2690. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 January 1816

2690. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 January 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 2 Jany 1816.

My dear Grosvenor

Those verses will do for the fiddlers if they are wanted for them, [1]  whether they will do for the Hymn of Victory with which I purpose at present to conclude my poem, I do not as yet know, – in that case they will stand for the beginning only. [2]  The first stanza has the accidental merit of being very well adapted for music, – so the Senhora says who understands these things. [3]  Your objection to the word sometimes as being twice used would occur to nobody who was not unlucky enough to have some burlesque verses in his head. [4]  For Almighty One read Almightiness, & praise instead of joy thro the second stanza till you come to the last five lines where the original word must remain. – Walk the earth is not the best expression (very very far the best) but you will find the word live immediately before it.

Quoad title, if you like “A Pilgrimage to La Belle Alliance” [5]  better, I am willing enough to alter it to your liking, – such things being so entirely indifferent to me, that it is reason enough for alteration, if any person wishes it. For a verse writer to call himself the Poet, is nothing more than for a prose writer to call himself the author or the writer, – as is constantly done. Pilgrimage it must be; – the word journey would never do, – a journey to such a spot is in the nature of a pilgrimage sufficiently to justify the expression, & moreover the poem has a slight Spenserian [6]  tinge of language in keeping with it. I believe the arrangement will be improved by placing what I had written for the introduction elsewhere, – & substituting as a Proem the first part of what you saw, as having been designed for the marriage of the Princess. [7]  Between six & seven hundred lines are written; – I shall not make a transcript till the whole is done, then it shall pass thro you to the printer.

My companion Mr Nash is returned, & I wish you & Sirius would call upon him, see his sketches; & introduce yourself as my factotum whenever to to convey the drawings to Longman for the engraver, [8]  as soon as he can let you have them conveniently. [9]  Observe that this is not a matter of business for which payment can be made, – but a voluntary offer on his part, for which I am greatly obliged to him. He lives next door but one to Phillips, [10]  No 6 I think, – but it is next door to Mr Burns [11]  on one side, as Phillips’s on the other, – Sirius will understand the direction. I write to him, respecting the dimension &c – giving the largest that so small a page as the small Roderick [12]  will allow. <4¼ inches long, 2 ¾ wide.> He has sketches of Waterloo Church, Ligny, & Hougoumont, [13]  which must all three be given. Of the latter there are three views, one of them will do better as an etching, & perhaps may be folded in the middle to give it greater length, & the exterior view is perhaps not so good as Charles Bells, which Sirius (if he be of this opinion) can procure for me in its place. [14]  Then for slighter things (as only interesting for what occurred there & being without any beauty themselves) there must be either etchings or wood-cuts in what size & form may be deemd most suitable, of La Haye Sainte, La Belle Alliance, & Les Quatre Bras. [15]  The two last Mr Nash has, – the first he has not, & if you cannot muster up one among the sketches of other travellers we must be content to borrow it from the Panoramic print. [16]  Whatever may be thought of the poem the book will be made interesting by these realities.

I thought Phillips was likely to commit the fault which you say he has committed, – he was determined upon a penseroso picture, [17]  & all that you & I said to him upon this point was of no effect. [18]  If we had been certain of this at first, & could have foreseen that the portrait was to be of this character, he might as well have departed from common life altogether, given me a fancy dr costume to his own liking, & set my crown upon my head.

Farewell. I must go to the Field of Battle, having just done with Waterloo. [19]  My books [20]  are on their way to Newcastle in a ship of Mr Vardons. Lunus began Homer this morning, – you would have smiled to see father & son, – the one as busy with his Dutch Dictionary over Vondel, [21]  as the other was with the Iliad & the Lexicon. [22] 

Here is the new year. God bless you with many & happy such.



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298 Postmark: E/ 5 JA 5/ 1816
Endorsement: 2 January 1816.
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had sent Grosvenor Bedford on 25 December 1815 three draft stanzas for Sir William Parsons to set to music and, if necessary, perform at Court as the monarch’s ‘New Year’s Ode’ for 1816, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 2688. This was a duty of the Poet Laureate, but one which Southey suspected had become futile, as no Laureate odes had been performed at Court since 1810. BACK

[2] Southey also hoped that his ‘New Year’s Ode’ for 1816 might form part of the projected ‘Hymn of Victory’ with which he hoped to conclude The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). The published poem ultimately omitted the ‘Hymn of Victory’ and concluded with the ‘Hopes of Man’. BACK

[3] When the first stanza of these verses was published as ‘Thanksgiving for Victory’ in Southey’s Poetical Works, 10 vols (London 1837–1838), II, p. 248, he, unusually, drew attention to the fact that they were ‘Written for Music’. BACK

[4] ‘Sometimes’ was retained in lines 7 and 11 of ‘Thanksgiving for Victory’. The final two stanzas have not survived. BACK

[5] Southey strongly objected to referring to the battle on 18 June 1815 as ‘Waterloo’, as Wellington wished, and preferred to name it ‘La Belle Alliance’, the designation favoured by the Prussian commander, Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher (1742–1819). BACK

[6] In the manner of Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), a poet Southey greatly admired. BACK

[7] Southey had written, in March–June 1814, fifty stanzas celebrating the engagement of Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, to William, Hereditary Prince of Orange (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849). He had to abandon the poem when the engagement was broken off, but he was able to reuse most of it, not in The Poet’s Pilgrimage but in his Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), which celebrated Charlotte’s marriage to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) on 2 May 1816. BACK

[8] George Cooke (1781–1834), engraver. BACK

[9] Seven engravings by Nash appeared in the Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), at the frontispiece and between pp. 56–57, pp. 62–63, pp. 68–69, pp. 70–71, pp. 88–89 and pp. 90–91. BACK

[10] The portrait painter Thomas Phillips (1770–1845; DNB) lived at 8 George Street, Hanover Square, London, while Nash did indeed live at 6 George Street, Hanover Square. BACK

[11] William Burn (1750–1821) was a friend of the Southeys from their days in Portugal. A member of the Lisbon Factory, he was well-known to Herbert Hill and John May and had first met Southey in Lisbon in 1796. He moved to London in 1806. BACK

[12] The two volume duodecimo edition of Southey’s poem Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[13] St Joseph’s Church at Waterloo, the farmhouse Chateau d’Hougoumont (the site of fierce fighting), and the Battle of Ligny on 16 June 1815 (two days before Waterloo). Waterloo Church appeared as the frontispiece in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), Hougoumont between pp. 68–69 and pp. 70–71, and Ligny between pp. 90–91. BACK

[14] The physiologist and surgeon Charles Bell (1774–1842; DNB). He had been appointed surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital in 1814 and in the following year travelled to Brussels to treat casualties from the battle of Waterloo. Southey probably received this information about his sketches from Henry Herbert Southey, who became a physician at the Middlesex Hospital in August 1815. Charles Bell’s view, ‘Entrance to Hougoumont’, appeared between pp. 58–59. None of the engravings was folded into the middle of the book. BACK

[15] La Belle Alliance (an inn, near where Wellington met Blucher at the conclusion of the fighting) appeared in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), between pp. 56–57; La Haye Sainte (a farmhouse that was fiercely contested in the battle) appeared between pp. 62–63; Les Quatre Bras (a battle two days before Waterloo) appeared between pp. 88–89. BACK

[16] Henry Aston Barker (1774–1856) had become well-known through his exhibition of panoramas at his purpose-built hall in Leicester Square, London. He drew the scenes for his Waterloo panorama at the battlefield and visitors to his exhibition could purchase copies of the various sections. BACK

[17] That is, a romanticised portrait of the pensive poet, after John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), ‘Il Penseroso’ (1645). BACK

[18] Southey had sat to Phillips in 1815 for a portrait commissioned by Murray. The painting is now housed at the Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere. BACK

[19] Southey had just finished drafting Part One, Book 2, ‘Brussels’, of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) and was about to embark on Book 3, ‘The Field of Battle’. BACK

[20] The books that Southey had purchased on his journey to the Low Countries in September–October 1815. BACK

[21] Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679), whose play Lucifer (1654) was considered by Southey a possible influence on Milton’s portrait of Satan in Paradise Lost (1667). BACK

[22] A Greek dictionary; for translating Homer, Iliad. BACK

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