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

2405. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20 April 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. April 20. 1814.

My dear Grosvenor

Your packet with the half bills [1]  is arrived. – In the history of the pike it is worthy of notice that he weighed 27lb. without his guts, – now though like Buonaparte to whom you have so properly likened him his bowels of compassion must have been n marvellously small, – the contents of that maw must have been weighty ones. Mr Leather [2]  sent us once a pike of 12lb. from his lake in whose inside ten ounces of stones were found, some of the stones being as large as an egg & none smaller than a walnut. We never could learn that they had been put into him, & the cook swore that they were in such a part of the inside that no person could have placed them there. The fellow was in good condition.


Now to my counter-notes. [3] 

36 – It must be oer not thro, because the {broad} light described is thrown on the trees after they come out of the grove. [4] 

40 You like at once were gone [5]  better than at once was gone because of the once was.

On those who led the company, explains what is nowhere else implied that women were the leaders. [6] 

The beating of ones own heart, when agitated, or diseasedly active, is so plainly audible, that I do not doubt but that another person might hear it. [7] 

One them is properly at your suggestion ousted. – In the next passage the thetas occur so evidently without any set purpose of alliteration in the natural order of the words, that I ha can feel no objection to them whatever. Indeed as they are soft thetas the effect is what I should rather seek than endeavour to avoid.

I entirely I agree with you in disliking the word Maccabee, [8]  & almost wish it had been made Maccabeus – but it is too late. I never liked it, – but a name was necessary, & one with such a history belonging to it.

I cannot perceive any confusion about Rodericks seeing his mother ‘he had seen his mothers face, [9]  – that sight confuses him, & the voice of Adosinda rouses him from this confusion. – As for the concluding single-lined speech [10]  – it is impossible I can have the slightest predilection for it, & if it can be altered to please you with little trouble it shall be done, – but it will be more difficult than you are aware from the pause being on the ninth syllable in the line, exactly where the alliteration must begin. Were you here I could explain this to you in a moment.

A moonlight orchard on a slope is exquisitely picturesque from the manner in which the shadows fall, [11]  – for orchards are not the formal plantations which in rude countries which they are when young upon improved estates. I have also this reason for introducing this xxxx that this part of Spain is a great cyder country, – & I am not sure that the word cyder (sidra) does not come to us from thence.

We have lost already too many words for poetry by their being vulgarized, – & I cannot afford to change watchman, [12]  which belongs as much to chivalry & feudal usages as to the streets of London. – Remember too that the town association will be felt only by Lo townspeople. – Your objection to softened is perfectly just, & indeed it was put in at a fault, because for some reason, which I do not immediately recollect, it was not expedient that heavenward should stand. perhaps thoughtful may supply its place fill the gap better.

The reader was not aware that Gaudiosa had secreted herself with her children because of Guisla’s be treachery. [13] 

Forsook must be corrected cost what pains it may.

I believe you are right about Rodericks entrance, yet my meaning is not that he acted the part, but that the attitude had this appea[MS torn] naturally to those who believed him to be a poor priest.

Now then De Doggo. [14]  He shall have a name from Ovid to please you Lacon or Ladon, or Lencon, or Theron. [15]  I cannot spare the incident notwithstanding its resemblance to Homer, [16]  which is a heavy objection to it. But you will see to what it tends, – for it makes Rusilla instantly recognise him. You rightly object to Rodericks abrupt departure – this I will remedy; tho to confess the truth I was glad of an excuse to break off a dialogue which it is very difficult to carry on, or to end with effect. – The death of Argus in Homer appears to me overstrained. The effect of feeling it cannot be intended to be, & is an accident should not have been so timed or introduced.

You have received the 16th book viâ Gifford. I have finished the 17th but not transcribed it. As for sending you the sheets I cannot get them myself. – I have asked for them more than six weeks ago. I am in sight of land. This 17 books contains a scene between Roderick & Siverian wherein it appears that Florinda has exculpated him to Pelayo, – that Pelayo has expressed a wish he were living to resume the crown, & that the old man (never suspecting his companion) has persuaded himself that Roderick is not dead, now that he no longer considers him as dishonoured. The consequence is that Roderick immediately prepares to have Pelayo acclaimed, – which is the act of coronation. This act begins the 18 book & is followed by the an interview between R & Rusilla, – she already knowing him, & he going to throw himself at her feet. The next business after a few essentials about the management of the war-concerns is to carry Florinda back to her father in the Moorish camp, & Roderick with her, & then the catastrophe follows. I have not had the common place book yet. – my newspaper is the Courier. – I am sorry to hear that Henry stands in need of Bath to set him up.

Remember me to all your household – Quomodo valet Belisarius? [17]  Nelson [18]  is well & the Moon & the et cæteras.



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 23 AP 23/ 1814
Endorsement: 20 April 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] i.e. half-banknotes – a secure way of sending money in the post, by tearing banknotes in half and sending the two halves separately. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[3] i.e. Southey’s response to Bedford’s critique of a MS version of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[4] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, lines 36–37: ‘O’er their huge boughs and radiated leaves/ Cast broad and bright a transitory glare’. BACK

[5] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, line 40. BACK

[6] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, lines 53–54. BACK

[7] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, lines 54–56: ‘Who then/ Had stood beside Pelayo, might have heard/ The beating of his heart’. BACK

[8] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, line 143. BACK

[9] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, lines 150–151. BACK

[10] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, lines 170–171: extended in the published version to 2 lines. BACK

[11] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 15, lines 1–11. BACK

[12] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 15, line 14. BACK

[13] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 15, lines 57–60. BACK

[14] ‘Of the dog’. BACK

[15] Names of the hounds of Actaeon in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Southey eventually chose Theron. BACK

[16] The parallels were with the faithful dog Argus in Homer’s Odyssey, Book 17, lines 290–327. The elderly Argus recognises Odysseus on his return and then dies. In Southey’s poem (Book 15, lines 241–279) Theron sees through Roderick’s disguise. BACK

[17] ‘How goes Belisarius?’ Possibly a reference to a household pet of Bedford’s. BACK

[18] ‘Nelson’, a cat belonging to the Southey family. BACK

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August 2013