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

2338. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 November 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov 30. 1813

My dear Grosvenor

Roderic [1]  must go to press for this reason among others, that when it is in the printers hands I shall feel that my first & most urgent business must be to finish it. You wish to preserve the copy. – I will direct the printer to preserve it & keep it as clean as he can, – the dirt which it may contract in his hands will rather increase than lessen its value as a curiosity. – So send it me I pray you as soon as you can under favour of some franks potential, & I on my part will make what speed I can to send you the continuation & conclusion. – And if you send me some money also it will not come before it is wanted. I feel the sudden defalcation of 400 £ a year from the Edinburgh concern, [2]  & if Roderic does not lend me a good lift shall be put to some difficulties in the course of the next year & half.

I have written about 120 verses of an Ode which will run to some 30 or forty lines more. [3]  It is somewhat stately, – & I hope other people may like it better than I do. Sir William may cut out as much as he pleases. Three verses of the 100dth {a} psalm are the regular allowance of even a congregation, & I suppose a Laureates ode ought not to overstep the modesty of four stanzas. This is Sir Williams business, – how much or how little he sets of it I care not, – as I am not to sing it. For its appearance in print I ought to care I suppose, as it will be looked for with no common curiosity, – but in honest truth I care very little about it. For be it good or bad, it will be but a weeks wonder. Tomorrow will perhaps see it finished, & then I will send it to you. – My purpose is to write a series of Inscriptions for our battles in the Peninsula, & the officers who have fallen, & to print them with the ode, & an Epistle to the Prince prefixed. [4]  This is volunteering gaily.

I will write to Wynn concerning Edward. [5]  My conviction is that if he be sent to Spain, he will very soon return to his present way of life. Nevertheless I will readily act against conviction, if you & he think that the trial ought to be made. – About Croker & my brother Tom I feel exactly as he supposes, – & he will relieve me from a burden upon my xxx mind, if he will mention the subject.

The surrender of Davoust, the submission of Denmark, & the recovery of Italy will be the next news. [6]  But the Netherlands also must be rescued, & Down down with the Tyrant! [7]  Vengeance for Toussaint, [8]  for Pichegru, for the Duc d’Enghien, for Wright, for Palm & for Hofer! This is to be the burden of my Ode – [9] 

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer
Endorsement: 30 Novr 1813
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

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

[2] Southey had severed his connection with the Edinburgh Annual Register and had therefore lost £400 p.a. BACK

[3] Southey’s first official poem as Poet Laureate was extremely controversial and much altered prior to publication. The final five stanzas were considered by Croker and Rickman to be inflammatory. Southey bowed to pressure and deleted them from the version published as Carmen Triumphale in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. He incorporated the deleted stanzas into an ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’, published in the Courier 3 February 1814. BACK

[4] This volume did not materialise. Only 18 of the proposed 30 inscriptions on the Peninsular War were written. BACK

[5] See Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 18 December 1813, Letter 2352. BACK

[6] The French Marshal Louis-Nicolas d’Avout (1770–1823) was besieged in Hamburg, but did not surrender until the end of the war in April 1814. Denmark was increasingly isolated and withdrew from the war under the terms of the Treaty of Kiel, 14 January 1814. There was no decisive victory for the Austrians in Northern Italy and the French Army of Italy only surrendered at the end of the war in April 1814. BACK

[7] i.e. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821). The Netherlands had been incorporated into France in 1810. BACK

[8] The hero of Haitian independence, François-Dominique Toussaint-Louverture (1743–1803), who died in prison in France. BACK

[9] Early drafts of Carmen Triumphale, Southey’s first Laureate poem, included the accusation that the Bonapartist regime had murdered: Jean-Charles Pichegru (1761–1804), who was found strangled in his prison cell after returning to France to lead a royalist uprising; the British naval officer John Wesley Wright (1769–1805; DNB), captured on the French coast in 1804 and suspected of landing Pichegru and other opponents of the regime, he was found with his throat cut in prison the following year, a reported suicide; the German bookseller Johann Philipp Palm (1768–1806), executed without trial for publishing an attack on Bonaparte; and the Tyrolese patriot Andreas Hofer (1767–1810), executed for his leadership of a failed rebellion against Bonaparte. Southey was persuaded to remove these sections from the poem published in the Courier on 8 January 1814. This unused material was turned into the ninth stanza of a new poem, ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’, published in the Courier, 3 February 1814. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013