2685. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 19 December 1815

2685. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 19 December 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick. 19 Dec. 1815

My dear Grosvenor

I am in some discomfort about the fiddlers & that unmannerly fellow Sir Wm Parsons, – fellows who have still a claim upon me, notwithstanding the implied condition upon which I first acceded to the situation, & Ally Crokers  [1]  promise that he would take an opportunity of speaking to the Prince, & hinting to him how proper a thing it would be to exempt an office of honour from a service which could only tend to bring it into disrepute. This he has never done, & I shall have my exercise to do as long as I hold the office, or till the Deus Lunus is old enough to do it, by way of exercise, for me. [2]  What I want to know now is, whether the verses must be ready for the New Years day, or if I have as long grace this year as there was in the last; & this I pray you learn for me with as little delay as possible: that is tell me by what time I must send <them> up. Ever since my return I have been close at work, for the most part upon this poem, the title of which will be The Poets Pilgrimage to La Belle Alliance. [3]  Hitherto it proceeds much to my liking, – it is in the six lined stanza, like the unfinished marriage-poem [4]  which you have seen, & pitched in the same Spenserian [5]  key. There is a Proem, beginning with an address to Skiddaw, passing to a picture of my return home, & so introducing the subject. Then follows the Journey, this part I may possibly finish to night, & these two parts will be about 400 lines. The Field of Battle is to come next. Then the Meditation or Lamentation; (for I have not fixed the title of this part), – the Reproof, or the Hopes of Man afterwards, & finally the Hymn of Victory, from this last the Fiddlers must be supplied; [6]  – but I should rather come to it in the regular course of composition, than lay the rest aside to get that ready like a schoolboys task.

This poem has grown under my hands, perhaps had I been aware of its extent Longman would have chosen to give it a quarto form: – for it will most probably exceed 1000 or lines, making from sixty to 70 pages, [7]  – & the notes as many more. However this is of little consequence & I have written to Mr Nash about the drawings, giving him dimensions for the small size. As soon as I hear of his arrival in London, where he is now expected, I will give you an introduction to him, & appoint you xxxxxxxxx Agent in this matter between him & the Long men. – The subjects which I think of having engraved are Waterloo Church, an outer view of Hogoumont, an inner one, & a view of Ligny; [8]  – these are all sufficiently picturesque, but I rather think Charles Bell of the Middlesex Hospital has made a better view of Hogoumont on the outside, & if it prove to be so he will give it me, [9] the x Sirius will manage this. There is another inner view of the ruins which will make a good etching, & to which we may allow double length, & I would have etched or wooden vignettes of La Belle Alliance, La Haye Saint, & Les Quatre Bras, [10]  places which have no beauty whatever, but which of which faithful representation will give an interest to the book. Of La Haye Saint we have no sketch, but we may take that from the panoramic print, unless another should offer from any private sketchbook. – I am very full of this poem at present, being quite in tune for it.

I gave Longman as a title to announce it by, merely La Belle Alliance, – there is a necessity for enlarging it as you have seen, & the new title is both more suitable & more excit likely to excite curiosity. Tell him therefore of the alteration when you see him, or if you think it worth while inform him of it by a note. – Part of my books are arrived in the Row, & I believe the Acta Sanctorum [11]  among them. Mr Vardon gives them a passage for me to Newcastle.

Murray has sent me Sir J Malcolms book to review, & I have read it for that purpose. It is just that kind of book which would enable me lead me to put more matter into a reviewal than the work itself contains, – but at a great expence of time & labour –  [12] 

I have done something to Brazil [13]  since my return, & something also to Dr Dove, [14]  – a secret which we must keep as much as possible, – for a half years secret I think would be very probably worth half a dozen editions. There is so much of Tristram Shandy about it, that I think it will be proper to take the name of Stephen Yorickson Esqre in the title page, – this is a notion only half a day old. [15]  I would give one of my ears, if I could have both yours just now to try some of this book upon them. So much of it is done, that I shall very probably put it to press in the spring. It is very doubtful at this time whether I do not lose more than I gain by giving up so much time to reviewing; – & whenever that ceases to be doubtful, huzza for a joyful emancipation!

Remember me to all at home. We are going on well – the Venerable speaks of you as ungratefully as ever, – I have had a visit from a young American physician of New York. [16]  He tells me that my note in the Courier respecting the attack made upon me in that city, was copied into the American papers. [17]  I think (& the intention arose from this knowledge) of exposing M Beauchamps theft of my Brazil thro the same channel, as the surest method of widely & effectually exposing him, – & an excellent advertisement to boot. [18] 

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9 Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 22 DEC 22/ 1815
Endorsement: 19 Decr. 1815
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 128–130. BACK

[1] A nickname given by Southey to Croker because of the latter’s use of an accentuated ‘allŷ’ in his The Battles of Talavera (1809); see Southey to John Rickman, 1 May 1811, Letter 1914. Southey was also probably recalling the title of the popular Irish song ‘Ally Croker’ (1725). BACK

[2] Southey was concerned that he was going to once again have to fulfil the Poet Laureate’s traditional duty of writing a New Year’s ode, which would be performed at court. He had expressed the wish, when taking the office, that the custom would be discontinued; see Southey to John Wilson Croker, [4 September 1813], Letter 2298. BACK

[3] The original title for The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[4] In 1814 Southey, as Poet Laureate, had started a poem celebrating the forthcoming marriage of the Prince Regent’s only child Charlotte to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, William (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849). The poem had not been published because the royal engagement was broken off in June 1814. Southey reworked the 1814 poem into The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816) to celebrate Charlotte’s marriage to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790–1865; DNB). BACK

[5] i.e after the manner of Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599; DNB). BACK

[6] Southey followed this general plan in the Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo, but he omitted the ‘Hymn of Victory’ and concluded with the ‘Hope of Man’. BACK

[7] The final poem ran to 193 pages. BACK

[8] These engravings appeared in the Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo at: frontispiece [unpaginated]; between pp. 58–59; between pp. 70–71; and between pp. 90–91. BACK

[9] 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 also held an appointment at the Middlesex Hospital. BACK

[10] These engravings appeared in the Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo at: between pp. 68–69 (though not double length); between pp. 56–57; between pp. 62–63; and between pp. 88–89. BACK

[11] Southey met with mixed success on his book-buying expedition in Belgium and France. For a while, he hoped he had bought the complete set of the rare, 53 volume Acta Sanctorum (Brussels, 1643–1794), no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. In fact he received from the bookseller a 6 volume edition of 1783–1794, no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[12] Sir John Malcolm (1769–1833; DNB), The History of Persia (1815); no. 1661 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The review of Malcolm in the Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 236–292, was by Reginald Heber, not Southey. BACK

[13] The History of Brazil, the two final volumes appeared in 1817 and 1819 respectively. BACK

[14] Dr Daniel Dove; the hero of Southey’s novel The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[15] The Doctor’s unstructured narrative bore some resemblance to Laurence Sterne (1713–1768; DNB), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–1767), which contained the character of Parson Yorick (sometimes seen as a self-portrait by Sterne). BACK

[16] Unidentified. BACK

[17] Southey had been attacked in James Kirke Paulding (1778–1860), The United States and England: Being a Reply to the Criticism on Inchiquin’s Letters, contained in The Quarterly Review, for January, 1814 (1815). Paulding was mistaken. Southey had not written the review of Charles Jared Ingersoll (1782–1862), Inchiquen, the Jesuit’s Letters, during a Late Residence in the United States of America; being a Fragment of a Private Correspondence, accidentally discovered in Europe, containing a favourable View of the Manners, Literature, and State of Society, of the United States; and a Refutation of many of the Aspersions cast upon this Country, by former Residents and Tourists. By some Unknown Foreigner (1810), in Quarterly Review, 10 (January 1814), 494–530. The author of the offending article, which was highly critical of the United States, was John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB). In response, Southey had defended himself publicly; see Southey to the Editor of the Courier, 16 June 1815, Letter 2616. For the appearance of this letter in American newspapers, see The North-American Review and Miscellaneous Journal, 1 (September 1815), 442–443. BACK

[18] Southey was considering writing a letter to the Courier to expose the plagiarism of his History of Brazil in Alphonse de Beauchamp (1769–1832), Histoire du Brésil (1815); see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 October 1815, Letter 2659. The letter was not written. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)