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

2625. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 June 1815 ⁠* 

28 June 1815. Keswick.

My dear G.

I must tell you a good manœuvre of the Bibliopoles. He proposes to give me 50 guineas if I will amplify the Wellington article a little, – annex to it a full account of the late battle, & let him publish it within three weeks in one volume, like the Life of Nelson as a Life of Wellington & with my name. [1]  – Now he knows very well that if he had prima facie [2]  proposed to give me 150 £ for a Life of Wellington I should not have listened to any such proposal. & might with good reason have considered it as a derogatory offer. But because thro my hab principle of doing things of this kind as well as I can without any reference to bargain price or quantity, he got from me a fair Life of Nelson instead of a mere expansion of a paper in his review, & thereby (tho he paid me 200 £ instead of 100 £ which was the original offer for one volume got from me for 200 £ what I cou certainly would not have sold to him for five had the thing been a straight forward business from the beginning, – because he has dealt so thoroughly in one instance he wanted to trepan me into this kind of sale bargain.

I am not very quick sighted in such things, & might possibly enough have been taken in if other & weightier objections had not instantly occurred to me, – such as the unfitness of writing the life of a man before he was dead, – & the disrepute which I should incur & deserve by vamping up a book to answer the mere purposes of a bookseller & supply the demand of the day. To these points my answer was confined, & the Bibliopole will be have a very comfortable dream of profit disturbed when he receives it tomorrow. [3]  The paper itself is well enough for its place. There was an excuse for giving it, because there was a volume upon the subject; – there was a reason, because of the then impending contest: & the place is an excuse for hurrying over the latter part of the peninsular war which (as far as my present documents go) would not supply materials for two narratives. [4] 

I preserve almost all my letters, & Murrays are a choice collection. It is impossible that any compositions can be more booksellerish & more Scotchy. The flattery & the hints are both so broad that they would move you to swear where they move me to smile. Our Fathers which are in the Row [5]  are Englishmen; & tho they might not be perhaps a whit more liberal, they have an English way of doing things. They xx respect me too much either to flatter me, or give me their advice. I believe they have a sincere respect for me, amounting to something like personal regard, & without any reference to the state of their accounts.

The Review has not reached me, – nor indeed the number before it, – so that I have never seen how the little paper upon Barré looks in print. [6]  – There is a very injudicious criticism upon Roderick in the Eclectic, – written by Montgomery. [7]  And there is one in the British Critic which I should like to see because it is written by John Coleridge, [8]  (which I believe is a secret – mind you that Mr Bedford!) – The usual cogent motives [9]  will make me work vigorously for the next number.

What a mean villain is this Buonaparte, – with all his insolence in prosperity, his only thought in danger is how to save himself! [10]  But if there be not thirteen pence half penny fairly due {coming} to Mr Ketch [11]  upon in reversion upon his neck, – I should to know what he ever justly when that worthy officer ever properly earned the like sum. The Moniteurs account of the battle is admirable, – in the best stile of French history. xx ‘We had compleatly defeated them, – but unluckily we took fright & run away, leaving every thing behind us.” [12]  – The cannon should be made into a public monument to those who fell, & a statue of Wellington on the top. The park in front of the H Guards would be the best place for it: – & the two Eagles at his feet. [13]  Suggest this to Herries.

I am teazed with my summer cold, – which is the either the cause or the pretext of much listlessness

Dr Solomon brought a bride here last week, [14]  & Derwent who was fishing in my boat (the Royal Noah) took him off St Herberts island, [15]  where he was in dire distress, the boat which had carried him there leaking a little so that he was afraid to return in it.

I have not seen the Times, – indeed I see no paper but the Courier.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: 28 June 1815
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 413–415. BACK

[1] George Elliott (dates unknown), The Life of the Most Noble Arthur Duke of Wellington, from the Period of his first Achievements in India, down to his Invasion of France, and the Peace of Paris in 1814 (1814), Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 215–275. Southey did not expand this into a biography along the lines of his Life of Nelson (1813). He was, however, commissioned by Murray to review the following: Eustache-Auguste Carel (1788–1836), Précis Historique de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1808 à 1814 (1815); Jean Sarrazin (1770–1848), Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1807 à 1814 (1814); General View of the Political State of France, and of the Government of Louis XVIII (1815); An Answer to the Calumniators of Louis XVIII (1815); Official Accounts of the Battle of Waterloo (1815); Lieutenant-General W. A. Scott (dates unknown), An Authentic Narrative of the Late Sanguinary Battle on the Plains of Waterloo (1815); see Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–52. BACK

[2] ‘At first sight’; i.e. immediately. BACK

[3] See Southey to John Murray, 26 June 1815, Letter 2623. BACK

[4] Southey planned to deal with these events in his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[5] i.e. Longman and his business partners. BACK

[6] Grosvenor Bedford’s Letters and Miscellaneous Papers … With a Memoir of His Life (1814) of his cousin Barré Charles Roberts; reviewed by Southey in the Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 509–519. BACK

[7] Eclectic Review, 3 (April 1815), 352–368, carried Montgomery’s review of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[8] British Critic, n.s. 3 (April 1815), 353–389. The review was very positive overall; and Southey would undoubtedly have appreciated its concluding comments that whereas ‘criticism … will be forgotten’, ‘the [poetical] beauties which have excited our admiration, will live in the enthusiasm of the young and ingenious, and be consecrated by the applause of the wise and good to a sure and deserved immortality’. BACK

[9] i.e. the need for money. BACK

[10] Napoleon abdicated on 22 June 1815 and left Paris on 25 June. He finally surrendered to a British ship on 15 July. BACK

[11] Jack Ketch (d. 1686; DNB), public executioner and a generic name for such figures. BACK

[12] Probably a reference to the account of the Battle of Waterloo in the Moniteur on 22 June 1815. BACK

[13] On 29 June 1815, the House of Commons approved an address for a monument to commemorate the victory at Waterloo, and the British troops who fell there. BACK

[14] Samuel Solomon (1768–9-1819; DNB), manufacturer of patent medicines. Southey had met him on the boat to Dublin in 1801. Solomon’s first wife had died earlier in 1815 and three months later he married Jane Martin (d. 1818). BACK

[15] An island on Derwentwater. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013