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

2531. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 December 1814 ⁠* 

28 Dec. 1814.

My dear G.

I had that sort of semi-intention of inserting a new stanza between the 8th & 9th, [1]  – which naturally arose from the conviction that one was wanting here; – but my thoughts were of the Bp of Durham & the National Society, [2]  – not of the H of Brunswick. [3]  – As the 18 of Jany service for N Years Day at St James’s there is no reason why I should not take advantage of the Court state, so let the proofs be sent me, viâ Rickmaniâ . I xx will set about correcting the poem to night. The line to which you object in the 2d stanza is part of a vile sentence, which I must alter or omit. But what shall I say about Washington? [4]  – If you have read in the last Register the Chapter respecting South America you will know what I think of the American Revolution. [5]  You know also how I feel respecting the present American War. [6]  But this does not prevent me from thinking Washington one of the greatest & most admirable characters in history. – I wish the Ode had not been communicated to Croker. [7]  At your suggestion this passage might quietly have been expunged, – to expunge it at his, is a different thing; nor can I do I know just now whether I will submit to the humiliation. Besides the passage manner in which Washington is mentioned refers more especially to his latter & Anglican policy, – the very policy {for} which the Federalists {contend} in opposition to the Ruling Party. [8]  Luckily enough the whole stanza is very bad, & may perhaps be entirely replaced. – Your correction for pure faith is good, & ransackd caverns will be better than bowels. – But I hope to mend it in many places. [9] 

I am vexed about the MSS. [10]  & do Ballantyne has dealt un uncivilly by me in not taking proper care of it when he was requested so to do.

The sale of my Odes I take to be a miserable concern. By the Carmen I was gainer between forty & fifty shillings; [11]  – Of the three volunteered odes 250 only were printed, & if they are sold there can be little or no possible profit. [12]  But if the thing pays itself it is enough – the appearance is something; & tends in some degree to raise the character of the office, – or at least to show my own sense of it. The only thing which can be done to prevent its being an honour is to insist upon this sort of task work; – the only thing I can do to make it so, is to write as if I felt some interest in the occupation.

I am hard at work upon Brazil. [13]  My profits upon the first volume [14]  have been about sixty pounds, – I had as much for reviewing Nelson. [15]  Yet I took little pleasure in the latter task, & the greatest in the former. And now I almost consider the time as misspent which is devoted to any other employment.

It is well that the 4th stanza may stand; – it is the only one with which I am thoroughly satisfied. – But I shall know better what to think of the whole when the proof reaches me

God bless you


I wish the proofs of Forbes had been sent me. [16] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer.
Endorsement: 28 Decr. 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25, fol
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Bedford had been sent a draft of Southey’s Laureate ode for the New Year; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1814, Letter 2523. In reply, Bedford had expressed his concerns. Southey responds to these in this letter. The poem became ‘Ode, Written in December 1814’. It was thought unsuitable by the authorities, and was not published until Southey’s Minor Poems, 3 vols (London, 1815), II, pp. 227–238. It was retitled ‘Ode, Written During the War with America, 1814’ in the 1837–1838 edition of Southey’s poetical works. BACK

[2] Shute Barrington (1734–1826; DNB), Bishop of Durham, 1791–1826. He was an active proponent of the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Christian Church. Founded in November 1811, the Society championed the Madras system of Andrew Bell. BACK

[3] The United Kingdom’s monarchs since 1714. BACK

[4] George Washington (1732–1799), first President of the United States of America, 1789–1797. Stanza 2, lines 8–10 of the version of the ‘Ode’, sent to Bedford on 21 December 1814, were deeply respectful of Washington and his legacy. BACK

[5] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 367–421 (chapters 26–27). The general tone was very critical of the movements for independence in Spanish America. BACK

[6] The United Kingdom and United States were at war 1812–1814. Unbeknowst to Southey, peace terms had been agreed in the Treaty of Ghent, signed on 24 December 1814. BACK

[7] Bedford had probably forwarded the poem to Croker. BACK

[8] The opposition Federalist party had been against the war with the United Kingdom in 1812–1814. In office, Washington had promoted friendly relations with the United Kingdom, especially through the Jay Treaty (1794), which settled many outstanding issues between the two countries. BACK

[9] See the version of the ‘Ode’ sent to Bedford on 21 December 1814, Stanza 6, line 16 and line 8. BACK

[10] The MS of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[11] Southey’s first Laureate production Carmen Triumphale (1814). BACK

[12] 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

[13] The History of Brazil. The second volume appeared in 1817, the third and final one in 1819. BACK

[14] Published in 1810. BACK

[15] Southey had reviewed a series of biographies of Nelson in Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. His article was later expanded into a Life of Nelson (1813), which proved to be one of the most popular of his works. BACK

[16] Proofs of Southey’s review of James Forbes (1749–1819; DNB), Oriental Memoirs (1815), Quarterly Review, 12 (October 1814), 180–227. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013