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667. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 March 1802 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

I had wondered at your silence – which Corrys servant made longer than it else had been – bringing me your letter only yesterday. you gave me no direction. by which I conclude none is needful – yet the want expectation of that formality has kept me from writing sooner. – You ask about my printer – foolish man not to remember that he lived upon St Augustine Back. he now lives in Crane Court – Fleet Street – London. [1]  at Bath I can give you no employment on my account – & in plain truth can send you very little from London worth the expence even of Secretarian pen & paper. the Southey Gazette is happily barren of intelligence – unless you will hear with interest that I yesterday bought the Scriptores Rerum Hispanicarum [2]  after long search – that the day before my Boots came home from the coblers – that the gold leaf which Carlisle stuft into my hollow tooth is all come out – & that I have torn my best pantaloons. So life is passing on – & the growth of my history [3]  satisfies me that is not passing altogether unprofitably. One acquaintance drops in today – another tomorrow – xx the friends whom I have here look in often – & I have rather too much society than too little. Yet I am not quite the comfortabell man I would wish to be. the lamentable rambling to which I am doomed for God knows how long, prevents my striking root anywhere, & we are the better as well as the happier for local attachments. Now do I look round & can fix in hope upon no spot which I like better than another except for its mere natural advantages. Tis a Res damnabilis [4]  Bedford to have no family ties that one cares about.

And so much for the Azure Fiends [5]  whom I shall now take the liberty of turning out of the room –.

I am busy at the Museum [6]  copying unpublished Poems of Chatterton – the which forthwith go to Press. [7]  Soon I go with Edith to pass two or three days at Cheshunt. & by the close of next month my intention is to make my bow – & away for my holydays to Bristol – that I may be as near Danvers & his mother as possible – my strongest family-like feeling seems to have grown there.

Mrs Warner is only known to me by good report – very good report. her husband without knowing much, I know well, if he did not write bad books every body would allow him talents. [8]  he is an excellent natured man, & has been exemplary in his domestic duties. I like him the better for his opinions – but I like {him} best of all because he is the friend of James Losh who is quite my ideal of the perfect man. I wish I were at Bath with you – twould do me good all over from my eyes {Eye gates} down to the very end of Tripe passage – to have one walk over Combe down. Tom & I have often walked there before we were both upon the world. & have you been to Bradford? [9]  & to Farley Castle? [10]  & to Claverton? [11]  & to Wick? [12]  – Oh that I could catch that son of a bitch old Time – & give him warm water, & antimonial powders, & ipecacuanha [13]  till he brought up again the last nine years – not that I want them all – but I do wish there was a house at Bath wherein I had a home feeling – & may wish that it were possible ever again to feel as I have felt returning from school along the Bristol road – Eheu fugaces Posthume Posthume [14]  – the years might go now may go & be damned to them – but I wish so many good things did not go with them – the pleasures & the feelings & the ties of youth –

_______

Blessings on the Moors & the Spaniards & the Portugueze & the Saints I yet find an active & lively interest in my pursuits. I have made some progress in what promises to be a good chapter about the Moorish period – & I have finished the first six reigns [15]  – & am now more than half way thro a noble black letter Chronicle of Alonso xi [16]  to collate with the seventh. The life of the Cid [17]  will be a fit frame for a picture of the manners of his time – & a curious picture it will be. putting what all that is important in my text, & all that is quaint in my notes I shall make a good book.

Rickman is in town. he has taken possession of his house – & eke of what he calls his Scaramouch dress. [18] 

Ride Grosvenor, & walk, & bathe & drink water & drink wine, & eat, & get well & grow into good spirits & write me a letter.

Robert Southey.


March 30. 1802.

Notes

* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Bath/ Single
Postmark: BMR/ 30/ 1802
Endorsement: 30 Mar. 1802
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), II, pp. 182-184 [in part]. BACK

[1] Biggs had moved from St Augustine’s Back, Bristol, to Crane Court, London, in c. 1800-1801. BACK

[2] Robert Beale (1541-1601; DNB), Rerum Hispanicarum Scriptores (1579), no. 1420 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Southey’s projected ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[4] The Latin translates as ‘damnable business’. BACK

[5] i.e. ‘blue devils’ – despondency or depression. BACK

[6] The British Museum, opened in 1759. BACK

[7] Southey and Joseph Cottle’s planned subscription edition of The Works of Thomas Chatterton, eventually published in 1803. BACK

[8] The antiquarian and clergyman Richard Warner (1763-1857; DNB) had married Ann Pearson (d. 1865) in 1801. Warner was the officiating minister at St James’s, Bath. His publications included Illustrations of the Roman Antiquities at Bath (1797) and a History of Bath (1801), and drew on existing sources rather than on new research. BACK

[9] The town of Bradford Upon Avon, to the south east of Bath. BACK

[10] The ruined castle at Farleigh Hungerford, to the south east of Bath. BACK

[11] Claverton Down, to the east of Bath. BACK

[12] A village to the east of Bristol. BACK

[13] i.e. emetics. BACK

[14] Horace, Odes, Book 2, no. 14, line 1. The Latin translates as ‘Alas [the years slide by] so fleetingly’. BACK

[15] i.e. the reigns of the first six kings of Portugal, up to Diniz (1261-1325, King of Portugal 1279-1325). BACK

[16] Probably Juan Nunez de Villasan (dates unknown), Chronica del Muy Esclarecido Principe u Rey Don Alfonso el Onzeno (1551), no. 3336 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Alfonso XI of Castile (1311-1350; reigned 1312-1350), married as his second wife Maria (1313-1357), a daughter of the seventh King of Portugal, Alfonso IV (1291-1357; reigned 1325-1357). Portugal and Castile were at war with one another for large parts of Alfonso XI’s reign. BACK

[17] Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (c. 1040-1099), Castilian aristocrat and military commander, whose exploits were the subject of numerous poems and tales. Southey’s English translation and compilation of three of these was published in 1808 as The Chronicle of the Cid. BACK

[18] Scaramouche, a buffoon character in commedia dell’arte, distinguished by his black costume and mask. The comparison is with the uniform Rickman was required to wear in his new post as Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Commons; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 23 February [1802], Letter 659. BACK

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August 2011