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

2077. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 13 April 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. April 13. 1812.

My dear Grosvenor

I wrote to Wynn a few days ago, inclosing a hasty letter to the Czar, relating to a purposed movement of his own great corps into these parts this season. [1]  I wish we could look forward with as much pleasure to the movement which the other Czar w is making with all his corps toward the Vistula. [2]  – Most of my friends have the same cause of complaint against me as Wynn, every one of them I believe except yourself, – to whom it so happens that I oftener xxxxxx {find} myself writing than to any other person, owing to Pelayo [3]  & Pension &c [4]  – you come in for letters as agent, & franker-under-favour as well as in your own capacity.

O Lord! O Lord! how will every body who has read Latimer [5]  stare at finding power translated into ornamented! power is the word, & many are the odd things that that oddest of all good Bishops deduced from it. It surprizes me that Wynn should not have recognized it, I thought he must have known Latimers sermons, which form one of the most amusing books in the language, & contain invaluable pictures of the manners & feelings of his age.

For God’s sake if your side warms you take flight again to the mountains, & come down with Blanco, without delay.

Your remarks upon Pelayo shall all be duly perpended – not merely now, but as often as I read or transcribe it. First as to the Porter. You will observe that the transition of tone has been gradual, – the lines which describe Rodericks course from Auria [6]  produce a natural fall to the end of the paragraph, & the next may open in xx as low a key as suits the message transition. Now then remember that the Porter is not a Great Mans Porter with a shoulder knot, – but a regular one of the brethren himself, that you are to have an a Benedictine Abbey before your eyes, & a monk at the gate; – & finally – lookez-vous M. Bedford, – what this monk says is as it were the catch word to Odoars speech in reply by which the dialogue is well introduced. [7] 

It is necessary to assure Odaor that it is Adosinda, – his speech for he had supposed her dead, – & his first mention of her name is a burst of hope that it must be {is} her. [8] 

I think I could find you fifty instances of the word doting in its parental sense, but it cannot be mistaken in this place. [9] 

Perceiving that Urban is the Primate, you see why he is brought forward, the ordination of Roderick is preparatory to one of the final scenes of the poem, which ought to be one of the finest. [10] 

The two last lines are botches, & stand only for want of xx better. [11]  You need not be told that both in history & poetry the things which it requires most skill to manage are the transitions, – every thing there depending upon the manner. Thirty’s brow [12]  must be referred to a Jury of Poets, Landor has not objected to it. Certainly I should have said “the brow of Thirty” in preference if the metre had allowed it.

“With that” [13]  is right sterling old English phrase, – no doubt I have used it too often, – & p & this proves its marvellous convenience. You are very right in what you say of the ears taking alarm. Where that is the case any thing becomes obnoxious, – therefore especial care should be taken not to make it the case.

I wish when Curwen speaks in the house about scarcity & the distresses of the Poor, somebody would haul him over his own coals. [14]  Eight years ago I paid 6s – 6d a cart thro the year xxxxx – I now pay 10/ for the same quantity, which as I consume not less than sixty carts a year, amount to a direct tax of ten guineas levied upon me by the Pit Holders of whom Lord Lonsdale & Curwen are the chief. Their last rise was of a shilling upon the cart at the pits – somewhat about thirty per cent. They have xxxxxxxx outwitted themselves, – the ship-masters have forsaken them, the Irish market is now supplied with Scotch coals. Curwen cannot pay his men, & the report is that at this time he dares not show that ugly face of his at {in} Workington.

I ought to have replied to what you said about giving Bell & the dragon  [15]  to the franker-general, [16]  & am ashamed that it was neglected. However I shall have a more acceptable book [17]  ready in the course of the summer & then the fault shall be supplied.

The Bishop of Pimlicos pastoral charge against the new Kehaman heresy is never likely to find its way here. [18]  Pelayo does not advance so ra steadily as it ought – I am but 200 lines in the next book. however you may receive it sooner perhaps than I at present expect. I have no longer that ardour which carried me thro Thalaba [19]  in twelvemonths, & produced 1200 of the best lines I ever wrote in a single week: perhaps it may be said that I have no longer nothing else to do, – which is certainly true, – yet if the inclination were stronger, the time would be found. The real case xx is that I feel more strongly the necessity of laying in knowledge more than one year than another: when I knew little, with a youngs man presumption I fancied myself well informed; at present I am well informed enough to be very sensible x wherein my knowledge is deficient, & very earnest to supply what is wanting. So I feed like a silkworm instead of spinning like a spider, & like better to have a book in my hand, than a pen.

Coleridge is now in the mail on his way to London where he will arrive tomorrow. – Did I ever tell you that my Uncle spent xx a morning in vainly endeavouring to find you out by a lame direction. If you turn Centaur for a xx the sake of exercise, find you your way to Streatham.

Remember me to your father & mother, & the Master of the Rolls.

We have the chicken-pox among us, – which I have never had, Heaven send it may not me claim me as an old Cock, having ever spared me in my chick state. Derwent brought it here from school.

Remember me to Blanco. I hope soon to hear that he is coming – tell him he can carry on the Español [20]  here, the proofs may follow him. I shall be in the midst of my Portugueze campaign when he comes for the Register [21]  is still far from its close! Alas I begin to feel that the day is short & the labour long.

God bless you – yrs RS.

You will perceive that the halfnotes [22]  have reached me [23] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr./ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 16 AP 16/ 1812
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24
Unpublished. BACK

[1] These letters do not appear to have survived. BACK

[2] Franco-Russian relations had irretrievably broken down. France had 400,000 men stationed near the River Vistula, the Russian border, and Alexander I (1777–1825; Emperor of Russia 1801–1825) left St Petersburg to join his troops on 21 April 1812. BACK

[3] Southey was sending Bedford drafts of the poem that became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Paragraphs 4–9 of this letter relate to Bedford’s critique of Book 4. BACK

[4] Southey had received a government pension since 1807. BACK

[5] The preacher, Bishop of Worcester and Protestant martyr Hugh Latimer (c. 1485–1555; DNB). Southey owned a collection of his Fruitfull-Sermons (1575), no. 1614 in the sale catalogue of his library. Southey is possibly responding to something Wynn had said. BACK

[6] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 4, lines 88–97. BACK

[7] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 4, lines 103–106. BACK

[8] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 4, lines 141–174. BACK

[9] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 4, line 154. BACK

[10] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 4, lines 284–313. BACK

[11] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 4, lines 312–313. BACK

[12] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 4, line 228. BACK

[13] Used only once in Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 4 at line 175. BACK

[14] The wealthy colliery owner and Whig MP for Carlisle 1786–1790, 1791–1812, 1816–1820, John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB). Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 98, noted Curwen’s speech in the House of Commons on 11 March 1811, in which he blamed the government’s policy towards America for manufacturing and agricultural distress – ‘the theory of opposition’. BACK

[15] 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, Quarterly Review, 6 (October 1811), 264–304. BACK

[16] Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. BACK

[17] Possibly Ominiana, or Horae Otiosores (1812). BACK

[18] As Bedford lived in Pimlico this may be a reference to the review of Kehama in the British Critic, 39 (March 1812), 272–282 – a review that Southey himself had suggested Bedford should write. BACK

[19] The Islamic romance Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[20] El Español, the political journal founded in 1810 and edited by Blanco White. BACK

[21] Southey’s work for the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[22] Half-banknotes – a secure way of sending money in the post, by tearing banknotes in half and sending the two halves separately. BACK

[23] You will … reached me: Written at top of fol 1r. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013