1241. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 December 1806

1241. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 December 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Of all the proof sheets which ever travelled to me in the course of twelve years hard authorship this is the most infamously incorrect. [1]  You had better send me the revise that I may not be made to talk as much nonsense in the preface, as the poor Poets are in the Specimens – If you do not think I have said enough now of Isaac Reed [2]  – alter it to your own taste. In speaking well of living men I am apt to feel a modesty for them with which I have no business.

As for the Index it need be nothing more than a chronological one prefixed to the first volume with reference to the pages – & an alphabetical one of the authors at the end of the last. Send me by favour of his Honour a set of the sheets & I will make out a list of Errors. three poems I know must be cancelled – that upon Felton as not being Buckinghams [3]  & two by Gildon [4]  & Amhurst [5]  – because no woman could read them aloud, & no man in a womans presence. —

Amos Cottle was born in 1766 [6]  – If I do not get Churcheys [7]  Biog. in time omit him as well as poor Botch [8]  – & Sir John Moore [9]  also. Bunbury promised to send me his po[MS torn] & they may perhaps arrive – if not no matter

I cannot tell how to alter the Title page —

My dear Grosvenor about those ballads [10]  you talk as if there were originals instead of imitations. One is in an artificial metre – because it is an artificial poem – full of prettinesses & nothing more, – & Englished in the manner & spirit of the original – merely doing for a newspaper – not because it was worth doing – but because I am obliged to do something. The others are equally in the manner of the originals – & one of them the conclusion of one of them one of the finest specimens of that sort of bold personification which I have ever seen – had it been in Greek you would have had it for ever instanced as the true sublime. To put such a ballad into polished rhyme would be an show as utter as a want of all feeling & all sense of the character & merit of the original as Pope shows of Homer. [11]  The merit of these translations is that they are faithful representations of the original both in manner & matter.

If you knew how <the inconvenience> you have incon occasioned & the vexation by keeping D. Luisa [12]  so long it would give you the belly ache – therefore I hope you will not know it.



Friday. Decr 12 1806


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr
Endorsement: 12 Dec 1806
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey was correcting the proofs for his and Bedford’s jointly edited anthology, Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[2] Isaac Reed (1742–1807; DNB), literary editor and book collector, whose library Southey made use of for his anthology. He died before the Specimens were published. Southey says of him ‘The worthy heart of Mr. Isaac Reed would have rejoiced to have known the advantages I have derived from his rare Library, and still rarer knowledge; but while I am adding one more testimony of esteem and thanks to the many due to him, I hear of an event, which places him beyond my praise or my gratitude’, Specimens of the Later English Poets (London, 1807), I, p. v. BACK

[3] George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687; DNB): politician, wit and writer, whose father, also George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628; DNB), favourite of James I (1566–1625; DNB), was murdered by John Felton (c. 1595–1628), an army officer, in Portsmouth. The 2nd Duke’s poems are included in the Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 29–32. Here Southey is arranging to omit a poem about Felton. For the text of the poem, see Poems and Songs Relating to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham; and his Assassination by John Felton, August 23, 1628, ed. Frederick W. Fairholt (London, 1850), pp. 77–78. BACK

[4] Charles Gildon (c.1665–1724; DNB): poet and critical writer, slated in Alexander Pope’s (1688–1744; DNB) The Dunciad (1728) and Epistle to Arbuthnot (1735). See Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 243–246. BACK

[5] Nicholas Amhurst (1697–1742; DNB), a poet and political writer, who published the satirical Terræ Filius; or, the Secret History of the University of Oxford (1726). A selection from his works is featured in the Specimens of the Later English Poets, I, pp. 394–398. BACK

[6] Amos Simon Cottle, author of Icelandic Poetry, or, The Edda of Saemund, Translated into English Verse (1797) which included a dedicatory poem by Southey. Cottle’s work was not included in Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

[7] Walter Churchey (1747–1805; DNB), a Welsh poet who published Poems and Imitations of the British Poets in 1789. He is not included in Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). Southey had asked for information on him from Joseph Cottle; see Southey to Joseph Cottle, 11 August 1806 (Letter 1210) and 2 November 1806 (Letter 1232). BACK

[8] ‘Botch Hayes’ was Samuel Hayes (d. c. 1795), a master at Westminster School during Southey’s time there. He was renowned for being lax on discipline, so much so that Southey later recorded that pupils used to ‘stick his wig full of paper darts’. Hayes was also a writer of poems and sermons, and co-author of a tragedy, Eugenia (1766). BACK

[9] John Henry Moore, 2nd Baronet (1756–1780; DNB), published a volume of poems entitled The New Paradise of Dainty Devices in 1777, reissued in 1778 with some new pieces as Poetical Trifles. His poetry was not included in Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

[10] Probably, poems derived from Spanish and Portuguese books, which Southey intended to include in a volume of poems on Spanish and Portuguese history: ‘Garci Ferrandez’, which was published in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811), in Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and Poetical Works (1837–1838); ‘Queen Urraca and the Five Martyrs of Morocco’, which had been published in the newspaper that William Taylor edited, The Iris, on 3 November 1804. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), V, pp. xxiv and 517; 406–413. BACK

[11] Alexander Pope’s (1688–1744; DNB) translation of Homer’s Iliad (1715–1720) and Odyssey (1726). BACK

[12] Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza (1568–1614), was a Spanish missionary who devoted herself to the cause of the Catholic faith in England during the reign of James VI and I (1566–1625, King of Scotland, England, and Ireland 1603–1625; DNB). An account of her life was written by Luis Muñoz (d.1646) as La Vida y Virtues de la Venerable Virgin Dona Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza in 1632, and was summarised by Southey in the third edition of his Letters from Spain and Portugal (1808). BACK

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