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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford, 27 May 1795

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“May 27. 1795.
“My dear Grosvenor,

“You and Wynn could not more enjoy the idea of seeing me than I anticipated being with you; as for coming now, or fixing any particular time, it may not be. My mind, Bedford, is very languid; I dare not say I will go at any fixed period; if you knew the fearful anxiety with which I sometimes hide

* March 21. 1795.

Ætat. 21. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 237
myself to avoid an invitation, you would perhaps pity, perhaps despise me. There is a very pleasant family here, literary and accomplished, that I have almost offended by never calling on.
Coleridge is there three or four times in the course of the week; the effort to join in conversation is too painful to me, and the torpedo coldness of my phizmahogany has no right to chill the circle; by the by, my dear Grosvenor, if you know any artist about to paint a group of banditti, I shall be very fit to sit for a young cub of ferocity; I have put on the look at the glass so as sometimes to frighten myself. . . . .

“Well, but there is no difficulty in discovering the assiduities of affection; the eye is very eloquent, and women are well skilled in its language. I asked the question. Grosvenor, you will love your sister Edith. I look forward with feelings of delight that dim my eyes to the day when she will expect you, as her brother, to visit us—brown bread, wild Welsh raspberries, heigh ho! this schoolboy anticipation follows us through life, and enjoyments uniformly disappoint expectation. . . . .

“Poetry softens the heart, Grosvenor. No man ever tagged rhyme without being the better for it. I write but little. The task of correcting Joan is a very great one; but as the plan is fundamentally bad, it is necessary the poetry should be good. The Convict, for which you asked, is not worth reading, I think of sometime rewriting it. If I could be with you another eight weeks, I believe I should write another epic poem, so essential is it to be happily situated.


“I shall copy out what I have done of Madoc and send you ere long; you will find more simplicity in it than in any of my pieces, and of course it is the best. I shall study three works to write it—the Bible, Homer, and Ossian

“Some few weeks ago I was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Perkins: they were on a visit, and I saw them frequently; he pleased me very much, for his mind was active and judicious, and benevolence was written in every feature of his face. I never saw a woman superior to her in mind, nor two people with a more rational affection for each other. On their quitting this place, they urged me to visit them at Bradford. A few days ago, I was with my mother at Bath, and resolved to walk over to tea,—it is but six miles distant, and the walk extremely beautiful. I got to Bradford, and inquiring for Mr. Perkins, was directed two miles in the country, to Freshford; my way lay by the side of the river; the hills around were well wooded, the evening calm and pleasant; it was quite May weather; and as I was alone, and beholding only what was beautiful, and looking on to a pleasant interview, I had relapsed into my old mood of feeling benevolently and keenly for all things. A man was sitting on the grass tying up his bundle, and of him I asked if I was right for Freshford, he told me he was going there. ‘Does Mr. Perkins live there? ‘Yes; he buried his wife last Tuesday.’ I was thunderstruck. ‘Good God! I saw her but a few weeks ago.’ ‘Ay, Sir, ten days ago she was as well as you are; but she is in Freshford churchyard now!’

Grosvenor, I cannot describe to you what I felt;
Ætat. 21. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 239
the man thought I had lost a relation; it was with great difficulty I could resolve on proceeding to see him; however, I thought it a kind of duty and went.—Guess my delight on finding another Mr. Perkins, to whom I had been directed by mistake!

“You do not know what I suffered under the impression of her death, at the relief I felt at discovering the mistake. Strange selfishness!—this man, too, had lost a wife, a young wife but lately married, whom perhaps he loved; and I—I rejoiced at his loss, because it was not my friend!—yet, without this selfishness, man would be an animal below the orang outang. It is mortifying to analise our noblest affections, and find them all bottomed on selfishness. I hear of thousands killed in battle—I read of the young, the virtuous, dying, and think of them no more—when if my very dog died I should weep for him; if I lost you, I should feel a lasting affliction; if Edith were to die, I should follow her.

“I am dragged into a party of pleasure to-morrow* for two days. An hour’s hanging would be luxury to me compared with these detestable schemes.—Party of pleasure! Johnson never wrote a better tale than that of the Ethiopian king. Here is the fire at home, and a great chair, and yet I must be moving off for pleasure. Grosvenor, I will steal Cadman’s† long pipe, chew opium, and learn to be happy with the least possible trouble.

* An account of this party of pleasure is given in Cottle’s Reminiscences of Coleridge. Apparently the reality was not more agreeable than the anticipation.

† The name of a mutual acquaintance.


Coleridge’s remembrances to you. He is applying the medicine of argument to my misanthropical system of indifference.—It will not do, a strange dreariness of mind has seized me. I am indifferent to society, yet I feel my private attachments growing more and more powerful, and weep like a child when I think of an absent friend.

God bless you.”