2823. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 July 1816

2823. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 July 1816⁠* 

Keswick 21 July 1816.

My dear Grosvenor

I will not burn your letter. What care I tho posterity should discover that you reviewed my books, [1]  because I wanted to make money by them; – there is neither sin nor shame in <my> standing in need of such “sweet remuneration,” [2]  nor in your contributing to promote me.

There is a full account of the degree of PL. [3]  (for such it seems it is) in a book which I do not possess, but which it is not difficult to find – Seldens Titles of Honour. [4]  & there is more concerning it, & more I apprehend to the purpose in Malones Edition of Drydens Prose Works. [5]  I pray you note well that the office has salary having been 100 marks, was raised for Ben Jonson [6]  to 100 pounds & a butt of Spanish Canary, – in those days a fair provision for a man of letters, – & I pray you exclaim against the abominable commutation which deprives me of my <the> Canary.

What I mean by the fitness of my accepting the office is this, – to have refused it must have been interpreted as arising from one of these causes – that I thought the office would dishonour me, – or that I thought myself incapable of raising the office to an in public opinion; – or that I some private feeling feelings or opinions rendered me unwilling to applaud the measures of government. And I think it is due to Scott that his refusal of it should be mentioned, & its true motive, – that being well holding some professional offices [7]  he did not it right to accept one of the very few situations which exist in this country for men of letters. It is the more xxxx proper to mention his that he declined the office & used his influence to have it offered to me, – because there were reports that a jealousy had existed between us, & vile verses were written upon the subject in the Satirist [8]  & for ought I know elsewhere, – & a conversation was actually fabricated as having taken place in no friendly tone between us at the Levee! [9]  I was seriously asked in a letter whether it were true!

Lastly as to the ER & the M Chronicle, [10]  – nothing more is required than t a reference to their predictions that my verses would be in the common-place stile of adulation, – proving equally a moral & intellectual degradation. I never see the M Ch. nor the Review, nor any of the Examiners [11]  &c. &c. in which I am indulged with with a plentiful but nevertheless useful, share of abuse. This however was what they predicted. – I suspect the Pilgrimage & the Lay are both slow in sale, [12]  – for Longman wrote to me the other day & made no mention of either. A reviewal would beyond all doubt assist their expedite their motions.

Wynn is coming with his brother, – whereby we shall have as little pleasure as possible in each others company.

Is your mother well enough to let you take a spell among the mountains, & drink Parfait Amour [13]  with Mr Nash? I am sitting to him, – he has begun also a beautiful drawing of the three younger girls. [14]  – One of the pleasures which I <had> promised myself from his visit, I was a portrait of Herbert. [15]  – I may write the name, – but I never dare mention it.

I am glad to hear such good news from his Majestys Exchequer. [16]  You need not send me any money till you receive it, pay day being so near at hand. Moreover I expect goodly guerdon [17]  from Murray as soon as the number is publishd, for the last article. [18] 

Remember me to all at home

God bless you



* Endorsement: 21 July 1816./ On Reviews of Pilgr. & Lay
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Bedford drafted a review of Southey’s Laureate poems for the Quarterly Review, but it was not published. BACK

[2] Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 3, scene 1, lines 170–171 (adapted). BACK

[3] The Poet Laureateship. BACK

[4] John Selden (1584–1654; DNB), Titles of Honor (1614). BACK

[5] The Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works of John Dryden, Now First Collected, ed. Edmond Malone (1741–1812; DNB) (1800). BACK

[6] Ben Jonson (1572–1637; DNB) received, from 1616, a royal pension of 100 marks per annum, increased in 1630 to £100 per annum and a tierce (42 gallons) of Canary wine. These payments are often seen as making him the first de facto Poet Laureate. Southey’s predecessor, Henry James Pye (1745–1813; DNB) arranged for the wine to be commuted into an additional annual payment of £27. BACK

[7] Scott was Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire (since 1799) and Principal Clerk of the Court of Session (since 1806). The two offices gave him a combined salary of £1600 p.a. BACK

[8] See ‘Applications for the Laureateship’, The Satirist; or, Monthly Meteor, 13 (September 1813), 251–254, in which Southey’s and Scott’s verse is parodied and each is portrayed as motivated by the desire for money and office. The magazine also reprinted Leigh Hunt’s satirical poem ‘Address to the New Poet-Laureat’ (14 (February 1814), 161–168. BACK

[9] Southey’s presentation to the Prince Regent at Court on 11 November 1813, following his installation as Poet Laureate. BACK

[10] Hazlitt had virulently criticised Southey for accepting the Laureateship; see Morning Chronicle, 18 September and 20 September 1813. The Edinburgh Review had been hostile to all of Southey’s Laureate productions, beginning with its review of Carmen Triumphale (1814), Edinburgh Review, 22 (January 1814), 447–454. BACK

[11] Examiner, 300 (26 September 1813), [609]–611 had strongly criticised Southey’s assumption of the Laureateship. BACK

[12] Southey was right about the Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), whose initial print run had still not sold out by 1825. But the Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) sold quickly, necessitating a second edition later in 1816. BACK

[13] In his letter to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 June 1816 (Letter 2802), Southey had asked for drinks that he had enjoyed when in the Low Countries to be sent to him London, including Parfait d’Amour, a violet-coloured, floral liqueur. BACK

[15] Herbert Southey had died on 17 April 1816. BACK

[16] Southey’s Laureate stipend was about to be paid. BACK

[17] Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene (1590–1596), Book 1, canto 7, stanza 15, line 2. BACK

[18] Southey’s article on the royalist revolts in La Vendée 1793–1796 appeared in Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 1–69, which was published on 11 August 1816. BACK

People mentioned