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

2430. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 May 1814 ⁠* 

Line 7 Of – preferable to with, because With begins the following sentence, [1] 

43 After the mention of Atahalipa  [2]  that wide empire can only refer to Peru. the person indicated is Hernando de Soto  [3]  whose name is previously mentioned, & introduces the digression – a little lengthy I grant you, – but it is a favourite with me & with my two Ediths, [4]  who have been reading with me the history of this expedition in the Inca Garcilasos Spanish, [5]  – it is one of the most interesting books in the language. You will have observed too that in this section I have been somewhat lavish of ornament, as the subject required.

86. The rattling tufts, are the keys of the ash as they are called in Somersetshire, they rattle with a wind in which the leaves are silent [6] 

114 – Excellent woman – might remind you of Excellent wench – good authority for such an exclamation [7] 

117 You are right the expression is awkward – but I laboured long & vainly to make it better, & almost despair of success in another attempt [8] 

257 – 1 – the rhyme had escaped me – perhaps because they are not so strongly marked to the ear as to the eye [9] 

Lionet [10]  I found in some old book – the English Cleopatra [11]  I believe, – but it must be good English.

273–4 – An oversight in altering the passage. – read for it a foul thing grotesque – [12] 

294 – I cannot remove the repetition without injury [13] 

There must of necessity be a brief historical preface, – much in the manner of that to Madoc. [14]  The passage which Cumberland praised must have been the concluding sentence, which having been said once applies to this poem as well. [15]  – There is no use in multiplying announcements of the poem. – the booksellers are already in quite eager enough to have it in time for their summers half year, – which is impossible. And as for the public a certain number of persons will order it whenever it appears, – & out of that numbering advertisements are not likely to induce purchasers. You may gift give me a lift if you can thro Mr Braithwaite [16]  get a br short notice into the European Magazine. [17]  These minor publications have this effect, from a certain reputation which they possess for impartiality in the circle wherein they circulate

Toms bust must be directed to him at Samuel Castles Esqre Durham. [18]  – which is far enough from Keswick. But if Smith holds his intention of sending one to Miss Barker, that may come in the same box with mine. [19]  Pay for them if you please out of the next quarter. It is well that I have such a bank to draw on. I sometimes think that my life would almost furnish as compleat an example of the Bank of Faith, as Huntingdons – he of the breeches. [20] 

Ballantyne has a portion of the notes in his hands to print a-la-Scott with a different paging, that when the text is done the publication may not be delayed. [21]  I am in the 20th book, & look forward to a rapid completion. That the poem will not disappoint expectation I am by no means so well satisfied as you appear to be; – but I dare say no person will see so many faults in it as I shall do.

Sara Coleridge is better, – but these have been perilous symptoms, – the more so as Hartley has now given decided proof that there is scrofula in the blood. Kate mends, but is not as she in health. I have my usual summer companion, but not as yet with its usual violence. I suppose it will ripen & flourish when the warm weather comes – I could be unhappy enough if I pleased. Coleridges conduct is bringing on a train of distresses upon his family which it has been easy to foresee, & impossible to prevent. They have only at this time an income of £67–10/ the whole of which as you may well suppose xxxx goes is x required for the schooling, & clothing of the two boys. [22]  If they are to be put forward in life – it x must literally be by the charity of their fathers friends, & the mother & daughter fall upon me for support. Of course this is for yourself alone. If I were in opulence this would be well, & even as it is, I have so much confidence in the Bank of Faith that I have no more unpleasant feeling upon the subject than a proper indignation – which however does not wholly overcome my pity for the most compleat {deplorable} case of moral insanity & guilt that perhaps was ever yet exhibited. Were I really in fashion for a few years, I should certainly be in affluence; – but this neither is, nor is likely to be, the case.

The green book is arrived, [23]  & Murray has sent me Odes & Songs of Triumph enough to put me in good upon good terms with my own Carmen – [24] 

I am so near the end of Roderick that it is high time my mind were made fairly up upon the subject of the next poem. Peradventure I shall {may} write you at length upon my dreams & doubts. Another month, if there be no unforeseen check or interruption will bring this work to its close. I am transcribing the 19 book for you: – it is very short; – the interview between Roderick & his mother. The 20th moves into the Moorish camp & brings Count Julian into sight. Perhaps you will have stared in the xxxxxx acclamative book at the word auriphrygiate [25]  – I have a note about it, – it is “choice {apt} sweet & well cull’d I assure you;” [26]  – the 21st brings Florinda & Guisla to the Moors, the former returning to her father, upon a promise that he will in nothing force her inclinations, – the latter deserting to them with intelligence that Pelayo, has removed the wo his the women & children to the Cave; – Orpas xxxx xxx Julian is murdered in the night by Orpas’s instigation, – but a scene later takes place before he dies between him his daughter & Roderick – who has accompanied her to the camp as a Priest. The miraculous battle of Covadonga [27]  then concludes the story.

God bless you


May 29. 1814


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 1 JU 1/ 1814
Endorsement: 29 May 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The first part of the letter deals with Southey’s response to Bedford’s critique of a MS version of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16. Line 7 of Book 16 reads: ‘Of hope and virtue and affection full’. BACK

[2] Atahualpa (1497–1533; Incan Emperor 1532–1533). BACK

[3] The Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto (c. 1496/7–1542). He was involved in the conquest of Incan Peru and later led the first European expedition into the heartland of the United States in 1539–1542. Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16, lines 44–55, deals with this expedition. BACK

[4] Edith and Edith May Southey. BACK

[5] Garcilaso de la Vega (1539–1616). His La Florida del Inca (1605) was based on interviews with the survivors of De Soto’s expedition. BACK

[6] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16, line 86. BACK

[7] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16, line 114. The ‘authority’ is Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act 2, scene 5, line 109: Sir Toby Belch’s exclamation, ‘Excellent wench, say I’. BACK

[8] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16, line 177: ‘Given me to be my children’s mother, brave’. BACK

[9] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16, line 257. BACK

[10] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16, line 203. BACK

[11] Robert Loveday (1620/21–1656; DNB), Hymen’s præludia, or, Love’s master-piece (1652, 1654 and 1655). BACK

[12] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16, line 273 has ‘throng’, Southey points out this was an error, it should have read ‘thing’. BACK

[13] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 16, line 294. As published, this reads: ‘With pure and perfect joy of filial love’. BACK

[14] i.e. the brief preface to Madoc (1805). Southey followed this example and prefaced Roderick with a brief account of its historicity. BACK

[15] The playwright and noelist Richard Cumberland (1732–1811; DNB). The concluding sentence of the Preface to Madoc (1805) stated: ‘It assumes not the degraded title of Epic; and the question, therefore, is not whether the story is formed upon the rules of Aristotle, but whether it be adapted to the purposes of poetry’. BACK

[16] Daniel Braithwaite (d. 1817) was one of the co-owners of the European Magazine 1782–1806. BACK

[17] The European Magazine, 65 (May 1814), 459, noted: ‘The Ballantynes of Edinburgh, have nearly completed Roderick, the Last of the Goths, a Poem, by R. Southey, Esq.’. BACK

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

[19] Southey had sat for a bust in October 1813. The sculptor was James Smith (1775–1815). Several copies were made for Southey’s family and friends. BACK

[20] The preacher and religious writer William Huntington (1745–1813; DNB), whose God the Guardian of the Poor and the Bank of Faith (1785–1802), describes how Providence assisted his early preaching career by supplying him with food, clothing and all else he needed, including (pp. 70–72) a pair of leather breeches. Southey later condemned Huntington’s account as unparalleled ‘in the whole bibliotheca of knavery and fanaticism’ (Quarterly Review, 24 (January 1821), 482). BACK

[21] i.e. Ballantyne would print the notes to Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) in the style of those to Walter Scott’s annotated poems. BACK

[23] The note book which Bedford had ordered for Southey; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 March 1814, Letter 2394. This is now manuscript HM 2733 in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. BACK

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

[25] ‘adorned with richly detailed embroidery’: Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 18, line 109. BACK

[26] Love’s Labours Lost, Act V, scene 1, lines 93–94. BACK

[27] The Christian victory over the Moors at the battle of Covadonga, 722, seen as marking the beginning of the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula. BACK

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August 2013