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

2567. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 6 March 1815 ⁠* 

My dear G.

Pelayo [1]  died, & Favila [2]  his son reigned in his stead. [3]  Favila was killed by a Bear who with whom he chose, when hunting to engage in single combat. Then Alphonso [4]  who had married his sister Hermesind [5]  succeeded. Favilas death was represented in sculpture at the door of the church of S Pedro de Villanueva. This was {is} said to have been placed there in memory of his fate by Alphonso; & Sandoval had seen it, but it is no longer in existence. [6]  There is also a Romance (i.e. a ballad) upon the story, [7]  an admirable specimen of these sort of compositions being like the water skin upon the camels back in Thalaba – empty & flat. [8] 

Will the Cacati  [9]  press the Corn Bill? [10]  – Far – far better would it have become them {to} have prest the Property Tax for another year. [11]  Were I at the Princes ear I would whisper him to say that the Bill should not pass. I would have told him also not to have waited for the motion respecting that villainous transaction at Gibraltar; but instantly to have recalled & stigmatized men who had sacrificed the honour of their country. [12] 

Nobbs & his skin is an old story & therefore common property. As for my book, none but the Devil himself could possible foretell it. [13] 

I sent a portion of the Hist: Brazil: [14]  to you thro Murray. [15]  If it take you a ride to Streatham so much the better. I am getting on with this opus, – & the humour is just now so strong upon me that I must beg leave

Mr Bedford to subscribe myself

Your most obedient humble servant

Robert Southey.

6 March 1815


Notes

* Address: To / G. C. Bedford Esqre / Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 9 MR 9/ 1815
Endorsement: 6 March 1815
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Pelayo (c. 685–737), Visigothic nobleman who became the first King of Asturias 718–737 and a central figure in Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[2] Favila (d. 739; King of Asturias 737–739). BACK

[3] This paragraph provided Bedford with contextual information for his forthcoming review of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814); published in Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 83–113. BACK

[4] Alfonso I (d. 757; King of Asturias 739–757). BACK

[5] Ermesinda de Asturias (dates unknown). BACK

[6] The depiction of Favila’s death on the doorway of the 12th-century monastery at San Pedro de Villanueva can still be seen. The story was told in Prudencio de Sandoval (1553–1620), Historia de los Reyes de Castilla y de Leon (1615), no. 3781 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Southey copied out this ballad (‘Muerto era esse buen Rey’), noting it was ‘one of the flattest of the old bald ballads’; see J. W. Warter (ed.) Southey’s Common-Place Book, 4 vols (London, 1849–1851), II, pp. 263–264. BACK

[8] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 4, line 413. BACK

[9] Literally ‘the shits’; Members of the House of Commons. BACK

[10] The Government had introduced its proposal for a sliding scale of duties on imported corn on 1 March 1815. The Bill passed on 23 March 1815, despite much urban opposition. BACK

[11] The Government had made an announcement in the House of Commons on 9 February 1815 that income tax would be abolished. In fact, the renewed war with France in 1815 meant the war-time income tax was not finally ended until 1816. BACK

[12] There had been a debate in the House of Commons on 1 March 1815 concerning the actions of Major-General John Smith (1754–1837; DNB), temporary Commander in Gibraltar, and Sir James Duff, 1st Baronet (1734–1815), Consul at Cadiz, in returning to Spain some political refugees who had fled the authoritarian royal government in Spain. BACK

[13] Southey’s The Doctor (1834–1847). The story of ‘Doctor Dobbs and his Nag Nobbs’ had appeared in the Theatrical Inquisitor and Monthly Mirror, 6 (1815) 258–260, signed ‘September 2, 1793. AGRICOLA’. BACK

[14] History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[15] See Southey to John Murray, 25 February 1815, Letter 2560. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013