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

2443. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 17 June 1814 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Your remarks arriving on Thursday when we have no outward post to London will perhaps render my reply too late to be of any use. However I will reply for the chance. [1] 

dear legs may be a fair jest, but dear life [2]  is not a whit the worse for it. The epithet may remind you of tam cari capitis: [3]  & as for every thing else – stet meo periculo. [4]  – I had written And to her rightful line & – & afterwards preferred Then, [5]  as being a little longer in sound for it is amiss to have three syllables in succession at the beginning of a line upon neither of which the voice can dwell.

You may read if you please

Thine ancestor illustrious Peter [6]  came

or           Thy famous ancestor great Peter came, [7]  – which latter cannot be supposed to mean Elmsley for two reasons, – first because he is not an ancestor of Alexanders, & secondly because he would come much more than six score; – which unlucky numeral in I cannot alter & do not dislike. I feel no objection to the following lines, – which are moreover entirely necessary to connect the thought. You are very right about the naked word French, & will {would} probably restore without compunction the original reading ‘As little did the vain & frothy French, [8]  which I had castrated as being more true, than courteous {at this time}. {will you say ostentatious? or “gay & polish’d [9]  or let it stand naked as it is, to show that rather than use what is offensive or substitute what is weak.} Your objection to the stone is x groundless, – it strikes the colossus which bestrode the Continent. [10] 

What Grosvenor? impossible to keep a fire alive from Moscow to Paris?? [11]  – I meant it not as metaphorical, but long before this Ode entered my brain, often & often said that it was what Alexander ought in sober earnest to have done, – to have had the sacred fire burning in his tent the whole way, – & even if he consented to spare Paris, have seen it expire only upon the ashes of the Thulleries.

A fouler tyrant [12]  – is the more lyrical for its abruptness

I like my own lie down [13]  better than your alteration. Nothing more must be thought about the snow than that is there: you cannot spare a word upon it, when thousands are dying. – Moreover snow does not sparkle by moonlight, – it is then a dead white

You may change record & trophy if you like, & read there where si placet. [14]  I was so doubtful that very possibly the writing may be indistinct enough for either

As for epithets I should be glad to get rid of two, – the great, – because if great he would never have been the ally of Buonaparte, – & the just, [15]  – because if just he would certainly have hanged his old ally instead of making him Emperor of Elba. [16]  However he has shewn some greatness & some justice; – & if he should be pleased to order this ode to be translated into Russian I dare say he will not object to this part of it.

Flambeau is a vile word, but I could not substitute torch without sacrificing sacred which is the vital word of the passage. [17] 

I see by this days paper that there is time enough, [18]  – & that the proofs might have been sent me. It matters little. – I am deeply engaged on Roderick, [19]  – in the 21 section, – as the matter now divides itself, it will extend to 24. The end is in full view & this heat will probably bring me to the goal. Then for one of Platoffs hourras. [20] 

If you do not move your household to the sea, shall you move yourself to the mountains?

God bless you

RS.

Friday: 17 June. 1814.


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9 Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 20 JU 20/ 1814
Endorsement: 17 June 1814./ Recd. 20 June
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Bedford had sent a critique of Southey’s three odes paying tribute to the Prince Regent and celebrating the 1814 visit to London of Alexander I (1777–1825; Emperor of Russia 1801–1825) and Frederick William III (1770–1840; King of Prussia 1797–1840); published as Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (1814). Bedford had been overseeing the proofs, but as publication was imminent, Southey was aware that the corrections sent in his letter were probably too late to be implemented. BACK

[2] ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, I; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), p. 13. BACK

[3] Horace, Odes, 1.24, line 2: ‘For such dear head, a dear person’. BACK

[4] ‘It stays at my own risk’. BACK

[5] ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, I; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), p. 14. BACK

[6] Peter I, the Great (1672–1725), Tsar of Russia 1682–1725 and great-great-grandfather of Alexander I. BACK

[7] ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, II; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), p. 14. BACK

[8] This was not in the published text. BACK

[9] This was not in the published text. BACK

[10] ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, II; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), p. 15: ‘As little did they think,/ That from rude Muscovy, the stone should come,/ To smite their huge Colossus’. BACK

[11] ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, III; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), pp. 16–17. BACK

[12] ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, V; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), p. 19. BACK

[13] ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, V; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), p. 20; used to describe the French retreat from Moscow in late 1812. BACK

[14] ‘It is placed’. These changes were not made; see ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, VI; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), pp. 20–21. BACK

[15] The changes were not made. In ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, VII; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), p. 21, Alexander is described as :’the Great, the Good,/ The Glorious, the Beneficent, the Just’. BACK

[16] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) had been exiled to Elba under the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau (11 April 1814), he was given sovereignty over the island and permitted to retain the title Emperor. BACK

[17] ‘Ode to His Imperial Majesty, Alexander the First, Emperor of All the Russias’, III; Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), p. 16. BACK

[18] The visiting sovereigns left Dover for the Continent on 27 June 1814. BACK

[19] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), which finally extended to 25 books. BACK

[20] Matvei Ivanovitch Platov (1757–1818), Ataman (Commander) of the Don Cossacks. He became a Count of the Russian Empire as a reward for harrying the French forces on their retreat from Moscow in late 1812. BACK

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August 2013