LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford, 6 March 1806

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
“Keswick, March 6. 1806.

“I am writing, Grosvenor, as you know, the History of Portugal,—a country of which I probably know more than any foreigner, and as much as any native. Now has it come athwart me, this after-noon, how much more accurate, and perhaps, a thousand years hence, more valuable, a book it would be, were I to write the History of Wine Street below the Pump, the street wherein I was born, recording the revolutions of every house during twenty years. It almost startles me to see how the events of private life, within my own knowledge, et quorum pars maxima, etc., equal or outdo novel and comedy; and the conclusion to each tale—the mors omnibus est communis,—makes me more serious than the sight of my own grey hairs in the glass; for the hoar frosts, Grosvenor, are begun with me. Oh, there would be matter for moralising in such a history, beyond all that history offers. The very title is a romance. You, in London, need to be told that Wine Street is a street in Bristol, and that there is a pump in it, and that by the title I would mean to express, that the historian does not extend his subject to that larger division of the street which lies above the pump. You, I say, need all these explanations, and yet, when I first went to school, I never thought of Wine Street and of that pump without tears, and such a sorrow at heart, as by Heaven! no child of mine shall ever suffer while I am living to prevent
it; and so deeply are the feelings connected with that place rooted in me, that, perhaps, in the hour of death, they will be the last that survive. Now, this history, it is most certain that I, the Portuguese historiographer, &c. &c. &c. shall never have leisure, worldly motive, nor perhaps heart to write; and yet, now being in tune, I will give you some of the recollections whereof it would be composed, catching them as they float by me; and as I am writing, forms enough thicken upon me to people a solitary cell* in Bedlam, were I to live out the remainder of a seventy years’ lease.

“Let me begin with the church at the corner. I remember the old church: a row of little shops were built before it, above which its windows received light; and on the leads which roofed them, crowds used to stand at the chairing of members, as they did to my remembrance when peace was proclaimed after the American war. I was christened in that old church, and at this moment vividly remember our pew under the organ, of which I certainly have not thought these fifteen years before. —— was then the rector, a humdrum somnificator, who, God rest his soul for it! made my poor mother stay at home Sunday evenings, because she could not keep awake after dinner to hear him. A

* Baron Trenck, in his account of his long and wretched imprisonment, says, “I had lived long and much in the world; vacuity of thought, therefore, I was little troubled with.” May not this give some clue to the cause why solitary confinement makes some insane and does not affect others? I have read somewhere of a man who said, if his cell had been round he must have gone mad, but there was a comer for the eye to rest upon.—Ed.

worldly-minded man succeeded, and effected, by dint of begging and impudence, a union between the two parishes of Christ Church and St. Ewins*, for no other conceivable reason than that he might be rector of both. However, he was a great man; and it was the custom once a year to catechise the children, and give them, if they answered well, a good plum-cake a-piece in the last day of the examination, called a cracknell, and honestly worth a groat; and I can remember eating my cracknell, and being very proud of the praise of the curate (who was a really good man), when he found that I knew the etymology of Decalogue,—for be it known to your worship, that I did not leave off loving plum-cake when I begun my Greek, nor have I left it off now when I have almost forgotten it. But I must turn back to the pew, and tell you how in my very young days a certain uncle Thomas, who would make a conspicuous figure in the history of Wine Street below the pump, once sentenced me to be deprived of my share of pie on Sunday, for some misdemeanour there committed,—I forget what,—whether talking to my brother Tom, or reading the Revelations there during the sermon, for that was my favourite part of the Christian religion, and I always amused myself with the scraps from it after the collects, whenever the prayer-book was in my hand.

“There were quarter-boys to this old church clock, as at St. Dunstan, and I have many a time

* These are still held by one person; but as the population of the latter is stated at fifty-five only in the Clergy List, and the income of the two under 400l., it would seem to be an unobjectionable union.—Ed.

stopt with my satchel on my back to see them strike. My father had a great love for these poor quarter-boys, who had regulated all his movements for about twenty years; and when the church was rebuilt, offered to subscribe largely to their re-establishment; but the Wine Streeters had no taste for the arts, and no feeling for old friends, and God knows what became of the poor fellows; but I know that when I saw them represented in a pantomime, which was called Bristol, and got up to please the citizens, I cannot say, whether I felt more joy at seeing them, or sorrow in thinking they were only represented—only stage quarter-boys, and not the real ones.

“The church was demolished, and sad things were said of the indecencies that occurred in removing the coffins for the new foundation to be laid. We had no interest in this, for our vault was at Ashton. I sent you once, years ago, a drawing of this church. It is my only freehold—all the land I possess in the world—and is now full—no matter! I never had any feeling about a family grave till my mother was buried in London, and that gave me more pain than was either reasonable or right. My little girl lies with my dear good friend Mrs. Danvers. I, myself, shall lie where I fall; and it will be all one in the next world. Once more to Christ Church. I was present in the heart of a crowd when the foundation stone was laid, and read the plates wherein posterity will find engraved the name of Robert Southey—for my father was churchwarden—by the same token that that year he gave me a penny to go to the fair instead of a shilling as
usual, being out of humour or out of money; and I, referring to a common phrase, called him a generous churchwarden. There was money under the plate. I put some half-pence which I had picked out for their good impressions; and Winter, the bookseller, a good medal of the present king. . . . . Shame on me for not writing on foolscap! Vale!

Robert Southey.”