184. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 November  *
Tuesday. November 1st.
When do I come to London? a plain question. I cannot tell — is as plain an answer. my books wil be out before Xmas. & I shall then have no further business in Bristol. yet Bedford this is not saying when I shall leave it — the best answer is — as soon as I can — & the sooner the better. I want to be there. I want to feel myself settled — & God knows when that will be. for the settlement of a lodging is but a comfortless one. to compleat comfort a house to oneself is necessary for I do not like living in the same den with the beast.
however I expect to be as comfortable as it is possible to be in that cursed city — “that huge & hateful sepulchre of Men”  — I detest cities — & had rather live in the fens of Lincolnshire or on Salisbury plain than in the best situation London could furnish. the neighbourhood of you & Wynn can alone render it tolerable. by the Lord Bedford I fear the air will wither me up like one of the miserable myrtles at a <town> parlour window the noise the smoke the filth the Beast — oh for the house in the woods & the great dog!
it is strange but I never approached London without feeling my heart sink within me. an unconquerable heaviness oppresses me in its atmosphere — & all its associated ideas — are painful. with a little house in the country & a bare independance how much more useful should I be — & how much more happy! it is not talking nonsense when I say that the London air is as bad for the mind as for the body. for the mind is a cameleon that receives its colours from surrounding xxx objects. in the country every thing is good. every thing in Nature is beautiful — the benevolence of Deity is every where presented to the eye, & the heart participates in the tranquillity of the scene. in the town my soul is continually <disgusted> by the vices & follies & consequent miseries of mankind.
my future studies too — now I never read a book without learning something — & never write a line of poetry without cultivating some feeling of benevolence & honesty. but the law — a damned jargon — a quibbling collection of voluminous nonsense — but this I must wade thro — aye & I will wade thro — & when I shall have got enough to live in the country you & I will make my first Xmas fire of all my law books. oh Grosvenor what a blessed bonfire! the Devil uses the Statutes at large for fuel when he gives an Attorney his house-warming.
Your boy is a miracle & his sister — what can be done for her? — Zounds Grosvenor is it not a pity that the boy cannot exx marry her? for I am woefully afraid any cross breed will be a degenerate one! What is become of your book?  are your printers as dilatory as mine? I shall have some good Poems  to send you shortly. your two Birth day Odes are printed — your name looks well in capitals & I have pleased myself by the motto prefixd to them. it is from Akenside.  shall I leave you to guess it? I hate guessing myself —
my Triumph of Woman is manufacturd into a tolerable poem. my Hymn to the Penates will be the best of my minor pieces. the B. B. Eclogues may possibly become popular.
Read St Pierre  Grosvenor: & if ever you turn Pagan, you will certainly worship him for a Demigod. by the by there are some parts of that said Paganism that may be very delightfully engrafted on the visionarys creed. you & I agree very well respecting the forms of Religion. however even in its worst state it is not a Caput Mortuum.  even the bad would be worse without it.
I want to get a Tragedy out. — to furnish a house with its profits, is this a practicable scheme allowing the merit of the Drama??? or would a good novel succeed better?
* Address: G C Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/
Postmark: ANO/ 1/ 96
Watermark: [Obscured by MS binding]
Endorsement: 1. Novr 1796
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 295–297 [in part; where it is dated 21 November 1796]. BACK