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

2350. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 17 December 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec 17. 1813.

My dear R.

I thank you for your letter, & in consequence of it immediately transcribed the Carmen & sent it to Mr Croker. [1]  It had never occurred to me that any thing like an official character could be attached to it, or that any other reserve was necessary than that of not saying any thing which might be offensive to the Government, – e –g in 1809 the P.L. would not be expected {not} to write in praise of Mrs Clarke, & the resignation of the D of York. [2]  I dare say you are right, & am prepared to expect a letter from Mr C. advising the suppression of any thing discourteous towards Buonaparte. In that case I shall perhaps add something to the other part of the poem respecting Hanover & Holland, & send the maledictory stanzas [3]  to the Courier without a name. By the bye if the Government did not feel as I do the Courier would not hoist Bourbon colours as it has lately done.

I have profited by your remarks in many instances. – The lines took their name from Torres Vedras, [4]  & that name happens to answer well in English. Fly & flee must be originally the same word, & are so in common use, which in words so nearly alike in sound & import that will confound them. In reality the one is only a metaphorical application of the other. I have altered the passage, & improved it by the alteration. I have got rid also of the doubling repetition of base & abase, point & points, which had escaped me, owing to the piecemeal manner in which the stanzas were made & mended. [5] 

Of As for the M Chronicle, [6]  I defy the Devil & all his works. My malice wa has Jeffrey & Brougham for its objects, & the stanza [7]  was intended as a peg upon which to hang certain extracts from the Ed. Review, & a remark upon the happy vein of prophecy which these worthies have displayed. With regard to attacks from that quarter, I shall be abused as matter of course, & if there is a certain portion of abuse to be bestowed upon any body, it may better fall upon me than almost any other person. For in the first place I shall see very little of it, & in the next care no farther for what I may happen to see, than just mentally to acknowledge myself xx so much in debt. – If I leave out the stanza, it will be for the little or no merit there is in it, – not for any apprehension of the consequences.

I am interrupted – so farewell

RS.


Notes

* Endorsement: Fr/ RS./ 17 Decr. 1813
MS: Huntington Library, RS 217
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), IV, pp. 52-53 [in part]. BACK

[1] Rickman had cautioned Southey about the content and tone of his first Laureate poem, ‘Carmen Annuum’, see Orlo Williams, Lamb’s Friend the Census-Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), pp. 173–174. In order to gauge the establishment’s response, Southey had then sent a copy to Croker on 15 December 1813 (Letter 2349). Croker was not impressed. He and Rickman were particularly concerned about five stanzas. 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

[2] In 1809, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB) had been forced to resign as commander-in-chief of the British army in the wake of allegations that he had profited from office trafficking. After a lengthy investigation, the charges were found to be unproven. However, it became apparent that his former mistress Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB) had received money from individuals keen for her to use her influence with the Duke, and that the Duke himself had known of her actions. For Southey’s account of the scandal, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 109–301. BACK

[3] i.e. the five stanzas of ‘Carmen Annuum’, published in the Courier, 3 February 1814, as part of ‘Ode. Written during the Negotiations with Buonaparte, in January 1814’. BACK

[4] In the final version of Carmen Triumphale (1814), stanza 6, line 65, Southey referred to ‘those old Towers’. This is an English translation of ‘Torres Vedras’, the name of the line of forts built near the town of Torres Vedras, with the aim of defending Portugal against the French. BACK

[5] The paragraph deals with more of Southey’s alterations to the sixth stanza. BACK

[6] Southey was well aware that his poem would be attacked by the Whig newspaper, the Morning Chronicle. BACK

[7] The sixth stanza, in particular, of Southey’s original draft of Carmen Triumphale, was critical of the Whigs for not supporting the war against Napoleon. BACK

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August 2013