2425. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 May 1814 

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

2425. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 May 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 21. 1814.

My dear Grosvenor

Since last you heard from me I have been suffering both grief & anxiety. I have lost one of my oldest, nearest & dearest friends, whose death has thrown a gloom over the recollections of half my life, [1]  – & here is household illness enough to disquiet me very seriously on that score. Kate has been out of health & spirits, with a little lurking fever for these three months past, & Sara Coleridge is in a most alarming state. She is dropsical, & so is the kidney is so relaxed that her urine is deeply discoloured with blood. Edmondson expects to set her up, & has certainly reduced the swelling, – but I very much fear that she has death in her system as well as in her face. But I began to write to you partly for the sake of escaping from these thoughts.

Send me the books of Roderick [2]  as soon as you can. I expect to finish the 19th this night, & think that it will not extend to more than 22. Quoad  [3]  the dedication, [4]  you are perfectly right about the conclusion, which I can xxxx alter, so as to give it a different turn, – & I think you are as entirely wrong about the rest; the structure of the verse is that of the Miltonic Sonnet. [5]  It is not however worth defending, – perhaps I may could write another as easily as I could alter this, & perhaps I may throw it behind the fire, & let the book go into the world without any such introduction. It is very possible that such a thing may in some degree be expected, – but I have no stomach for gracious permissions & most devoteds most obedients &c, & these can only be escaped by writing in verse. – Whenever my history appears it is my full intention to dedicate it to Percevals memory. [6] 

Vincents approbation of my prose writings [7]  was probably confined to the Quarterly Review, to which I owe any fashion that may be forced upon me. He is far too advanced in years to travel so far as this from home; – were he to come I should call upon him, & could find wherewith to interest him for an evening in this library; but he is too old for the journey, & unless wer we were brought together by some such accident, we shall never meet.

I shall have to pay Smith for five busts, [8]  & the sooner they are sent the better pleased should I be, – they are for my uncle, the Docstor, my brother Tom (at Samuel Castle’s Esqr  [9]  – Durham) – John May at Richmond & one one for myself.

If I thought the European Magazine would sell a dozen of my books by hanging out the sign of the P. L. they Mr Asperne should certainly be welcome to it; [10]  – but I do not think this could be the case, nor that I should acquire any xx notoriety by it which would turn to account. That I am getting into fashion I shall believe when Longman tells me so, – he has told me that my books have {there is} an increasing demand {for my books;} – but it is still a slow one, – the surer on that account: slow & sure however is no very comfortable motto for an author who must live by the grey goose quill, & I have long been convinced that I am one of those poets who must die before they are in {it is the} fashion to buy their works. Roderick will not alter this: it will very probably be less talked of than Kehama: [11] 0). & notwithstanding what you say of my blank verse, I have in the progress of this poem felt the difficulties of the measure to be so great, & its disadvantages also, in always exposing the weak parts, – that I have almost resolved if I write another long poem without rhymes, to revert to the metre of Thalaba. [12] 

I wish Roderick were finished – I wish my the Epithalamium [13]  were finished – I wish the Inscriptions [14]  were finished, – I wish the Prince would order me my Sack in kind, – or rather allow of such commutation alone as should be made in the wine merchants cellar, – & then I would give Claret & drink the Regents health in it with due gratitude. Learn for me in the reign of what P L the commutation was made & I will write an ode xx odiou odious & maledictory upon his memory. [15] 

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 24 MY 24/ 1814
Endorsement: 21 May 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856),II, pp. 353–354 [in part; misdated 28 May 1814]. BACK

[1] Danvers had died on 3 May 1814. BACK

[2] MS drafts of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[3] ‘As to’. BACK

[4] Southey’s proposed verse dedication of Roderick to the Prince Regent; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [30 April–1 May 1814], Letter 2412. BACK

[5] i.e. a sonnet modelled on those of John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), with a traditional rhyme scheme, but without a break between the first eight and the last six lines. BACK

[6] The History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, p. [iii] was not dedicated to Perceval, but to George IV. BACK

[7] Possibly expressed in conversation. BACK

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

[9] Tom Southey’s father-in-law, Samuel Castle (d. 1815), a solicitor in Durham. BACK

[10] James Asperne (1757–1820), bookseller and proprietor of the European Magazine. A ‘Memoir of Robert Southey, Esq.’ and a portrait ‘Engraved by Blood, from an Original Drawing by Edridge, in the Possession of G.C. Bedford, Esq.’, appeared in European Magazine, 66 (July 1814), [3]–5. BACK

[11] The Curse of Kehama (181 BACK

[12] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[13] The Prince Regent’s only child Charlotte Augusta (1796–1817; DNB), had been engaged since December 1813 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. As Poet Laureate, Southey was obliged to write on the occasion. He 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 revised and completed in 1816 to celebrate Charlotte’s marriage to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790–1865; DNB). BACK

[14] Southey’s ‘Inscriptions Triumphal and Sepulchral, recording the acts of the British army in the Peninsula’ had been recently advertised as ‘nearly ready for publication’ (e.g. in European Magazine, 65 (January 1814), 77). However, the promised volume did not appear and only 18 of the proposed 30 inscriptions were written. They were not collected together until 1837–1838 when they appeared in the last-lifetime edition of Southey’s Poetical Works. BACK

[15] Part of the salary of the Poet Laureate had traditionally been a butt of sack, which Henry James Pye (1745–1813; DNB), Poet Laureate 1790–1813, commuted into £27 p.a. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013