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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

97. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 1 August 1794 ⁠* 

Bristol. August the first. 1794

Horace if ought my verse may boast of Truth,
If ought to Freedom friendly it convey
To Peace or Justice, — haply the Bards lay
May not have flowd in vain. my hours of youth
I give to song, that sometimes it may sooth
Reflections bitter pangs, & steal away
The sense of sorrow. for the riper day
Of opening manhood, other toils remain
In other regions. to the distant shore
Where Freedom spurns Oppressions iron reign
I go: not vainly — sorrowing to deplore
The long-loved friends I leave to meet no more,
But the high call of Justice to obey.
Sometimes recall the Minstrel in his lay.

my sonnet Horace speaks my resolution. blame it or applaud it as you will, but show it only to Grosvenor. we go a good party. not less than six, some of whom you know; very probably more. it will be hardly possible to go before next summer, by that time I hope matters will be sufficiently arranged. when we meet you shall know our plan — & you may perhaps think it too good to be practicable.

Joan of Arc as you may suppose, occupies much of my time. Duppa will execute a vignette & frontispiece for me. from what particular passage is not yet determined, but when this storm of rain is over, I shall visit Lovell & settle that point. the poem goes to the press when fifty copies are subscribed for. I have already fourteen in my pocket book.

You will prefer Cambridge to Oxford. the Cantabs think more & better than the finishd gentlemen of Rhedycina. in our gayer moments we please ourselves with the idea of seeing all our aristocratic friends come flying over for shelter to America. then will we kill the fatted calf & make merry, for “they that were lost are found”. [1]  I picture poor Grosvenor with a long face telling a dismal tale of “war & blood” “And slaughter. how abhorrent to his soul”! [2]  & think I see him jumping round my room for joy at escaping. the probability of this strikes me as great, & I shall feel less reluctance at parting in the hopes of bidding him welcome to Kentucky. he loves spruce beer — brown bread — a good fire — & a hearty welcome. these I can ensure him.

Grosvenor will pity me & cry plague on this democracy. but at present things look well. & if they turn out as I expect my state will be to be envied. I have fully convinced Lovell of the propriety. & what he thinks right he will perform.

In six weeks you may expect Poems containing the Retrospect — Odes Elegies & Sonnets by Bion & Moschus. in the interim if you can hit upon a good motto send it me. I go to Bath tomorrow to correct the first sheet. they will be printed with all dispatch, but not publishd till the end of October. Debrett [3]  is very dilatory with respect to Valentine & Orson. so it is to do business by a deputy. but tis my hope to be soon in town myself — after I have returned from Edmund Seward.

Joan of Arc shall make a very handsome appearance. wove paper — hot pressd. frontispiece — vignette. dedication perhaps in sonnet. preface & notes. the poem will be very correct. I have taken infinite trouble, & it undergoes several revisions afterwards with Lovell. I am about to hymn the tale of Eustace St Pierre at Charless court in the sixth book.

Why is Grosvenor silent? tell him to write often while we have only the turnpike road between us. — spare remonstrances Horace. my resolution is taken. some of my dearest friends accompany me. I shall regret those I leave but you must all come when the fire & brimstone descends. away runs Lot. come to us in Kentucky there you are always sure of an asylum when the storms breaks.

fare thee well

Robert Southey.

the best apology for former neglect is to sin no more.


Notes

* Address: H W Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster./ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: [partial] AA/ 9
Watermark: [Obscured by MS binding]
Endorsement: Recd. Aug 2d. 1794
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 65–66. BACK

[1] A paraphrase of the parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15: 11–32. BACK

[2] Quotation unidentified. BACK

[3] John Debrett (d. 1822; DNB), London publisher and bookseller, founder of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage. BACK

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Published @ RC

March 2009