3053. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1817

3053. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1817⁠* 

Keswick. 21 Dec. 1817.

My dear G.

The Ode [1]  is not worth altering. It is precisely one of those compositions which are not bad, – only good-for-nothing.

Ferrybridge I believe is over the Aire & there it was that Clifford was killed by an arrow in the face in a sort of prelude to the tremendous battle of Towton. [2]  You will stare perhaps to hear, that beginning to look into Halls Chronicle [3]  with reference to this ode & to the thing I was thinking of xxxx in which Sir Thomas More was to be introduced, [4]  – I went fairly thro the whole volume.

The gentle daughter of Edwards line, – is the very personage who occasions this ode, [5]  – the tense should indicate this.

The flower of Howards line (you may write Norfolks if you please to avoid the echo between flower & Howard) is Lord Surry. [6] 

Had I liked it well enough to have bestowed more time upon it there would have been two other stanzas. Upon upon One upon Charles Brandon, [7]  – that cloth of frize

In its gallantry of old
Bravely matchd with Cloth of Gold.
Cloth of frize & Cloth of Gold
Both are now but funeral mold.

& here might have been a fair opportunity of alluding to Prince Leopold. [8]  The other stanza would have related to the Princess Amelia. [9] 

You will find blood in the same stanza where life is used for it. [10] 

So enough of this pepper-corn rent charge. If I had pursued my notion of the Boethian book [11]  I might have endeavoured to mend them, as I should have interspersed some half dozen poems – one I sent to Dog Star. [12]  I had planned another concerning the King, [13]  – another about Windsor itself. My plans you know are generally wide ones.

I shall have a good paper for Gifford. [14]  (By the bye when next you have a cat to go thro the torture of the Boot, you cannot employ a more expert operator.) [15]  he will not receive it quite as soon as I purposed, – because I am waiting for some communication of importance. – I shall not give the slightest hint of displeasure either to him or the Megistos.

My life of Wesley [16]  comes on marvelously. I never was so much set upon any work as this.

Do not forget the large paper Pilgrimage [17]  the Spanish MSS. & Shedaws tooth tincture. The girls thank you by anticipation for their Almanacs.

You will have to pay Nash for certain picture frames from the next quarter. Sirius also will have a trifling demand upon you from the same funds, – & the great Hyde [18]  will swallow up the rest.

Remember me to the Magister Rotuloram & Miss Page & so

God bless you


Is there no tidings of my books??? I am in despair about those from Milan & wonder exceedingly where the Brussels cargo can be delayed. [19] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 24 DE 24/ 1817
Endorsement: Recd 21. Decr 1817 pd/ Recd 24 Dec./ corrections of Ode & small commissions
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 December 1817 (Letter 3050) for his New Year’s Ode for 1818, commemorating Princess Charlotte, who had died in childbirth, after 18 months of marriage, on 6 November 1817. Southey did not publish this until 1828, when it appeared as ‘Funeral Song for the Princess Charlotte’, in Friendship’s Offering: A Literary Album and Christmas and New Year’s Present, for 1828 (London, 1828), pp. 1–6. BACK

[2] An allusion in the ‘Funeral Song for the Princess Charlotte’, lines 45–51. John Clifford, 9th Baron de Clifford (1435–1461; DNB), was killed at the Battle of Ferrybridge, just before the Battle of Towton, on 29 March 1461 – one of the bloodiest battles fought on English soil. BACK

[3] Edward Hall (1497–1547; DNB), The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke (1542), commonly known as Hall’s Chronicle. It had been republished as Hall’s Chronicle, Containing the History of England During the Reign of Henry IV and the Succeeding Monarchs to the End of the Reign of Henry VIII (1809). BACK

[4] Southey had conceived the ‘Funeral Song for the Princess Charlotte’ as part of a longer work that would feature the ghost of Sir Thomas More (1478–1535; DNB). Southey’s idea eventually bore fruit in his prose work Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). BACK

[5] Lines 65–66 of the ‘Funeral Song for the Princess Charlotte’ refer to the Princess herself, a descendant of Edward IV (1442–83; King of England 1461–1470 and 1471–1483; DNB). BACK

[6] Line 105 of the ‘Funeral Song for the Princess Charlotte’ refers to Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1516/1517–1547; DNB), poet and courtier and son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473–1554; DNB). The published version was amended to ‘the pride of Norfolk’s line’. BACK

[7] Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk (c.1484–1545; DNB), courtier, soldier and brother-in-law of Henry VIII (1491–1547; King of England 1509–1547; DNB), was also buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. He was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520), a lavish diplomatic exchange between Henry VIII and Francis I (1494–1547; King of France 1515–1547) held just outside Calais. But Southey’s verses also refer to the rhyme: ‘Cloth of Gold, do not despise/ To match thyself with Cloth of Frieze./ Cloth of Frieze, be not too bold,/ Though thou art matched to Cloth of Gold’. Brandon had these words inscribed on the trappings of his horse at a tournament, following his wedding in 1515 to Princess Mary (1496–1533; DNB), Henry VIII’s sister. Here ‘cloth of frieze’, a rough cloth worn by the poor, indicated Brandon’s humble background as the son of Sir William Brandon (1456–1485) an obscure Cambridgeshire gentleman; but one who was still ‘matched’ to Princess Mary, who is here represented as ‘Cloth of Gold’, the finest of fabrics. BACK

[8] Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865), Princess Charlotte’s widower. BACK

[9] Princess Amelia (1783–1810; DNB) was Princess Charlotte’s aunt. She, too, was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. BACK

[10] Line 103 of ‘The Funeral Song of the Princess Charlotte’ refers to ‘Boleyn’s blood’. Anne Boleyn (c. 1501/1507–1533; DNB) was Henry VIII’s second wife. He annulled their marriage and ordered her execution. BACK

[11] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). One of its models was Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 480–525), De Consolatione Philosophiae, a dialogue between the author and the character of Lady Philosophy, consisting of both prose and verse. BACK

[12] ‘Lines Written upon the Death of the Princess Charlotte’, eventually published in The Amulet, or Christian and Literary Remembrancer (London, 1829), pp. 91–92. BACK

[13] George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain and Ireland 1760–1820; DNB). BACK

[14] ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308, based on Rickman’s information. BACK

[15] The ‘torture of the boot’ was a medieval form of torture that involved crushing or boring the foot or lower leg; here Southey refers both to William Gifford’s former profession as a bootmaker and his tendency to mangle Southey’s Quarterly Review articles to fit the journal’s views and style. BACK

[16] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[17] Southey had a few presentation copies of his Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) printed in a larger more luxurious manner. BACK

[18] Hyde (d. 1820) was Southey’s London tailor. BACK

[19] The consignment of books Southey had bought in Milan and Brussels in 1817. BACK

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