2351. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 18 December 1813 

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

2351. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 18 December 1813 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

I owe so much to some of your remarks [1]  that it is fit I should give you good reasons for not adopting them all.

Mad to wreak – I will alter if I can. [2]  At present I cannot without dislocating more metre than it is worth while p to put out of place; for an alteration not of metrical importance.

On the banks &c – Rodericks royal car was found [3] 

Surely no connecting link is wanting here. the proceding sentence says that the battle was lost, & this relates what was become of the King.

To save the soul alive [4]  is to save it from spiritual death. The terms are theological & scriptural. Expressions to which the Liturgy has accustomed us become for that reason are not flattened by this familiarity. On the contrary they acquire a solemnity.

Glued [5]  is a strong word & cannot be spared. Neither can I sacrifice the next passage to which you object. A brave man stealing like a thief in darkness from the field, [6]  is the strongest representation I could find of that cowardice to which Conscience had reduced so brave a man as Roderick. The more humiliating the image the more appropriate

Left & leave [7]  are to my ears harmoniously placed. – the four ands necessary, & the three theres emphatic.

I have altered its whole abhorred history to the whole &c  [8] – which confines the abhorrence to the act specific occasion of Roderics fall.

In the Romish Religion an Image [9]  is Guide Goddess & every thing As it were – will not remain if I can get rid of it.


Book 2d. This book makes progress enough in the story, for if there be no external incident what is going on in Roderick himself is sufficient in interest, & essential in its effect upon the story, & in opening the history of his own himself & his family. – About the birds – it is a morbid feeling tending to religious mania, it seemed to him that the prerogative of man was done away & that he was become inferior {fallen to a level} to the brute creation. [10]  It is not only a peculiar form of madness (e.g Simon Browne [11] ) – but it is also the destr peculiar opinion of a sect those who call themselves Destructionsists, & hold that the punishment of sin is death, in the literal meaning of the word.

When does Shakespere use mediciñal? – I have substituted the word to please your honour but thrown it to the end of the line. However as the Latin word is medicīna, I will displace it again to get rid of the Apothecarian quality. [12] 


In the Carmen Triumphale [13]  the line at which you have boggled is made intelligible by a parenthesis

(Delirious France rejoicing in his sway) [14] 

or it may be thrown away. I am not without fear that the poor poem may be doomd to suffer a dismal destruction {curtailment} – for it has been suggested to me, first by Rickman & since by Wordsworth that as P. L. xx in an ex-officio poem, it may not be proper for me to write as freely as if in the character of plain RS. I did not feel this, but saw that it is very likely when it was pointed out. So I forthwith transcribed the whole & sent it off to Croker. [15]  If I am advised to omit the three last stanzas, they shall not be lost. I will let them fly, without a name, in the newspaper. [16] 

The minor defects {faults} which you point out are, I believe, all corrected. I expect a proof to night (Saturday).


7 o clock –

And here behold it is! & here I am very much disposed to growl at feeling myself in shackles, & instead of rejoicing over my proof sheet, wishing the {Ode} at the Devil; – for emasculation will make it good for nothing, & that this will be its fate I am so well foresee so clearly that I shall this very evening set about what will most probabl beyond all doubt prove a lame & impotent conclusion in comparison with the former good honest & hearty finale. I could find in my heart to be out of humour with the office & with myself for accepting it, – but this would not help me out of the scrape

The other books of Roderic will not be wanted for a month or six weeks. I will notice your criticisms duly, – & willingly expunge the incident of the stag. [17]  I trust your father continues convalescent

God bless you my dear Grosvenor


Dec. 18. 1813.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 21 DE 21/ 1813
Endorsement: Decr. 18. 1813
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Bedford had read and critiqued a MS draft of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[2] Southey did not alter it; Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, line 8. BACK

[3] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, line 61. BACK

[4] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, line 88. BACK

[5] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, line 99. BACK

[6] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, line 103. BACK

[7] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, line 174. BACK

[8] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, line 231. BACK

[9] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 1, line 250. BACK

[10] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 2, lines 39–48. BACK

[11] The dissenting minister and religious controversialist Simon Browne (c. 1680–1732; DNB), who suffered from depression and monomania during his final years. Destructionism is the idea that the wicked will be annihilated, rather than suffer eternal punishment, and has been a persistent theme in Christian thinking, though not one acceptable to mainstream churches. BACK

[12] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 2, line 195. Shakespeare only used ‘medicinal’ once, Winter’s Tale, Act II, scene 3, line 37, usually preferring ‘medicinable’. BACK

[13] Southey’s first official Laureate poem was extremely controversial. Five stanzas were considered by Croker and Rickman to be particularly 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

[14] This was from one of the five stanzas removed from Carmen Triumphale. It appeared instead in ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’, Stanza 3, line 9. BACK

[15] See Southey to John Wilson Croker, 15 December 1813, Letter 2349. BACK

[16] In fact, five stanzas were removed. BACK

[17] Southey did remove this incident from Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013