2462. Robert Southey to Andrew Bell, 27 July 1814

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

2462. Robert Southey to Andrew Bell, 27 July 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. 27 July. 1814

My dear Sir

Your book, [1]  together with that for Miss Wordsworth arrived some days after your letter, in the only parcel which I have for a long time received from Murray. Indeed I have had very little communication with him of any kind for the last six months. Thank you for the volume, it stands fronting me among the magnificos of my library.

I give you joy of the success of your labours, late tho it be & long delayed, – & of the extension of the New System, which having once taken root must send forth xxx forth its branches & suckers on every side. Yet I confess that I shall never be satisfied till I see it adopted into our political system, & established by the legislature wherever its authority extends. This I think might have been expected from Mr Perceval, & on this account as well as on many others I never call to mind his death without regretting it as a great national calamity.

Your Grasmere, or rather Rydale friends as they ought now to be called, are gone pleasuring into Scotland, leaving Miss Wordsworth to keep house with the two younger children. [2]  They wished me to have accompanied them, but I am for the present fixed to my employments, & as there is a possibility of my travelling into the Bishoprick during the autumn, I could not afford time for both excursions. Your Bishop [3]  has very kindly repeated his wish of seeing me at Auckland, thro my brother Thomas, who is his neighbour. The Wordsworths [4]  mean to return by the middle of September. Your letter I fear holds out but faint hopes of our seeing you in these parts: – you will find too much to do in Ireland, & too many persons to see, to have leisure for thinking of our Lakes. Yet if your presence be required at Durham this will be little, if at all, out of your way. The young ones often ask when you are coming; – whenever, that may be, your namesake & god-daughter is big enough & playful enough to contend for a place upon your knee, & enforce her claims by as shrill a pipe of joy as ever made a room echo.

Of late I have been almost exclusively employed in poetry. my great poem, [5]  which was begun five years ago, & had been meditated for five years before that, is at length compleated, & a few weeks will send it into the world. I had dedicated it in verse to the Prince, – but these Sovereigns came over, & feeling that something might be expected from me on such an occasion, I did my devoir to the Prince at the same time, [6]  – & so spoilt the dedication, – the purport of which was that I did not approach him

“with flattering strain
On temporal theme, soon framed, nor lasting long;”

but came instead with this “elaborate lay

The thoughtful work of many a studious year” [7] 

A complimentary ode [8]  destroyed this, – & having paid my due compliment there, the poem will go forth with a short inscription to an old friend & schoolfellow. [9] 

You will smile to hear that the mischievous turn of affairs in the Princes family should have produced any effects on me. Relying upon the marriage of the Princess Charlotte with the Prince of Orange, I determined like a good boy at school to be in time with my task, & having formed a plan of some originality much to my own liking, which would have been divided into three parts entitled The Proem, The Dream, & L’Envoy, had got xxxx more than half <nearly> thro the second when the match was broken off & my poor poem adjourned sine die. [10]  I had been doing honour to some of the worthies of the land, & intended to say a word there in appropriate place & company of the New System & its Founder. [11] 

Edith & Mrs Lovell desire their kindest remembrances. Mrs Coleridge & Sara are visiting at Netherhall, – for the sake of sea bathing.

believe me my dear sir

most truly & respectfully yours

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Dr. Bell / &c &c &c.
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
MS: Mitchell Library, Glasgow. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A new edition of Bell’s Elements of Tuition, published by Murray in 1813–1814. BACK

[2] Dora (1804–1847) and William Wordsworth (1810–1883). BACK

[3] Shute Barrington (1734–1826; DNB), Bishop of Durham since 1791. He had promoted both the inter-denominational Religious Tract Society (founded 1799) and the British and Foreign Bible Society (founded 1804). BACK

[5] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[6] Alexander I (1777–1825; Emperor of Russia 1801–1825); Frederick William III (1770–1840; King of Prussia 1797–1840). Southey’s official poems celebrating their visit were published in book form 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). BACK

[7] The lines are from the abandoned dedication to Roderick, the Last of the Goths. BACK

[8] See 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. [5]–12. BACK

[9] Roderick was dedicated to Grosvenor Charles Bedford ‘IN LASTING MEMORIAL OF A LONG AND UNINTERRUPTED FRIENDSHIP’. BACK

[10] i.e. ‘indefinitely’. The Prince Regent’s only child Charlotte had been engaged 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. The match had been agreed in December 1813, but the marriage contract was not signed until 10 June 1814. Later that month the engagement was broken off. Southey’s planned poem formed the basis of The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), in celebration of Charlotte’s marriage to Leopold of Saxe Coburg (1790–1865). BACK

[11] The published poem did not pay explicit tribute to Bell. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Grasmere (Dove Cottage) (mentioned 1 time)
Rydal Mount (mentioned 1 time)
Netherhall (mentioned 1 time)