The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

98. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1–21 August [1794] ⁠* 

August the first.

I have this day written to your brother. your letter arrived since. to a few points I can immediately reply. my resolution with regard to America is taken. & the principles which guide me there are so powerful that tho Lovell was strongly prejudiced against them he has totally changed his opinion & will go with me.

suffer me Grosvenor to decline answering you when you attack republicanism. think of republicans with candor for my sake when I am gone, & when you are tempted by the contagion of aristocracy to declaim against Levellers & Jacobines remember you knew one at least disinterested & sincere. you can now conform to the opinion of those you live with, & of the multitude without dissimulation. I will not attempt to disturb this, tho so fully have I digested all my principles that I firmly believe it in my power to stagger you in yours. if at any time the dissentions in this country should occasion moderate men to abandon it, I shall hope you will join us in Kentucky. upon what plan we go you shall know hereafter. it is different from what you can imagine. my brother partakes my nature as well as name & is not happy in the navy. it is his wish to quit it & share my fate — Grosvenor you must send me huge letters over to Kentucky — & now & then xx a good book. but we cannot go before next spring certainly.

One line will clear you of all participation in democracy. Joan was written under your roof & your inspection. Duppa will engrave me a vignette & frontispiece if I chuse both. — mention my resolution of emigrating to no one but Wynn. from CC I am much alienated. he is cold hearted. his abilities will gain him whatever he wishes & his principles will never stand in his way. do not mention my design to any body but Wynn. when I am gone let them shrug their shoulders & pity me. for yourself think of every motive most powerful over the human mind — & do not condemn me upon suspicion. many of my dearest friends go with me. except Wynn & yourself I shall leave nothing that can grieve me. but I would rather go alone & abandon every dearest tie than remain dependant, without even hope.


August 5

Every thing smiles upon me. my Mother is fully convinced of the propriety of our resolution. she admires the plan — she goes with us. never did so delightful a prospect of happiness open upon my view before. to go with all I love — to go with all my friends except your family & Wynn! to live with them in the most agreable & most honourable employment. to eat the fruits I have raised, & see every face happy around me. my Mother sheltered in her declining years from the anxieties which have pursued her. my brothers [1]  educated to be useful & virtuous —


Aug. 21st.

Time has fled rapidly since I laid down the pen. the unexpected arrival of Coleridge agreably surprized me. we have been constantly together. when your ode reachd me it reminded me of neglect & I blushed as I read. so it is — to repent & still sin on! this day week we walked together to Bath. passed the day there. & after breakfast the next morning departed staff in hand for Huntspill. to visit George Burnett in the road to a friend of Coleridge. Rover accompanied us. “tis nineteen miles to Wells. Huntspill must be about ten or eleven miles farther & we can reach it by night.” at Wells we dined. how far to Huntspill? why you must go to Bridgewater. how far to Bridgewater? 18 miles! & 8 from thence to Huntspill. we rose to look at the map in the room & found it shorter to go by Chedder & see the cliffs. how far to Chedder? about seven miles. off we set. we met a coachman. how far to Chedder ten long miles. we askd every person we met — & received successively 5 — 7 — 4 — 2 ½ — 6 — 4 — 4 — 5 &c — the night began to darken. but we talked philosophy like two poets & often paused one while to drink at a clear spring — another while to encourage poor Rover now quite lame — & sometimes — to mark the glow-worms paley ray. we reachd Chedder about ten anticipating the delights of a good supper & comfortable bed. we enquired the best inn — & arrived at a poor pothouse in a little village. can you give us a bed. no. all engaged. we went to the other house. mine host was asleep in his chair — can you give us a bed? he snored no & turned round again. we agreed to go back to the other inn — get some supper & sleep in the stable. down we sat. demolished the bread cheese & cold a la mode beef — & petitiond for straw in the stable. they said they would make us up a bed. it was in a garret the only piece of furniture except another bedstead — on which lay a bed & quilt. poor Rover was condemned to the stable much against his inclination — it being one of his whims always to sleep in the room with my mother or me. but the landlady was inexorable I tied up with a halter locked the door upon him & went to bed. my eyes were half sunk in slumber & the dreams of the past day floating round my head — when open came the door — in rushd Rover & the landlady declaring he had broken the halter crawld under the door & must sleep in the room with me. Coleridge is a vile bedfellow & I slept but ill. in the morning I rose — & lo — we were fastend in! they certainly took us for footpads, & had bolted the door on the outside for fear we should rob the house.

Chedder cliffs amply repaid us. never did I see a grander scene — immense rocks rising perpendicularly from the glen to such a height that as pains the neck of the spectator, & terminating in the most bold & fantastic manner. large trees grew from the interstices of the stone & the sheep browzed on the edge of every precipice. a stream of water cold & clear flows from under the rocks where we paused to drink & pour libations to the Naiad.

on a similar spring at Chilcompton Coleridge has written a very beautiful poem. [2]  I have it not but it will soon be publishd & you will see it then.

You ask me why I did not apply thro you to Nicol [3]  about Joan? the thought never struck me — & had it I should have been unwilling to employ you upon a business rather unpleasant. however if he or any bookseller will give me an hundred guineas for the copy right when I have secured subscribers enough to indemnify the publication, I shall be glad to rid myself of the poem. you know it breathes freedom. but a piece ending with a coronation can hardly be stiled republican.

thank you for going to Doctors Commons. was there any estate left to John Southey & entailed like the others? [4]  I am perfectly in the dark about the whole business & would gladly accept five hundred pounds for all I may ever inherit in this country. but my age prevents me — & no gambler will venture that sum on so uncertain a speculation. n’importe. surely I can write enough to clear 200 pounds before March & more would not be wanted.

farewell. I returned but yesterday from my journey or would have written sooner.

yrs sincerely

RS.

Sonnet [5] 

Evening — as musing on my lonely way
I wander on, mine eye delights to view
Thy mellowed tints of many a sober hue
Steal slowly oer the radiance of the day.
The still hour soothes my soul & wears away
Sad Memorys painful thought, as many a dream
Fond Fancy pictures in her visioned theme
Of coming joy. but soon with sterner sway
Frowns the dark heaven; thy sadly-pleasing light
Friendly to meditation shall decay
Amid the shadows of descending Night.
Ah lovely dreams! so tho my soul delight
On you to dwell — Truths form severe pursues
To blend your airy forms with Sorrows sabler hues.

—————

Sonnet [6] 

Smile on sweet infant — soon the storm of woe
Shall shadow that blest look. smile on poor child —
I too like thee the hours of youth beguild
With many a fairy dream, ere doomd to know
Reasons sad sway. the chearful smile was mine
Mine the glad bosom bounding to delight
Ere her dark power like the chill storm of night
Sternd the drear scene, & bade me inly pine
With many a mournful thought. poor infant — born
To taste of sorrow, soon obscurd in woe
Shall fade thy smile, as when the April morn
Beams with the radiance of the varied bow,
Tho mildly beams around its placid ray
The driving tempest soon englooms the dreary day.

Orson. [7] 


Notes

* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: [partial] EA/ 25/ 94
Watermarks: G R in a circle; figure of Britannia
Endorsement: Recd. 25 Augt. 1794 Ansd Septr. 7. 1794
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 66–69 [in part; verses not reproduced]; Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, p. 216 [in part; 1 paragraph, taken from 5 August section but misdated 1 August 1794]. BACK

[2] ‘Lines to a Beautiful Spring’, published in Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Poems on Various Subjects (1796). BACK

[3] George Nicol (1740–1828; DNB), printer and bookseller. BACK

[4] Southey’s enquiries relate to his hopes of benefiting from the Will of his wealthy distant cousin, John Cannon Southey. They came to nothing. BACK

[5] A revised version was published in the Monthly Magazine, 2 (October 1796), 732. BACK

[6] A revised version appeared anonymously in the Morning Post, 26 February 1798. BACK

[7] The pseudonym Southey used in his unrealised 1794 collaboration with Robert Lovell. The latter’s contributions were to have been signed ‘Valentine’. BACK

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March 2009