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

2394. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 March 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. March 22. 1814.

My dear Grosvenor

Phillidor [1]  has turned up, – & I wish he may not disappear again before you come & claim him, – tho {but} you speak of possibilities in your last which may prevent a journey here next summer.

I have just finished the first part of what for want of a better name I must call at present a Carmen Maritale [2]  – give me a better title if you can. Perhaps I am the only person who by this royal marriage shall get a good deal of trouble & nothing else, – for if such things pay for the printing it is the most they will do. There will be three parts, in six lined stanzas, – the first is an introduction, or proem as it may more fitly be called {that the antiquated word may} to put the reader in tune; – the second will be a sort of allegorical vision; – & the third a high strain of exhortation to the young Princess touching her public duties, ending with a very sincere wish that it may be long before she is called upon to exercise them. The proem is what I ought to have written for the C. Triumphale, [3]  if I had had time, or been in the vein: a strain of proud egotism, – putting on the laurel in defiance; & it passes neatly enough to the present subject by a first-view of its unfitness. You shall have it on its way to the press, in time to comment upon it, – & this will save me the trouble of making a second transcript. The whole extent may be some 300 lines, – hardly more. [4] 

Am I not a dutiful xxx Pe-el to begin my task in such good time? but if Peace be made I shall be a very undutiful one, – while Buonaparte lives I will never sing to that tune. xxx Every thing looks like foul play on the part of the Austria, for the purpose of compelling the allies to make terms with the Tyrant. The blindness of this conduct is equal to its baseness, but every thing which is abominable & despicable may be expected from that cab court & cabinet. [5] 

Will you buy for me a quarto blank-paper book, in a green binding – like poor Barre’s, – only without lines in it. I want it merely for a foul-book – which is more convenient than writing first thoughts upon scattered pieces of paper; & this place neither affords such a thing, nor a shop at which, it can be made. It may come in the next parcel from Murrays. – How do you come on with Barre’s Remains? [6] 

You have never mentioned them since we parted.

So Bayonne is taken! [7]  & this is all we know, to day being the Dolorous day, – but the fact has all the official formalities of the Post-Boys flag, & the Post Masters bulletin. There will be good prize money from the Yankee-ships, – & more at Bourdeaux for which reason Lord W. ought to go there. Jonathan will cry tarnation  [8]  – who’d have thought it! & faces will fall half as as much as half at Philadelphia. Perhaps our army will move on to Rochefort, for the love of the ships & dock yards. But I fear that the cursed negociations will save Buonaparte from destruction at a time when, if Austria were but true, his destruction would be inevitable. [9] 

The Moon whips the top, & does the Exercises which his godfather gave him. He gets on in the gospel according to St Matthew, & bids fair in due time to be a better Grecian than ever his father was. Shedaw reads French with one of her Aunts, [10]  & Latin & Spanish with me. – We have had a good deal of sickness among the young ones, & Kate & Isabel are hardly yet recovered.

An East Indian past an evening here lately, – a man of sense & who had had great opportunities of observation. [11]  – He tells me that Bob Farquhar, whom I suppose to be that Farquhar better known at Westminster by the name of Moll, is playing the devil at the Isle of France, – wallowing in debaucheries, & suffering or sharing the most shameless & boundless peculations. [12]  He has seen Strachey at Madras, & the manner in which he spoke of him convinced me that he was one whose discrimination might be relied on. The story about Capt Hardinge he confirmed, – he had himself been taken by the Piedmontaise, & was long on board her before he was carried into the Isle of France. [13] 

God bless you, & forgive me for writing this letter when I have so many things which I ought to be doing!

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 25 MA 25/ 1814
Endorsement: March 22. 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Unidentified. BACK

[2] ‘Marriage song’. BACK

[3] Carmen Triumphale, Southey’s first official poem as Laureate, published in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. BACK

[4] The paragraph deals with the poem Southey, as Poet Laureate, was expected to write on the forthcoming marriage of the Prince Regent’s only child Charlotte Augusta (1796–1817; DNB). In December 1813 she had become engaged to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, William (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849), the husband selected for her by her father and his advisers. Southey started the required poem (The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale), but in the event it was not needed as the engagement was broken off in June 1814. The Lay was recycled in 1816 to celebrate Charlotte’s marriage to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790–1865; DNB). BACK

[5] The Army of Silesia, a joint Prussian and Russian force, was defeated by Napoleon at Champaubert (10 February 1814), Montmirail (11 February 1814) and Vauchamps (14 February 1814), but still managed to win a decisive victory at Laon (9–10 March 1814). Meanwhile, the Austrian Army of Bohemia was notably inactive. BACK

[6] Letters and Miscellaneous Papers of Barré Charles Roberts (1814); reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 509–519. BACK

[7] Bayonne did not surrender to the allies until 27 April 1814, after a siege and battle that cost over 3000 casualties. BACK

[8] ‘Jonathan’ or ‘Brother Jonathan’: i.e. an American. ‘Tarnation’: a euphemism for ‘damnation’, in common use in the south eastern United States. Britain and the United States were at war, 1812–1814. BACK

[9] Negotiations with France continued at Chaumont throughout February-March 1814. BACK

[11] Unidentified. BACK

[12] Robert Townsend Farquhar (1776–1830; DNB) was a near contemporary of Southey’s at Westminster School. He had entered the East India Company’s service in 1793. Farquhar served as governor and commander-in-chief in Mauritius from 1810–1817 and 1820–1823. During this time he attempted to abolish the local slave trade, and encouraged the development of trade with Madagascar, Muscat, Mozambique and East Africa. He was created a Baronet in 1821. BACK

[13] The French ship Piedmontaise had been a major threat to British vessels in the Indian Ocean. She was captured in March 1808 after a battle lasting 3 days. The action saw the death of George Nicholas Hardinge (1781–1808; DNB), captain of the British ship HMS San Fiorenzo. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013