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

2557. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 February 1815 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

There is nothing to object to in your panegyric except the manner in which you apologize for all your every thing which is not downright eulogium. The quantity of extract is not more than would be allowed, but it must be better if one there were one specimen given at greater length, that the general character of the verse might be felt, which it cannot be in the short fragments. I do not think Gifford will reject it, nor do I see why he should, so imagine {believe} that he will has any person among all his merry men who would write a better. [1]  The preliminary matter may be shortened, – & above all it will be deemed indispensable that every thing xxx which implies that the Critic does not know better than the Poet should be struck out. I should like you to put in one throw in some mention of the Congratulatory Odes, which are in my judgement among the best of my minor poems, – & you know the state of their sale. [2]  Just xx allude to them, & marry them to some such epithet as you may think they deserve. Perhaps you may find a place in Book 18 where you {say} after the coronation that the Poet appears himself in his own person: this part of the poem [3]  is instead of the xxx hackneyed mode of prophecy, vision &c – it was necessary to give the reader a view of the termination of the struggle with the Moors, & it is effected here by passing from the narrative to a lyric strain. You may censure me, & perhaps with justice, for not having inserted any other direct allusion to the late war, than the curious mention of Zaragoza [4]  in this place: & this might serve to bring in the Odes. [5] 

I have received to night as much of the mss of Roderick as the rascally coach-office people think worth five shillings. You shall have it in the frank potential. What have you done with my copy?

I do not know who has continued the E A Register, [6]  nor have I seen the volume.

My battery upon Gog may best be opened in the newspapers for many reasons. First because no review would allow me that latitude of language which I mean to take. secondly because the form of letters to the Gog himself will be the best, & thirdly because they {it} will be read more surely, more immediately, & far more extensively than in any other form. They will also be administered dose after dose to the greater comfort of the said Gog: – cut & come again. And when the whole operation series is compleated then they may be collected into a pamphlett, – & finally embodied among the Works of RS. [7] 

There may be this reason for having your article in the next number – that perhaps Scotts poem will not be reviewed there: [8]  – they will not be noticed in the same number certes, for it will not do to have two Kings of Brentford upon the stage on at once. [9]  I therefore send back this portion without waiting for the conclusion.


I am a little uneasy about my youngest child – a discharge from the inside of the ear having been clumsily treated by Edmondson who cannot be expected to xxxx be expert in any branch of surgery except those of the commonest occurrence has, as I have {just} discovered degenerated into a fistulous sore, – what the nature of it may be, or with what degree of ease or difficulty it may be cured I am entirely ignorant: – there is clearly a hole behind the ear, communicating to the with the cavity of the ear, but I apprehend it will be necessary to take her to London. It is four months since the discharge began, first it was like water, it has since been a icherous or fetid, – always xx very small. The ear swelled & gathered, & in that state I believe was lanced too soon & improperly treated, – having been first blistered, & afterward lanced too soon; – for a long time it has been left alone, merely keeping it clean & now a xxxxx fistulous opening is formed. I wrote to the Docstor about it some time ago, – & when you see him you may tell him what I sa has since occurred. If it be necessary to take her to town, I must regulate my plan accordingly, & see you (not very willingly) much sooner than I intended or shall find convenient. I am uneasy about this, – for I do not know the extent of the evil. The child suffers neither pain nor inconvenience, but I suspect that such things are very difficult of cure, & cannot tell from the nature of the plan how it is to be operated upon. That it should heal of itself I have now ceased to think possible.

God bless you


21 Feby. 1815


* Endorsement: 21 Febry. 1815
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 114–115. BACK

[1] Grosvenor Bedford had been commissioned, at Southey’s suggestion, to review Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) for the Quarterly. His article eventually appeared in Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 83–113. However, it contained, as this letter demonstrates, many emendations and suggestions by Southey himself. BACK

[2] 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). Southey had hoped they would go into a second edition, but poor sales prevented this. BACK

[3] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 18, lines 274–352. BACK

[4] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 18, lines 313–315. BACK

[5] As published, this section of Bedford’s article read: ‘we cannot but express our surprise, and in some measure our disappointment, that Mr. Southey has made no allusion to the late war in the peninsula, except a very slight and cursory mention of Zaragoza’, Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 103. However, the Congratulatory Odes were not given a much-needed puff. BACK

[6] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for which Southey had ceased work at the end of 1813. A new edition, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1812 (1814), had appeared. The historical section was taken over by the Scottish lawyer and writer, James Russell (1790–1861; DNB). BACK

[7] Southey did not carry out this intention. BACK

[8] George Ellis’s review of Scott’s The Lord of the Isles (1815) appeared in the next but one issue, Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 287–309. BACK

[9] i.e. Scott and Southey himself. The analogy is with two mythical characters (‘Kings’ of the Essex town of Brentford – a place renowned for its dirtiness), whose existence seems to derive from George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687; DNB), The Rehearsal (1672), a satire on heroic tragedy. A ‘mock’ play within Villiers’ drama includes a scene in which two king of Brentford enter hand in hand. In the next century, the phrase entered into wider cultural use, see for example, William Cowper (1731–1800; DNB), The Task, A Poem, in Six Books (London, 1785), p. 5. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013