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

2406. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 April 1814 ⁠* 

Thursday April 21. 1814

My dear Grosvenor

You will see on the other leaf the fruit of your criticism, & my mornings labour. [1]  If you have any comments to make upon these lines let it be speedily, for they will be in irrevocable printers ink in the course of next week. Tell me too (& this also requires a speedy resolution) whether or no I am exempted from the hair powder tax as one of the household, – for my assessed taxes paper is in the house, & there I see I am to state on what grounds I am exempted – if an exemption there be for me. [2] 

Your remark upon the ill-position of Strength to the weak & to the wounded balm, [3]  is perfectly just. I had felt it myself, & yet neither liked to strike out the line, nor change its position, – this latter however is now done, & if it does not please me when {in} the proof out it shall go.

In the interview with Rusilla you seem to have overlooked what is expressly stated, that the presence of Florinda prevents Roderick from making himself known, & what follows also, (tho it is not expressed,) that the same cause would prevent Rusilla from openly recognizing him, xxxx if she should discover him. With this in your mind, you will not feel that the dog interrupts any expected discovery. The specific purpose of the scene is to prepare for what is to follow respecting Julian. I totally dissent from your objection to Rodericks exclamation which concludes the book; – no reproach was intended in it, – it is a speech of pure self-reflecting anguish, – not referring not to those who did not know him, but to himself who was so changed as not to be known. Remember also that instinct is unerring. [4]  – In Ulysses any exclamation would have been out of character – he sheds tears. Rodericks feelings must necessarily be much stronger. One might object to Homer that a dog which was not full grown when his Master went away, would not recognize him after twenty years. I certainly believe he would not. That the death of Argus is overstrained. Dogs will die of grief beyond all doubt, & cats also have been known to pine after their owne owners; but to die of joy implies a degree {kind} of feeling above the faculty of brutes. One might object also to the description of the dog as descending to loathsome objects, & especially one might object that Penelope Telemachus Eumæus & every body else who loved Ulysses should been so unmindful of the old proverb Love me love my dog, – which Rusilla & Siverian, as you will see, have religiously observed. [5]  I have removed at your suggestion a great fault from the passage, & thereby materially improved it. It is very likely that both the versification & the phraseology may be amended, – but the matter & the feeling satisfy me. & both are in place.

About pursual [6]  I can swear nothing farther than that it is a word justifiable by analogy. but I rather think it is, like almost all my unusual words, good old standard English. I am perpetually searching in the Tudor muses for ore of this kind.

_____

This house with the land belonging to it is to be sold, & my Landlord [7]  makes me the first offer: whereat I smile in consideration of the capital at my disposal for such a purpose; – & do not sigh either upon that or any other consideration, tho I believe an advantageous purchase might be made of an improving property. My first term will expire at Whitsuntide 1817. I begin to think of moving at that time if I can command the means, & taking all my & going abroad with my family for two or three years, as the cheapest way of educating them. – But this is looking far forward, & God knows I have present occupations numerous enough & pressing x pressing enough to occupy my thoughts. – Canning is coming into power. As for doing any thing for me I believe it would be very difficult, for I really do not myself know what could be done, – & I dare say it would be thought that the pension & the laurel amply provide for me. But he might very truly serve & very deeply oblige me by doing something for Tom. Perhaps Wynn can let him know this. Where is his Honour?

God bless you

RS.

The Bust??? [8] 

I have a card of invitation to dine at the Royal Academy [9]  on Saturday the 30th – it is rather too far to go. I suppose this is one of my PL [10]  privileges. tant mieux [11] 

A feeling uncommix’d with sense of guilt
Or shame, yet painfullest, thrill’d thro the King;
But he to self-controul accustomed long (or – now long inured
Represt his rising heart, nor other tears
Full as his struggling bosom was, let fall
Than seemed to follow on Florindas words.
Looking toward her then, yet so that still
He shunnd the meeting of her eye, he said,
Virtuous & pious as thou art, & ripe
For Heaven O Lady, I must think the man
Hath not by his good Angel been cast off
For whom thy supplications rise. The Power
Whose justice doth in its unerring course
Visit the children for the fathers sin sires offence,
Shall He not in his boundless mercy hear
The daughters prayer, & for her sake restore
The sinful parent? My soul shall with thine
In earnest & continual duty join, –
How deeply, – how devoutly, He will know
To whom the cry is rais’d!
Thus having said,
Deliberately in self-possession still
Himself from that most painful interview
Dispeeding he withdrew. The watchful dog
Followed his masters footsteps: He retired
Into the thickest covert from all eyes {grove} there giving way
Apart he cast himself upon the
To his oerburthened nature, from all eyes
Apart, he cast himself upon the ground
And threw his arms around the dog & cried
While tears streamed down, thou Theron thou hast known
Thy poor lost master – Theron none but thou!

Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 25 AP 25/ 1814
Endorsement: April 21. 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] i.e. corrections to Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 15, line 250–279, made in response to Bedford’s criticism of the MS version. The new lines are at the end of the letter. BACK

[2] The Duty on Hair Powder Act (1795) stated that anyone wishing to use hair powder must register with the Stamp Office and buy an annual certificate at a cost of one guinea. However, members of the Royal Family and their servants were exempt. Southey is asking Bedford whether his post as Poet Laureate allowed him exemption from this tax, as a member of the Royal Household. BACK

[3] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, line 4. BACK

[4] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 15, lines 241–279. BACK

[5] 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

[6] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 14, line 115. BACK

[7] Possibly Joseph Jackson (d. 1815), Rector of Lowick, and brother of William Jackson (1748–1809), the builder of Greta Hall. BACK

[8] Southey had sat for a bust in October 1813. The sculptor was James Smith (1775–1815). BACK

[9] The Royal Academy of Arts, London, founded in 1768. BACK

[10] i.e. Poet Laureate. BACK

[11] I have a card … mieux: written at top of fol 1 r; ‘so much the better’. BACK

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August 2013