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

2325. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [c. 9 November 1813]⁠* 

Senhora Kedora Niâbarma

Last night I received your note. My notion as to the manner of discharging the high office [1]  to which it hath pleased the best-drest Prince in Christendom to call me is this: To set forth an ode for which the present state of public affairs affords a subject almost too much subject, – because let the writer do what he will, he will rather {is in danger of} falling short of what the events lead the public to expect: – & to publish this by itself in some such form as the Giaour, [2]  & prefix to it a blank verse Epistle x to the xxxxx Prince, pitched in somewhat of a solemn key, saying something about the office itself, of those who have held it heretofore, of myself, & of the manner in which it behoves me to address him. This I shall set about immediately on my return. [3] 

The Levee [4]  is appointed for Thursday, & Croker takes me there. There is a possibility that it may be put off, – the P. being apt to do such things, & there is a fainter possibility that in some unlucky mood of preciousness he may thrust unwelcome honour upon me his Poet, by xxxxxx commanding me to dine with him. Neither of these things are likely, but I dare not take my place till both dangers are over, & this exposes me to the risk of not finding one for Friday evening when I go in the morning to look for it.

As for the office you know me well enough to smile at the apprehensions of anyone who fears that I may degrade myself by the manner of discharging it. Common sense would prevent me from doing this, even if x any better principle were wanting. Believez-vous me, Senhora, that however inferior my Laureat verses may be to those poems in which my whole heart & mind have been employed, they will be among those which xxx will do me most honour hereafter.

What you say about Roderic [5]  had past across my mind, – but the intention which I have formed will render it unnecessary.

I am in haste. It is now 9 o clock – I have already written one hasty letter & breakfasted; & among the business of the morning is that of seeing Miss Linwoods pictures, [6]  – the sun is shining accordingly. I dine at Streatham & sleep there. Tomorrow I dine with Col Stenor [7]  a Spaniard who was in Romanas [8]  army, & shall meet there a party of Spaniards. Tell Mrs Lovell I saw Robert on Saturday, rigged him with great coat to his own liking, & attended to his ways & means. He is as well as he can be. – Coleridge is at Bristol lecturing with great success. [9]  – My hair was cut eight weeks ago at Streatham, & ten days ago by the Doctors hair cutter. I make my appearance in full buckle, bag sword & ruffles, [10]  – would that you could see me in this masquerade dress! – The bust [11]  is finished to the satisfaction of all who have seen it – The little artist means to send you one, & thus prevents me from doing it. – There is no caviar to hand, no Bolognas. So Mr Burgess [12]  assured me, & we both joined in execrating the tyranny of Buonaparte which had produced this privation. – I have bought a bed small bed-rug, like a horse cloth, to wrap round me in the mail, & fear neither cold nor fatigue. On the contrary I shall be more at rest when I have fairly seated myself in the corner of the coach, – than at any other moment since I left home.

And now God bless you all. I expect a line from Edith tomorrow. & shall write in reply to it. [13]  But of my departure I can say nothing [MS torn]tain, farther than it shall [MS torn] as soon as possible, & that if [MS torn] not see me on Sunday next [MS torn] you will hear from me.

I shall think of the ceremony of the coronation crowning upon the road.

RS.


Notes

* Address: [in another hand] London November Nine/ 1813/ Miss Barker/ Keswick/ Cumberland/ J. Donnington
Postmark: FREE/ 9 NOV/ 1813
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891
Unpublished.
Dating note: dating from postmark. BACK

[1] i.e. the Poet Laureateship. BACK

[2] Byron’s oriental tale The Giaour (1813). BACK

[3] Southey’s first poem as Laureate was the New Year’s ode Carmen Triumphale, published, after much revision, as a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. It was not accompanied by an epistle to the Prince Regent. BACK

[4] Southey’s official presentation at Court as Poet Laureate. BACK

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

[6] The needlework pictures of Mary Linwood (1755–1845; DNB), which had been on show in Leicester Square, London, since 1809. BACK

[7] Unidentified beyond the information given here. BACK

[8] The Spanish general Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761–1811). BACK

[9] Coleridge gave six lectures in Bristol on Shakespeare and two on education, 28 October-23 November 1813. BACK

[10] The formal dress required for the Poet Laureate’s appearance at court. BACK

[11] A bust of Southey, sculpted by James Smith (1775–1815). BACK

[12] The provisions merchants John Burgess & Son, of 107 The Strand. BACK

[13] See Southey to Edith Southey, 10 November 1813, Letter 2326. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013