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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2059. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 March 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. March 11. 1812.

My dear Grosvenor

Murray will send you five copies of my Book of Bell & the Dragon  [1]  besides your own, – three of them are for Wynn, Elmsley & Herries. The other two I want sent into the country by franks potential, – the only way in which any thing so small can fitly be conveyed: – one to Miss Barker, Teddesley, Penkridge, Staffordshire. the other to Wade Browne Esqr Ludlow.

The book will probably be published in about ten days, possibly sooner. The comments upon the Ed. Review are in a proper mordacious style, & contain part of what was to have been in the Epistle Dedicatory to Gog, if that had been thought advisable. [2]  I think you will find some good plain English properly applied.

The pistols are arrived, & very compleat they seem to be, & now procul este [3]  ugly fellows! Rattelavi rattelos, – rattelavi & depol et re-rattelavi, {& depol}, et re-rattelxabo. [4]  Mighty pretty instruments they are: they came in the best possible point of time, – just as I had got up myself, & so I handselld them by taking my stand in the passage by {at} Mrs Coleridges door, & rousing the family to breakfast.

I have been expecting your remarks on the fourth book of Pelayo. [5]  The fifth comes on slowly & promises well, – the action of the poem will proceed rapidly from this point, where indeed if I had thought it expedient to follow the receipts for Epic poetry, it would have begun. But the xxx manner in which Rodericks character is conceived made it necessary to begin ab ovo, [6]  & perhaps it may be proper in consequence to call it Roderick the Last of the Goths. [7]  – for it will end with him as even as it begun with him. This however is of little consequence & may be decided upon hereafter. From this point you will have action enough, flight & pursuit, siege & battle & adventure. I have sight of three or four very fine situations.

Tell Blanco that he cannot come too soon after the beginning of May. May & September are our best months, & the long evenings give a decided advantage to May. If you came with him, of course your convenience must regulate the time. Xx xxxx xxxxxx xx myself I will provide him with letters to Liverpool & to Birmingham, – either going or returning he should take that route & see Oxford by the way. There I can be of no use to him, – Gifford perhaps can.

They talk of reforms at Oxford Grosvenor, – but the only way to reform it is to make the Butler [8]  Head of all the Colleges at once, Proctor, xxx both Pro-Proctors, Vice Chancellor & Chancellor; so as to unite in himself the whole power legislative & executive. The first he would do would be to order Great Tom [9]  to be laid upon the breakfast table as his hand-bell, as a specimen of the style in which he would do every thing.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr.
Endorsement: March 11. 1812
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Origin, Nature, and Object of the New System of Education (1812), an expansion of Southey’s appraisal of the educational systems advocated by Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster (the ‘Dragon’), Quarterly Review, 6 (October 1811), 264–304. Southey had written to Murray the previous day; see Southey to John Murray, 10 March 1812, Letter 2058. BACK

[2] Southey had been provoked by an article in the Edinburgh Review, 17 (November 1810), 58–88, which was severely criticised in The Origin, Nature, and Object of the New System of Education. The Edinburgh had condemned Bell and proclaimed Lancaster’s methods superior. Southey had originally planned to dedicate The Origin (1812) to Gog (ie. Francis Jeffrey, so ironically nicknamed because of his lack of height). Instead, he interspersed swipes at the Edinburgh and its editor throughout. See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 November 1811, Letter 1979. BACK

[3] ‘Be gone’. BACK

[4] An imitation of the sound made by the watchman’s rattles Southey had requested from Bedford; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 17 January 1812 (Letter 2018) and [January 1812] (Letter 2026). BACK

[5] The early name for Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[6] ‘from the beginning’. BACK

[7] The title under which the poem was published in 1814. BACK

[8] A private joke between Southey and Bedford, concerning a comic hero they had invented called ‘the Butler’. BACK

[9] A bell at Christ Church, Oxford; the college to which Southey had been refused admittance in 1792. BACK

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August 2013