807; [in another hand] Mrs Barrell/ 50 Vallency/ Bath
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 463–464. BACK

[1] A secure way of sending money in the post was to tear banknotes in half and send the two halves separately. BACK

[2] The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham (1807), which was edited by Southey. BACK

[3] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), co-edited with Bedford. BACK

[4] In The Courier of 20 November 1807, probably at Coleridge’s instigation, appeared an extract from Letters from England, Letter 38, concerning the exploitation of the poor in the new commercial and manufacturing towns. On 17 November an extract from Letter 36 criticising Birmingham had been published. BACK

[5] For this, see Southey to Walter Scott, 8 December 1807, Letter 1392. BACK

[6] ‘The Dragon of Wantley’, a seventeenth-century parody of medieval ballads, in which Sir More of More Hall kills the dragon. An allegory of a local legal case, in which the dragon was a Yorkshire landowner and Sir More the lawyer who won a case against him, the ballad was in 1737 turned into an opera satirising Prime Minister Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1676–1745; DNB). The ballad was included in Thomas Percy (1729–1811; DNB), Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765). BACK

[7] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) was reviewed in the British Critic, 18 (1801), 309–310; Madoc (1805) was reviewed by John Ferriar (1761–1815; DNB) in the Monthly Review, 48 (1805), 113–122. BACK

[8] For more on this notion, see Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 9 December 1807, Letter 1393. BACK

[9] A sequel to Letters from England did not appear. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013