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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford, 21 December 1799

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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“Kingsdown, Bristol, Dec 21. 1799.

Grosvenor, I think seriously of going abroad. My complaint, so I am told by the opinion of many medical men, is wholly a diseased sensibility (mind you, physical sensibility), disordering the functions, now of the heart, now of the intestines, and gradually debilitating me. Climate is the obvious remedy. In my present state, to attempt to undergo the confinement of legal application were actual suicide. I am anxious to be well, and to attempt the profession: much in it I shall never do: sometimes my principles stand in my way, sometimes the want of readiness which I felt from the first—a want which I always know in company, and never in solitude and silence. Howbeit, I will make the attempt; but mark you, if by stage writing, or any other writing, I can acquire independence, I will not make the sacrifice of happiness it will inevitably cost me. I love the country, I love study—devotedly I love it; but in legal studies it is only the subtlety of the mind that is exercised. However, I need not philippicise, and it is too late to veer about. In ’96 I might have chosen physic, and succeeded in it. I caught at the first plank, and missed the great mast in my reach; perhaps I may enable myself to swim by and by. Grosvenor, I have nothing of what the world calls ambition. I never thought it possible that I could be a great lawyer; I should as soon expect to be the man
in the moon. My views were bounded—my hopes to an income of 500l. a year, of which I could lay by half to effect my escape with. Possibly the stage may exceed this. . . . . I am not indolent; I loathe indolence; but, indeed, reading law is laborious indolence—it is thrashing straw. I have read, and read, and read; but the devil a bit can I remember. I have given all possible attention, and attempted to command volition. No! The eye read, the lips pronounced, I understood and re-read it; it was very clear; I remembered the page, the sentence,—‘but close the book, and all was gone! Were I an independent man, even on less than I now possess, I should long since have made the blessed bonfire, and rejoiced that I was free and contented. . . . .

“I suffer a good deal from illness, and in a way, hardly understandable by those in health. I start from sleep as if death had seized me. I am sensible of every pulsation, and compelled to attend to the motion of my heart till that attention disturbs it The pain in my side is, I think, lessened, nor do I at all think it was consumption; organic affection it could not have been, else it had been constant; and a heart disease would not have been perceived there. I must go abroad, and recruit under better skies. Not to Lisbon: I will see something new, and something better than the Portuguese. Ask Duppa about Italy, about Trieste, and the way through Vienna, and say something to him on my part expressive of respect—of a wish one day to see more of him.

“But of these plans you shall know more when they are more moulded into form. In the meantime
I must raise the supplies, and for this purpose there is
Thalaba. My expedition will not be a ruinous one, and it shall be as economical as it ought. I will at least return wiser, if not better.

“But now for more immediate affairs. The Anthology prospers. Send me something. O for another parody, such as ‘The Rhedycinian Barbers’—a ballad good as ‘The Circular Old Woman.’* There is a poem called Gebir, written by God knows who, sold for a shilling: it has miraculous beauties; and the Bishop of St Giles’s said the best poems in the Anthology were by Mrs. Opie and George Dyer! and he writes reviews!

“I expect to see my brother Henry to-morrow, after twenty months’ absence. He is now sixteen, and promises much. If I go abroad, I shall make every effort to take him with me. Tom is cruising, and, I think, likely to rise in his profession. . . . .

Yours, ever the same,
Robert Southey.”