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

2463. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 30 July 1814 ⁠* 

In B. 20. you have either mistaken or miswritten Orpas for Eudon. It is Eudon who does not recognize Julian in his turban, having probably never seen him in it before. The drift of the book & of the 22d you must now perfectly understand, & will see that they are indispensable in producing & preparing for the catastrophe. [1] 

Line 179 B. 21. cannot be spared, & ‘offspring of hot Africa’ is a fit expression for Julian, well acquainted as he was with the climate & the people. [2] 

266. Roderick is hurried on, & ought to be so. [3]  As for purely selfish feelings, his feelings are surely pure from all selfishness. And his great purpose was accomplished in the acclamation of Pelayo, after which he would have had no object in life, if circumstances which he had neither sought nor foreseen had not thus led him brought him into contact with Julian. You will see that this was prepared for in the 15th book.

285. I like the effect of epithets thus placed

320 – For an answer to your objection to the word dearest [4]  I refer you to the Mag: Rots defence of famous in the Ode to the Czar. [5] 

326. This Miracle [6]  is the reconversion for which she prays, & which he tells her will be her work

Nothing can be more accurate than the epithet rolling as applied to the moon whose motion is so visible & rapid as to produce precisely this appearance. [7] 

I do no think that the last speech of Florinda [8]  distracts the attention, but it certainly does not conclude the book well. The necessary progress of the whole scene is from passion to a tranquillity arising beginning in exhaustment & then taking the character of thoughtfulness. – I have added about thirty lines to wind the book up in this tone, & the improvement is very great.

Your notions of metre will always often be confounded in my blank verse unless you remember that I am entitled to the same allow that Shakespere & Milton are the authorities by which that measure should be used, & that their example justifies the principle of making occasionally two short syllables stand in the place of one long one

Pray send the concluding books as soon as possible.


Barbarous as it may appear to decline Grosvenor, õras, it would be absurd to translate it & convert you in imitation of Nimrod into a mighty hunter. [9] 

It would be ill judged to put the insertion in the Bag & Sword copy of the odes, [10]  because it would be xx xxx telling the Prince that the poems were written in a hurry & printed without correction. [11]  The whole business you know is a mere matter of form, & has nothing of which the worst part is that I must pay for binding a few leaves which will never be opened

I have made out a sort of Dramatis or Poematis Personæ as far as historical characters personages are mentioned in the poem, & having done this am really at a loss for any thing to say in the way of preface. The book therefore will very probably go without one. [12]  For if I were to say that the poem is called a tragic poem because it in the greater part of it the interest & manner are rather dramatic than narrative {epic}, – because it busies itself more with the passions than with actions, with the inward heart of man than with his outward works, this is what the judicious reader will find out for himself, – & for the injudicious one it would be only setting his cat-call.

My table is covered with Yankee books, from which I am about to begin collecting notes for Oliver Goffe, [13]  – a stage stage of the process which may be compared to mixing the colours in or preparing the palate in the painters business. I am lamentably undecided about the metre, whether Thalaban [14]  or rhymed. It must not be blank verse

God bless you


Mr & Mrs Raymond [15]  dined with us on Sunday last. Miss Barker has Miss Linwood [16] . with her at this time, Magna Leœna. [17]  – The Moon has been shorn of his beams by John Fisher, [18]  in a manner which {it is thought} will diminish the splendour of his appearance at the Mr Yewdale’s [19]  Ball on Friday next, when he is to exhibit among other performances in what he calls his hornpipe. As I have no less than three children in this exhibition I think I will must send you ‘a bill of the play’.

30 July 1814. Keswick.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: 30 July 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s response to Bedford’s critique of Book 21 of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), which Bedford had read in MS. BACK

[2] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 21, line 179. BACK

[3] Roderick’s speech to Count Julian, at Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 21, lines 229–280. BACK

[4] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 21, line 322. BACK

[5] ‘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

[6] Roderick, the last of the Goths (1814), Book 21, line 330. BACK

[7] Roderick, the last of the Goths (1814), Book 21, line 429. BACK

[8] Roderick, the last of the Goths (1814), Book 21, lines 423–434. BACK

[9] In a letter to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 17 July 1814, Letter 2461, Southey had proposed to dedicate Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) to Bedford, in a few lines in Latin. He had turned ‘Grosvenor’ into Latin as ‘Grosvenori’; whereas the name ‘Grosvenor’ literally means ‘great hunter’, like the Biblical figure, Nimrod, ‘a mighty hunter before the Lord’. Genesis 10: 9. BACK

[10] i.e. the copy to be presented to the Prince Regent. BACK

[11] A new section for ‘Ode to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland’, 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. 8; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 June [1814], Letter 2441. BACK

[12] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) had a short preface followed by a list of principal characters. BACK

[13] The early name for ‘Oliver Newman’, left incomplete at Southey’s death. In the poem, Newman was the godson of Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; DNB) and the son of William Goffe (d. 1679?; DNB), Puritan, regicide and major general, who fled to New England in 1660 after he was excluded from the Act of Indemnity after the Restoration. BACK

[14] i.e. in the style of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[15] Unidentified. BACK

[16] Possibly the composer and author Mary Linwood (c. 1783–1850s?), rather than her aunt, Mary Linwood (1755–1845; DNB), whose copies in needlework of one hundred pictures of old and modern masters were exhibited in London from 1798–1841. The younger Mary Linwood published Leicestershire Tales (1808) and a long poem, The Anglo-Cambrian (1818) BACK

[17] A ‘great lioness’. BACK

[18] John Fisher (dates unknown), the Keswick hair dresser, who also rented a room to visitors to the Lakes. He was described in Letters from England, 3 vols (London, 1807), II, pp. 207–208. BACK

[19] Unidentified. BACK

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August 2013