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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1070. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 24[–25] May 1805 ⁠* 

Friday 24. May 1805.

Dear Grosvenor

How far this vile headache will let me write I know not – but I have begun in the hope that employment may at least take off my attention from it. – the proofs look excellently well. [1]  there is not too much from any writer, – & all that you {have} said is well-said & well-thought. It will be a good book. It is so impossible to draw any line of exclusion that I am clearly of opinion we should insert specimens of every rhymester, – where there is no biography comeatable – say merely, ‘he published Poems &c –’ & arrange them according to the date of the volume. My own notices were collected from Andersons Poets, & Cibbers Lives of the Poets . . the less known from Isaac Reids Biog. Dramatica & the European Magazine, of which a duplicate series happened to be in the house. [2]  the Obituary in the Gentlemans Magazine would doubtless furnish matter, – so perhaps might the early volumes of the Monthly Review – at least I remember to have seen a quotation in that Review from the poem of an a common soldier, for which they referred to one of their first volumes, & which I thought very beautiful.

I see some typographical errors which seem copied too literally by Hyems. [3]  (P. 32. for instance – his flesh which ends the first line, ought to begin the second & 86. Answer to Celia, should be from her. We must keep a list of these. 45. manufacturers for manufactures. the poem of Cottons [4]  is printed very straglingly – a trick which Printers will always practice when they can, & which should not be suffered. Biggs is a very incorrect printer.

Saturday. – I left off & went to bed, sorely indisposed. the truth is that our May is like a West country March. the worst month in the year. my constitution was made for a better climate, & for this last fortnight I have been so unwell as to be unfit for doing any thing. – These sheets I suppose are proofs – that is they were struck off before you had corrected the press. this did not occur to me yesterday. I took them for corrected sheets but as the blunders thickened upon inspection I see how it is. – There is another reason for inserting every body, – the more obscure names we collect, the more curious will the book be for the Collectors & in itself. the Specimens may be as short as you will in bad cases but if they cannot be quite comprised in a single page – it is better to lengthen them a little than to leave so much fat as at P. 66. You will soon be able to regulate the length of the Specimens by the size of the volumes, which should be about 450 pages each – not more – to correspond with Ellis’s. [5]  & 20 or 25 may be subtracted from this in the first volume for Prefatory matter. Let me calculate – 17 poets in 6 sheets. say 3 to a sheet – 28 sheets to a volume 3 x 28 = 84. 84 Poets to a volume – now look to your list & see whether the names be nearest to 168 or 252, – which will determine whether we should shorten the specimens to crowd them into two volumes, or extend them into three. three will sell as well as two, & therefore would be better for very intelligible reasons. Ellis I see has 161 – we should have above 200 we may stretch, & this is another motive for not omitting any body. besides I suspect that as we advance the average will not exceed two poets to a sheet, when we get among good ones. – For the two authors inclosed – I will send you the specimens of Relph [6]  who was an interesting man & no mean poet. for Denton look whether his House of Superstition be too long & if it be give only an extract. [7] 

I will endeavor to recollect the Devils Thoughts & the Bishop Athendius for you – having very foolishly no copy of either. [8] 

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: G.C. Bedford Esqr
Endorsement: 24 May 1805
MS: Bodleian Eng. Lett. c. 23
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Of Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly-compiled anthology Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[2] Southey’s sources were: Robert Anderson (1750–1830; DNB), ed., The Works of the British Poets, with Prefaces Biographical and Critical (1792–1807); Colley Cibber (1671–1757; DNB), The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland, to the time of Dean Swift (1753); Isaac Reed (1742–1807; DNB), ed., Biographia Dramatica, or, a Companion to the Playhouse, (1782); the European Magazine of which Reid was proprietor. BACK

[3] A Latin soubriquet of John Winter (dates unknown), a printer who frequently worked on books published by Longman. BACK

[4] A selection from the poems of Charles Cotton (1630–1687; DNB) is included in the Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London 1807), I, pp. 35–47. BACK

[5] The Specimens were modelled on George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn 1801, 3rd edn 1803). BACK

[6] Josiah Relph (1712–1743; DNB), a Cumberland poet who published A Miscellany of Poems (1747; 2nd edn 1798) is included in the Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 418–429. BACK

[7] Thomas Denton (d. 1777) was Relph’s successor as parson at Sebergham, Cumberland. He arranged for the publication of Relph’s poems and himself authored two poems, entitled ‘Immortality, or the Consolation of Human Life, a Monody’, and ‘The House of Superstition, a Vision’. The latter poem is included in the Specimens of the Later English Poets, III, pp. 126–132. BACK

[8] Southey’s poems: ‘The Devil’s Thoughts’, Morning Post, 6 September 1799; ‘A True Ballad of a Pope’, Morning Post, 4 February 1803. For the publication histories of these two ballads, see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), V, pp. 451–474, 517. BACK

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August 2013