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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford, 27 May 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
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“Greta Hall, May 27. 1806.

“A discovery of the original language propounded to the consideration of the worshipful Master Bedford.

“There was in old times a King of Egypt, who did make a full politic experiment touching this question, as is discoursed of by sundry antique authors. Howbeit to me it seemeth that it falleth short of that clear and manifest truth, which should be the butt of our inquiry. Now, methinks, if it could be shown what is the very language which dame Nature, the common mother of all, hath implanted in animals whom we, foolishly misjudging, do term dumb, that were, indeed, a hit palpable and of notable import. To this effect I have noted what that silly bird, called of the Latins Anser, doth utter in time of affright; for it then thinketh of the water, inasmuch as in the water it findeth its safety; and while its thoughts be upon the water so greatly desired of it, it crieth qua—a-qua—a-qua; wherefore it is to be inferred that aqua is the very natural word for water, and the Latin, therefore, the primitive, natural, and original tongue.

“Etymology is of more value when applied to the elements of language, and it must be acknowledged that I have here hit upon an elementary word. One of those critics, I forget which, who thought proper to review Thalaba without taking the trouble to understand the story, noticed, as one of the absurdities of the book, that Thalaba was enabled to read some unintelligible letters on a ring, by others equally un-
intelligible upon the head of a locust,—an absurdity existing only in their own stupid and careless misconception, for the thing is clear enough. I remember giving myself credit for putting a very girlish sort of thing into Oneiza’s mouth, when I made her call those locust’s lines ‘Nature’s own language;’ for I have heard unthinking people talk of a natural language; and you know the story of the woman with child by a Dutchman, who was afraid to swear the child to an Englishman, because the truth would be found out when the child came to speak Dutch.

“I beseech you to come to me this season: we shall see more of each other in one week when once housed together, than during a seven years’ intercourse in London. And if you do not come this year, the opportunity may be gone for ever, and you will never see this country so well nor so cheerfully after I have left it. If he were here, would be the thought to damp enjoyment, you would come as a mere laker, and pay a guide for telling you what to admire. When I go abroad it will be to remain there for a considerable time, and you and I are now old enough to feel the proportion which a few years bear to the not very many that constitute the utmost length of life.

“This feeling is the stronger upon me just now, as in arranging my letters I have seen those of three men now all in their graves, each of whom produced no little effect upon my character and after life,—Allen, Lovell, and poor Edmund Seward,—whom I never remember without the deepest love and veneration. Come you to Keswick, Bedford, and make
sure of a few weeks’ enjoyment while we are both alive.

“I wish you would get the Annual Reviews, because without them my operas are very incomplete: my share there is very considerable, and you would see in many of the articles more of the tone and temper of my mind than you can otherwise get at. . . . . You must be my biographer if I go first. . . . . Documents you shall have in plenty, if, indeed, you need more than our correspondence already supplies. This is a subject on which we will talk some evening when the sun is going down, and has tuned us to it. If the harp of Memnon had played in the evening instead of at the sunrise, it would have been a sweet emblem of that state of mind to which I now refer, and which, indeed, I am at this minute enjoying. But it is supper time.

“God bless you, Grosvenor!”