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

2287. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 August 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Aug 7. 1813.

My dear Grosvenor

I expect to leave home on this day week, or the Monday following, according as the Coach day may fall out, – for I am not quite sure what the alternate days are at present. – You shall see or hear of me the day of my arrival, but Queen Ann Street will be a nearer post than Stafford Row. Most probably I shall make my way to Streatham the same day, – or certes the next, – & employ the morning in paying my respects to Hyde, [1]  & looking in at the Exchequer & St Stephens Court. [2] 

Thank you for the Bag hint [3]  which will certainly be adopted. The sisters [4]  are this moment in close conclave about it

I am exceedingly pleased at the thought of seeing Von Hesse. [5]  Learn also from Blanco if Estrada [6]  be in England. It is of consequence that I should find him out, for I know not by what other quarter to obtain information of the affairs of Asturias.

B. & I are at issue at last. He has declared his intention of cheating me, & I have declared mine of resisting defending myself as well as I can. So I bring up with me the concluding mss. (about 4 sheets) without which the volume [7]  cannot be published, & all the documents to put into Turners hands, in case Scott should not bring him to act honestly. We have not yet come to hard words; – but he sees enough to know that he cannot succeed in his scheme without being exposed for a scoundrel. I shall write to Scott tomorrow. [8]  This evening is likely to be more agreably employed in finishing the 11th book of Roderick. [9]  A paltry difficulty of which those only who are in the habit of such compositions can form any adequate notion has in truth, stopt me for many months; & now it is got over. No doggedness can get over these things; – I always find out the way in time, – but it is never by looking for it. And now the whole way is plain. The 10th book is better than any thing you have seen, & will hardly be surpassed in the course of the poem, – tho there are situations in store which are not inferior. I consider myself so far advanced, & the termination so clearly in view, that I shall go to press soon after my return. The stimulus of a proof sheet is my best spur, & I must publish in the spring because vivendum est [10]  while the history is in hand, [11]  & you know all I have to reckon upon is what passes thro your hands, except what can be distilled from the point of the gray goose quill.

Do you not expect to see a peace patched up? I am fully prepared for it, & I execrate the miserable councils which can lead to any thing so preposterous. The Russians are tired of the war; – their commissariat is the worst in the world, – they have no feeling in the cause now that it is removed from their own country, – & worse than all Alexander is a block head. [12]  This is Sir R Wilsons account! [13]  Prussia on the contrary is sound wind & limb, – just as Von Hesse would wish it to be, – but Prussia cannot stand alone, nor I fear with the assistance of Sweden. If indeed Germany were but true to itself all would be well, but the moment was let pass, & for this we are mainly to blame. We had as much time to raise a Hanov an army in Hanover as B. had to raise one in France. – Hamburgh too ought to have been defended like Zaragoza, & it could not have been destroyed in the same manner, because it could cannot be mined. [14] 

But to use the fine phrase of the Persians ‘farther the light-footd steed of the pen must not find permission to proceed upon the plain of prolixity’. [15]  So God bless you –

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 10 AU 10/ 1813
Endorsement: August 7. 1813
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Hyde (first name unknown; d. 1820) was Southey’s London tailor. BACK

[2] The work places of Grosvenor Bedford and John Rickman. BACK

[3] Possibly, Grosvenor Bedford had given Southey some advice about ladies’ bags. BACK

[4] Southey’s wife, Edith, and two sisters-in-law, Sara Coleridge and Mary Lovell. BACK

[5] Jonas Ludwig von Hess (1756–1823), who organised the defence of Hamburg against French and Danish forces in 1813. BACK

[6] Alvaro Florez Estrada (1765–1853), Spanish economist, lawyer and liberal. He was a prominent member of the Cadiz Cortes. BACK

[7] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). BACK

[8] Southey delayed. He sent Scott a summary of his dealings with Ballantyne on 31 August 1813 (Letter 2294). BACK

[9] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[10] ‘We must live’. BACK

[11] History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[12] Alexander I (1777–1825; Tsar of Russia 1801–1825). There was a temporary truce between France and the forces of the Sixth Coalition in Germany 4 June-13 August 1813. BACK

[13] The army officer Sir Robert Wilson (1777–1849; DNB). He had travelled to Russia in 1812 and was a first-hand witness of the campaign against the French invaders. BACK

[14] Hamburg had been re-captured by the French on 28 May 1813; it was not defended as the city of Zaragoza was through two protracted sieges in 1808–1809. BACK

[15] Jonathan Scott (1753–1829; DNB), Bahar-Danush: or, Garden of Knowledge. An Oriental Romance, 3 vols (Shrewsbury, 1799), II, p. 109. Southey’s copy was no. 94 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

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August 2013