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366. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 January 1799 ⁠* 

It is a favourite article of belief with me Grosvenor, that friendship & affections will continue in the next world; yet there are some awkward objections to it, it is not analogous to what passes here, nothing lasts, – Nature seems to delight in disorganizing to reproduce. not only does every thing change around us but we change ourselves – the oak indeed was contained in the acorn, but it is not to the human eye that the resemblance is visible.

There is a great difference between love & friendship; absence & cohabitation increase the one & slowly destroy the other. if I wishd to preserve a friend I would rather perhaps have him in the East Indies than in the house with me. but even absence weakens this kind of attachment, for the apartments of friendship in the heart are never long vacant. however Grosvenor there is a kind of cabinet or closet in mine belonging to you, & I am sorry that you so long keep it shut up, & only leave in it a parcel of old letters & old recollections by way of keeping possession. I often feel a wish to write to you when some imperious business employs me otherwise, – for by the Lord tho you were Commander in Chief of the Light Horse, Chancellor of the Exchequer, or even a Mamaluck Bey, [1]  I should & would call you & think of you Grosvenor Bedford. I never offended any body by my opinions yet except one old woman – & as you are not an old woman I am determined not to offend you – no – tho I were in the punchinello dress of the grand costume of the Great Nation, you should recognize my original nose.

I have not been well Grosvenor, & my indisposition has given me some acquaintance with the nervous system. I walk & take ether. the fact is I have hurt myself by sitting at the desk; & this is as convenient for me as it would be for a running footman to strain his ancle, or an Alderman to have the Mumps. Edith is of late much mended in her health – for me I look on the spring & the effect of bathing.

I shall have a book to send you soon. the frost has been freezing the printers ink & paper, & the Devil himself was almost starved.

What is become of you? & what are you thinking of & what interests you now? – four years ago you & I were interested in every thing that concerned the other, – I sometimes tremble for my favourite article of belief.

Certainly Grosvenor if we both go to heaven we shall only see one another there occasionally as visitors, for I shall be among a whole herd of Frenchmen – Revolutionists, & a sort of Quaker Christians who have a mortal antipathy to regimentals. however I will come to your star sometimes, if the gulph between be passable, & you shall laugh at my tricolor cockade, & I will laugh at your court suit.

I am going to make a book [2]  like the French & German Almanachs of the Muses, & will you give me the Barber [3]  & obdurate curl? – & also the Witch of Endor [4]  {with} which I should like to inter weave with some lines of my own. the collection will be a good one – you will see your old friends Metaphor & Personification [5]  there.

Have you read a Series of Plays exemplifying the effects of different Passion? [6]  if you have not you have a great pleasure to come. I could go fifty miles to see the author.

Grosvenor God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

Jany. 3. 1799.

Ediths desires to be remembered


Notes

* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ London/ Single
Stamped: [partial] OL
Postmark: B/ JA/ 4/ 99
Endorsement: 3 Janry 1799
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 179–180. BACK

[1] A ruler of one of the twenty-four divisions of Marmeluk Egypt. The beys formed a governing council, or divan, presided over by a Turkish pasha or governor. By the time of the French invasion of Egypt in 1798, the Beys had become warlords, each ruling over their own separate kingdom. BACK

[2] The Annual Anthology. BACK

[3] Bedford’s ‘The Rhedycinian Barbers’, published in Southey’s Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1799), pp. 44–47. BACK

[4] Two unpublished poems by Bedford: the ‘obdurate curl’ is unidentified; ‘The Witch of Endor’ was an early work; see Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [before 15 October 1794], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 1, Letter 108. Neither appeared in the Annual Anthology. BACK

[5] Two sonnets by James Jennings, Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1799), pp. 148–149. BACK

[6] Joanna Baillie (1762–1851; DNB), A Series of Plays In Which it is Attempted to Delineate the Stronger Passions (1798). BACK

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August 2011