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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1058. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 13 April 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

I learnt of your pamphlet [1]  from one who knew it by mere accident, – & of having so learnt wrote to Wynn to send me down one. [2]  Put me by another – for I am afraid this has been lost for me – as I did not hide your light under a bushell.

I have a notion that Dr Glasse [3]  could get your reviewal of Madoc inserted in the British Critic [4]  – you best know whether you are intimate enough with him to ask him the question – if the thing could be so done it would be of use to me. the Review is a most execrable one – but it sells among the clergy & the godly – a good article would have great effect there for its novelty, – & the old women of both sexes who are edified once a month by the periodical criticisms of the Bishop of St Giles’s (for he you know is editor [5] ) might very truly & happily be told of the pious purport of the poem. – The book will want some such hearty shove xxx as being a heavy quarto, – x my profits are wholly dependent upon the sale, & are very likely to be nothing. Two guineas is a great price. I hoped it would not have exceeded 25 – or 30 shillings – but it grew under correction & the notes take up much room tho not a fourth of what I had collected are inserted. You have divined the object of the priestcraft – the only defensible machinery.

There is a translation of Sallust by Gordon. [6]  I have never seen it, but having read his Tacitus [7]  do not think it likely that any new version would surpass his for he was a man of great powers. It is not likely that Longus Homo, or any other Homo would pay for such a translation – because the speculation is not promising – every person who wishes to read Sallust being able to read the original. – but Longus Homo would probably print it as he xxx prints my books – at his risque – allowing you half the profits but this is not a worthy or adequate employment, – because the book is too well known it would add nothing to the general stock of knowledge. There are some Greek authors which we want in English – Diodorus Siculus [8]  in particular. But why not chuse for yourself & venture upon original composition? In my conscience I do not think any man living has more of Rabelais [9]  in his nature than you have. a grotesque satire a la Gargantua – in which if you please the Colonel may be William & somebody else the Butler [10]  – would set all the kingdom staring & place you in the very first rank of reputation. Now instead of sitting up till morning go to bed in reasonable time this night & dream upon this hint. Depend upon it xxx xxx xxxx & all the political pamphlets – & all the wisdom in the world would have less effect than a good extravagant Romance – such as might almost be picked out of the Schrammiana & Butleriana. [11] 

You ask if I shall come to town this summer. certainly not – unless some very material accident were to render it necessary. I do not want to go – I should not like to go. & I can’t afford to go. solid reasons Mr Bedford as I take it for not going. This is an inconvenient residence for many reasons & I shall move southward as soon as I have the means, – either to the neighbourhood of London or Bath – when that may be Heaven knows. for I have not yet found out the art of making more money than goes as fast as it comes in bread & cheese, which these damned ministers make dearer & dearer every day, & I am xxx of that class which feels every addition. However I am well off as it is, x perfectly contented, & ten times happier than half the boobies who walk into that Chapel [12]  there in your neighbourhood & when they are asked if I shall give 16 pence for tenpenny worth of salt [13]  – say yes – for which the Devil scarify them with wire whips & then put them in x brine say I.

I look daily for your proof [14]  – & have given Artaxerxes x a fillip to quicken him in the business. the Preface will take me some trouble tho I believe myself quite master of the subject. it will be in part a comment upon the designed motto from Hesiod

Δευτερον αυτε γενος πολυ χειροτερον μετοπισθεν
Αργυρεον ποιησαν Ὀλυμπια δωματἂ εχοντες
Χρυσεω ουτε φυην εναλιγκιον ουτε νοημα [15] 

I shall endeavour to account for the decline of poetry after the age of Shakespeare & Spenser [16]  in spite of the great exceptions during the Commonwealth & to trace the effect produced by the restorers of a better taste of whom Thomson [17]  & Gilbert West [18]  are to be esteemed as the chief before the Wartons [19]  – with this difference that what he did was the effect of his own genius – what they – by a feeling of the genius of others. X This reign will rank very high in poetical history. Goldsmith – Cowper, Burns [20]  are all original & all unequalled in their way. Falconer [21]  is another x whose work will last for ever – but I need not preach out my preface to you – only just to observe that I would not have the motto taken as applicable to our own times – but to the whole period from James 2 [22]  to the end of the last reign. We have been fetching up the lee way which our immediate predecessors lost.

The vignette of the Snake is misplaced in both the copies I have seen, so as to look perfectly ridiculous. [23]  It is meant to form the half title to the second part of the poem, – if as I suspect the error runs thro all the copies remember that it be remedied in yours when it goes to the binders.

This Rochefort squadron will effectually mar poor Toms fortune which else he was almost certain of making [24]  – & indeed if he escape being taken or killed we must think ourselves fortunate.

God bless you


Tuesday. April 13. 1805.


* Address: To/ G.C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ APL18/ 1805
Endorsement: 13 April 1805
MS: Bodleian Eng. Lett. c. 23
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 326–328 [in part]. BACK

[1] Bedford’s pamphlet, A Letter to the Right Hon. William Pitt on his Political Experiments (1804). BACK

[2] See Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 7 November 1804], Letter 988. BACK

[3] Samuel Glasse (1734–1812; DNB), vicar of Wanstead and a member of a circle of high-church Anglican clerics responsible for founding the British Critic in 1793. BACK

[4] Madoc was damned, though not by Bedford, in the British Critic, 28 (1806), 395–410. BACK

[5] Robert Nares, founding editor of the British Critic. BACK

[6] Thomas Gordon (d. 1750), The Works of Sallust, Translated into English, With Political Discourses Upon that Author, to Which is Added a Translation of Cicero’s Four Orations Against Catiline (1744). BACK

[7] Gordon, The Works of Tacitus (1728–1731). BACK

[8] Diodorus Siculus, a 1st century Greek historian who wrote the Bibliotheca Historica. BACK

[9] François Rabelais (c. 1494–1553), the French author of La Vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel (1532–1552). BACK

[10] The ‘Colonel’ could be either of the Rabelaisean characters, Colonel Maul-chitterling and Colonel Cut-pudding. ‘William’ and ‘the Butler’ are invented characters often referred to in Southey’s letters to Bedford. BACK

[11] These comic inventions, originating in schoolboy stories at Westminster, were never published by Bedford but provided the hint for Southey’s comic novel/miscellany The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[12] That is, MPs, for the House of Commons met in St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster. BACK

[13] The government had imposed an additional duty on salt earlier in 1805. BACK

[14] The proofs of Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[15] Specimens of the Later English Poets was published with a preface by Southey but without a motto from the ancient Greek poet, Hesiod. The lines translate as ‘After that the dwellers on Olympus made a second race, much worse, of silver, not like the golden race in stature or in thought’, Hesiod, Works and Days (written between c. 750–650 BC), 127–129. BACK

[16] Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), author of The Faerie Queene (1590–1596). BACK

[17] James Thomson (1700–1748; DNB), author of The Seasons (1730). Thomson is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), II, 107–111. BACK

[18] Gilbert West (1703–1756; DNB), poet and translator of the odes of Pindar (c. 522–443 BC). He is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, II, pp. 241–246. BACK

[19] Joseph Warton (bap. 1722–1800; DNB), poet and literary critic, who is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, III, pp. 317–327; Thomas Warton (1728–1790; DNB), poet laureate and historian, who is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, III, pp. 465–469. BACK

[20] Oliver Goldsmith (1730–1774; DNB), author of The Deserted Village (1770), who is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, III, pp. 77–82; William Cowper (1731–1800; DNB), author of The Task (1785), included in Specimens, III, pp. 470–482; Robert Burns (1759–1796; DNB), author of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786). BACK

[21] William Falconer (bap. 1732–1769; DNB), author of The Shipwreck (1762). Southey had reviewed James Stanier Clarke’s (1766–1834; DNB) 1804 edition of Falconer’s poem in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 577–580. He is included in Specimens of the Later English Poets, II, p. 397–400. BACK

[22] James II and VII (1633–1701, King of England, Scotland and Ireland 1685–1689; DNB). BACK

[23] Madoc (1805), was published with three illustrations: the engraved title-page with Wynn’s shield upon a trophée, the palm and cross upon the rock (after the Table of Contents), and the snake before the cave, intended for the title-page of the second part, ‘Madoc in Aztlan’ but placed incorrectly (after page 320, instead of after page 184). BACK

[24] The squadron of French ships commanded by Contre-Admiral Zacharie Allemand (1762–1828) and based at Rochefort, which slipped past the British blockade and harassed British ships in the Atlantic and West Indies. It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ships and cargo captured in armed conflict, and Southey was particularly concerned that the presence of the French squadron would mean the loss of the Spanish ships (and resultant prize money for his brother) taken by HMS Amelia in December 1804. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013