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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1494. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 16 August 1808 ⁠* 

Are you not half ready to suspect Grosvenor that I have foresworn letter-writing? – I write as seldom to any of my friends as I do to you, – & yet letters of business & common courtesy accumulate upon me so fast, that they occasion a very considerable & even inconvenient expence of time, – especially to a man who in the summer is troubled with an influenza called laziness, – & all the year round with the much more troublesome disease of poverty.

I have written 1000 lines of Kehama, [1]  – every line before ½ after eight in the morning. They are in all sorts of metre, but by far the greater part in rhyme. Can you contrive to receive thro Herries a transcript which is made for my brother Tom, in frankable size, – that you may see it, & get it franked on to him? I get on steadily. Landor is gone to Spain, to fight as a private soldier in the Spanish army, & he has found two companions to go with him. I have never seen any thing so marvellous as that man: if he be present when King Joseph [2]  is taken, K Joseph will be hanged upon the first tree. Huzza! it is not to be told how I rejoice at seeing my friends the Sp. & Portugueze proving themselves in the eyes of the world to be what I have so long said they were. Huzza – Santiago & St George! Smite them, as my Cid said, for the love of charity! [3] 

Grosvenor the most deserving of his Majestys pensioners thinketh of his pension. It is low water with me him. [4] 

Have you seen a defence – or rather eulogium of Madoc in the last Gentlemans Magazine – by Miss Seward? [5]  – who preaches up its praise wherever she goes.

You will have the Cid in about a fortnight. the translations in the Appendix are by Frere, – & they are without any exception the most masterly that I have ever seen. [6]  The Introduction to be what it ought to have been, what I could have made it, would have required a volume to itself, – for my reading is far more extensive on these subjects than almost any person can suppose. It is a rapid sketch, just sufficient to introduce the Chronicle, by giving the reader a summary view of the previous history & existing state of Spain. The Chronicle is well done & the translation improves so much on the original, by incorporating matter from other sources, as to be unique in its kind. There is a good deal of miscellaneous matter brought together in the notes, more meo. [7]  The intrinsic merit of the work is of a very high order. Romance has nothing finer than all the proceedings at Zamora, [8]  – & poetry nothing superior to the living pictures which you will find every where. The Cids speeches at the Cortes is perfect eloquence of its kind. If it be remembered that all this was written in all probability before the year 1200, certainly within half a century sooner or later, – I think it must be considered as one of the most curious & valuable poems specimens of early literature, certainly as the most beautiful, beyond all comparison.

Wolseley [9]  is here, whom you must remember at Westminster, one or two remove above you. He has married a good natured woman, [10]  & they came to Keswick provided with letters from Miss Seward

Tom has been lucky in his Admiralty appointment, being first in a flag ship; the Dreadnought. [11]  He says & very justly that our troops to Spain might have {been} conveyed in half the time, at half the expence, & without any risque at all, by putting as many on board some of our large ships of war as they could take, (800 or 1000 they could carry very well) & letting each ship make the best of her way to the port nearest the scene of action. A convoy may be wind bound for months, & any single transport which parts company would fall to the first privateer – Whereas a ship of the line could beat down, take advantage of every slant of wind, – & defy all upon the ocean. – There is very good sense in this. But transports implyx jobs, & every thing must be a job in England.

Farewell. I am getting on with S America, & making a good book of my last travels in Portugal. [12]  My son is the oddest fellow in the world – I could wish you could see his bright eyes, & be present at a scene between him & Dido the kitten when she plays with his little bare feet; & the faster he retreats backwards the more she pats them. Dido is the queen of all kittens for beauty.

God bless you

RS.

Aug. 16. 1808


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esq./ Exchequer/ Westminster
Endorsement: April 16. 1808/ copied
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ AUG XX/ 1808
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 165–67 [with omissions]. BACK

[1] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[2] Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte (1768–1844) was the elder brother of Napoleon, who made him King of Naples and Sicily (1806–1808), and King of Spain and the Indies as Joseph I of Spain (1808–1813). BACK

[3] Southey’s edition of The Chronicle of the Cid (London, 1808), p. 114. BACK

[4] As a civil servant in the Exchquer, Bedford was responsible for sending Southey his government pension. BACK

[5] ‘A Letter written by Anna Seward to one of her Literary friends, Feb. 15, 1806, on the subject of Mr. Southey’s “Madoc” and before she had any acquaintance, personal or by pen, with that gentleman’ appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine, 78.2 (1808), 577–581. BACK

[6] Three of Frere’s translations from the Poema del Cid were appended to Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid. BACK

[7] Meaning ‘as is my custom’. BACK

[8] The siege of Zamora is narrated in the second and third books of Southey’s edition of the Cid. BACK

[9] Reverend Robert Wolseley (d. 1815), son of William Wolseley, 6th Baronet (1740–1817). The family seat was at Wolseley Park, Rugeley in Staffordshire, near Seward’s home at Lichfield. BACK

[10] Wolseley married a Miss Hand; her first name and dates are not known. BACK

[11] HMS Dreadnought was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line launched in 1801. She had fought at Trafalgar (1805) and was now under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831), younger brother of the author, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), Southey’s acquaintance. BACK

[12] With the History of Brazil and the 1808 new edition of Letters Written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797). BACK

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August 2013