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

2584. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 April 1815 ⁠* 

9 April. 1815

My dear G.

Without attributing any undue influence to the effect of such things, or any undue value to the things themselves, I think there is good cause why I should compleat & publish my Inscriptions [1]  without delay; as it now becomes a public duty to speak of the French army in such terms as they deserve.

You have here half a dozen whereon to make your comments. There are two or perhaps three to precede these, which you shall receive in the second cargo, – but arrangement is at present of no consequence. The whole number will be about thirty, of which some five or six Epitaphs, or perhaps more, – according as I can find any thing suitable in the character & history of the chief persons most conspicuous persons who fell. Upon Gen. Mackinnon [2]  I have written one greatly exceeding any other poem in the series in length, & likely in other respects to be the best.

This kind of poem is much more difficult in composition, than striking in effect. I shall perhaps annex an Ode to Buonaparte, which may contrast their severe style. [3] 

You will see that I have given Sir J Moore in his epitaph [4]  that praise which he deserves for individual courage, – & in another inscription have fairly stated his fault as a General, but without naming him [5] 

Send me any information you can procure about Canada as soon as possible, because it depends upon it whether or not I ship off without delay a subject who is better on the other side the seas than here. [6] 

Wynn feels the necessity of vigorous war, – & yet at this moment when it is of such importance that this should be imprest upon the public, he seems more disposed to [MS illegible] the ministers than to encourage them. This cursed spirit of faction will one day ruin England.

God bless you


At the close of the last Inscription I perceive that hearts & heart occur too near each other. [7]  This I shall of course alter when I can.


* Endorsement: 9 April 1815/ with Inscriptions
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s series of Inscriptions on the Peninsular War. Only 18 of the projected 30 poems were completed and they were not collected together until they were published in Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 122–156. BACK

[2] ‘To the Memory of Major General MacKinnon’, Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 152–154. The poem commemorated Henry MacKinnon (1773–1812; DNB), killed on 9 January 1812 at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo. BACK

[3] This Ode was not written. BACK

[4] ‘Epitaph’, Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 127–128, commemorated Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), commander of the retreat to Corunna, where he was killed on 16 January 1809. BACK

[5] ‘At Coruna’, Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 125–126. Line 13 noted the ‘hasty and precipitate retreat’ to Corunna. BACK

[6] Possibly a reference to Mary Barker’s brother, Frederick Barker (dates unknown), or one of her other two brothers. She was seeking information about whether they might be able to emigrate to Canada. BACK

[7] For the Lines of Torres Vedras’, Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 138–139, lines 43 and 46. Southey changed line 43 to read ‘courageous hands’ rather than ‘strong hands, true hearts’. BACK

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August 2013