473. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 January 1800 ⁠* 

We shall be very glad to see you my dear Grosvenor if you can come. there is a bed in the house & I am of necessity an idle man – & can show you all things worth seeing – & get you a dose of the beatifying gas [1]  which is a pleasure worth the labour of a longer journey.

I have written to Duppa, & asked him some questions about Italy. Florence or Leghorn are certainly safe. & for the inconvenience of travelling I have the advantage of experience, & know how best to obviate them. go I must. it is recommended – & tho my malady is not imaginaire, yet is imagination the cure for it: employment prevents it – it is a disease of association & no way so likely to break the chain as by precipitating myself into a scene where every thing is new.

Myself I have often thought of the Chancery line [2]  – & for the reasons you have alledged. Wynn did not seem to like it. he is ambitious for me – & perhaps hardly understand how utterly I am without that stimulus. I shall write to him a serious letter about it. Do not suppose that I feel burthened or uneasy – all I feel is that were I possessed of the same income in anyother way – I would never stir a finger to increase it in a way to which self gratification was not the immediate motive instead of self-interest. it is enough for all my wants, & just leaves motive enough not to be idle that I may have to spare for my relations. this Grosvenor I do feel. practically I know my own wants, & can therefore speculate upon them securely.

Come to Bristol I pray & beseech you. winter as it is (& damned cold – in a parenthesis –) I can show you some fine scenes, & some pleasant people. You shall see Davy, the young chemist – the young every thing, the man least ostentatious of first talents that I have ever known, & you may experimentalize if you like – & arrange my Anthology papers [3]  – & be as boyish as your heart can wish, so write & say when you will come, & when you come get into a hackney coach & tell the man to drive to Kingsdown Parade – to Mrs Roulwrights lodging house – on a line with the Mountague & not many doors from it. [4]  & come in the Mail then I can meet you for the hour is certain – & I can give you Laver [5]  for supper – oh rare laver! & you shall help me write an ode upon its origin for which I have a thought most mythologically-allegorical. Come – come – come! Come! come! come! Grosvenor. of all my friends you are the one of whom I have seen least, except at your own house.

Lord Herbert of Cherbury [6]  was a strange man – I should like to see his papers. an infidel in his time was a rare character – & he united enthusiasm with infidelity, loving God too much & revering him too much to believe in common Christianity.

I cannot remember with much pleasure your friend Mrs Smith [7]  – she has that reserve which is very disagreable – a witholding herself while she draws out you; there is feeling in her face & manners, but no openness. the Quakers are to me an unpleasant sect. they are made up of appearances, & uniformly have I found them insincere.

Carlisle I like much – very much – but not wholly. out of his profession he has no depth, – he cannot swim & will yet get into deep waters. besides he is a man of no consistent views, & perhaps of no consistent feelings. Grosvenor I go calmly to work with my connections – & over-appreciate nobody. all have their faults. for him I feel neither much affection nor much esteem – but his company always gives me pleasure, & he certainly is not made of common clay. Perhaps the closest friendships will be found among men of inferior intellect, for such can most compleatly accord with each other. there is scarcely any man with whom the whole of my being comes in contact, & this with different people I exist another & yet the same. with Combe for one instance – the school boy feelings revive – I have no other associations in common with him – with some I am the moral & intellectual agent – with others I partake the daily & hourly occurrences of life. you & I when we would see alike must put on younger spectacles, whatever is most important in society appears to us under different points of view. the man in Xenophon blundered when he said he had two souls [8]  – my life for it he had twenty.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey –

Jany. 1. 1800. A happy new year!

X P.S. Damn the French! – that came heartily from the depths of a Jacobine-heart. [9] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr / Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: B/ JAN 2/ 1800
Seal: Partial
Endorsement: 1 Janry 1800
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. 37–39 [in part]. BACK

[1] Nitrous oxide, or ‘laughing gas’. BACK

[2] Southey was discussing whether to concentrate a future legal career on civil cases heard in the Court of Chancery. BACK

[3] Annual Anthology (1800). BACK

[4] A well-known tavern on Kingsdown Parade in Bristol. BACK

[5] Laver is a type of edible seaweed. Southey did not write a poem on its origin, but see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 21 for his note on the possibility of a poem on ‘Laver; how it was ambrosia’. BACK

[6] Edward Herbert, 1st Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1582–1648; DNB), whose De Veritate (1624) upheld reason rather than revelation as the source of truth. BACK

[7] Thomas Woodroffe Smith (c. 1747-1811), a wealthy Quaker merchant, who lived at Stockwell Park, Surrey, near the Bedfords. In 1789 he married as his second wife Anne Reynolds (dates unknown) of Carshalton; see Robert Southey to Edith Southey, 20 May 1799, Letter 412. BACK

[8] Xenophon (431–355 BC), Cyropaedia, 6.1.41. The fictional Persian sage, Araspas, argued men must have a good and a bad soul. BACK

[9] France had adopted the Constitution of the Year VIII on 24 December 1799. It concentrated power in the hands of three Consuls and limited popular participation in government. BACK

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August 2011