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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1448. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 26 April 1808 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

From one scene of confusion to another. You saw me in London everlastingly at work in packing my books, & here they are now lying in all parts about me, up to my knees in one place, up to my eyes in another, & above head & ears in a third. I can scarcely find stepping places thro the labyrinth, from one end of the room to the other. [1]  Like Pharoahs frogs they have found their way every where, eveny into the bed-chambers. A plague on Harry Pooley, [2]  tho he is the best of carpenters. Last Friday he had the measure of the shelves, & here is Tuesday well nigh over, & yet he is not come.

And now Grosevnor, having been married above twelve years, I have for the first time collected all my books together. What a satisfaction this is you cannot imagine, for you cannot conceive the hundredth part of the inconvenience & vexation I have endured at h for want of them. But the joy which they give me brings with a mingled feeling, – the recollection that there are as many materials heaped up as I shall ever find life to make use of, – & the humiliating reflection how little knowledge can be acquired in the most laborious life of man, – that knowledge becoming every age less & less in proportion to the accumulation of events.

For some things I have been born too late. Under the last reign for instance, or in the first half of this, my pension would have been an income adequate to my wants, – & my profits as a writer would have been at least quadrupled. On the other hand bad as these times are, they are better than those which are coming.

At Bristol I met with the man of all others whom I was most desirous of meeting; – the only man living of whose praise I was ambitious, – or whose censure would have humbled me. You will be curious to know who this could be. – Savage Landor, the author of Gebir, [3]  – a poem which unless you have heard me speak of it, you have probably never heard of at all. I never saw any one more unlike myself in every prominent part of human character – nor any one with whom I agree more who so cordially & instinctively agreed with me on so many of the most important subjects. I have often said before I xxx I had seen him {we met} that I would walk forty miles to see him, & having seen him, I would gladly walk fourscore to see him again. He talked of Thalaba, [4]  & I told him of the series of mythological poems which I had planned, mentioned some of the leading incidents on which they were to have been formed, & also told him for what reason the plan had been laid aside, in plain English that I could not afford to write them. Landors reply was, go on with them, & I will pay for printing them, as many as you will write, & as many copies of each as you please. – I had reconciled myself to my abdication, (if the phrase may be allowable) & am not sure that this princely offer has not done me mischief. For it has wakened in me old dreams, & hopes which had been laid aside; & a struggling desire to go on, for the sake of showing him poem after poem, & saying, I need not accept your offer, – but I have done this because you made it. – It is something to be praised by ones peers: ordinary praise I regard as little as ordinary censure abuse, – neither goes nearer my heart than my breeches pocket.

A world of business has accumulated upon me during my long absence – I have not yet cleared off the letters which must be written, – as you may guess by not having heard from me sooner. How are your father & mother? how are you yourself?

God bless you

RS.

April. 26. 1808


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single.
Endorsement: 26 April 1808
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ APR 29/ 1808
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 137–139 [with omissions]. BACK

[1] Having decided to remain at Greta Hall the previous year, Southey had been steadily arranging for his books, which had been stored by friends in London and the West Country, to be collected together. BACK

[2] Henry (or Harry) Pooley was a Keswick carpenter, but no further information about him has been found. BACK

[3] Landor’s oriental poem of 1798. BACK

[4] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013