747. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 January 1803

747. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 January 1803 ⁠* 

Phil. Gros. Phil. Quasi φιλος – not as the diminutive of Φιλιππος [1] 

To your last thus make I my responses. I have Halhed’s book. [2]  when he wrote it he was an Unbeliever, & he has now taken a double dose of faith to make atonement. I have also gutted Picart [3]  – that is the third volume – for the set to which I had access, as usual extend no farther. now however I may have the complete work in French by sending for it. Lady John Russel [4]  left a copy to my Uncle. you are right in the size of the notes. but not right in ending one, & beginning another upon the same leaf, for the advantage of having them written on detached pieces of paper is that they may be arranged at last & sent to press without farther trouble. palpably – is perceptible to touch – feelably. her breath was to be felt. Man Almighty does not prove too much. he exerted no power over Kalyal. he thought her dead, & did not enquire whether or not she was preserved. ‘She hath escaped my power.’ tyrants have often used the phrase. old such a one is released, said some one to Charles 2 [5]  – speaking of an old puritan minister above eighty years confined in his persecution. who has dared release him – replied the K. I had swore he should never be released ––. a greater than your Majesty was the answer. [6]  I forget the old mans name but he was a venerable good old man. Burning by force has been done. Bernier [7]  saw it done an instance & he is the chief writer whom I have followed in the ceremony. by the by a list of the authors whom I have gutted may save you some trouble. Bernier. Tavernier. [8]  all in Picart. all in Lintot & Osborns folio collection. [9]  Maurices worthless volumes. [10]  Sonnerat [11]  the most methodical writer. all Sir W Jones [12]  – & the Asiatic Researches. [13]  Fra Paolo de San Bartholomeo – except his Systema Brahmanicum for which I have sent to Leghorn. [14]  Pietro della Valle. [15]  the Baptist Missionaries accounts. [16]  Halheds Code. Hodges. [17]  Mandesloe. [18] 

There is no occasion to send paper to the bookbinders to make it fit. I have half a ream of one family – the most lasting benefit of my Secretaryship. [19] 

The motto to Kehama is a text & story of the poem the Sermon. Curses are like young chickens. they always go home to roost. Twas one of the thousand & one odd sayings of an odd relation of mine. an old Uncle [20]  in the house with whom I lived many years. he was what we call in this country ‘half saved’ – that is not an Idiot but something like it. He never could learn to read – tho he could write – that is lay the Collect in the prayer book before him, & he would transcribe it in a fair hand – but the Devil a line or word either in print or writing could he make out. Of course the man was fit for nothing – he spent his life in chawing tobacco & getting drunk – on small beer if he could get nothing better. playing cards with children for nothing, & cheating if he could. I could write a long letter about my Uncle William but all that is to the purpose is that he had picked up all the quaint sayings in the country – & I wish I could remember half of them. but I shall quote Gul. Avun [21]  in my title page, or if you like to put his name in Greek it may look more ancient & venerable. [22] 

On this then the poem hinges. the Curse operates to preserve Kalyal. in all its parts from Water he <it> has saved her already. the second book you will soon have – in it Laderlad leaves his daughter sleeping. (I have no authority for any of the names. the Sanscreet propria quæ maribus [23]  were so unmendably uncouth.) A Grindouver, i.e. the most beautiful of all xxxxxx the good spirits – finds her under a manchineel. he carries her first to the dwelling of old Casyapa the father of the Gods (– for whom see Sacontala [24] ) then to the Sorgon the paradise of Indra. he takes a liking to her – but Kalyal will not remain in Paradise without her father, & Indra, for fear of the almighty Rajah will not permit Laderlad to enter. Ereenia therefore goes to earth with Kalyal – they build a hut in an lonely place, & feed Laderlad with the Sorgon fruits – but Kalyal will not assent become Ereenias wife till her father is completely safe. Arvalan – master of the Elements – raises a hurricane – & destroys their home. Kalyal is seized, the Sorgon fruits have so increased her beauty that she is chosen for the wife of the Idol Jaggernaut: & exposed for violation in the temple. there Ereenia protects like her – like the Devil in Tobit. [25]  till he is overpowerd at last by the Asoors or evil spirits – Arvalan comes again in flesh to violate Kalyal – & she in despair fires the temple. Laderlad rushes in unharmed & bears <her> safely thro. how he comes, in time is not yet quite ascertained; but I rather think Sanchanaga the King of the Snakes whose breath is the Simoom, gave him a lift.

Well – they find in Bely – or Mahabely the judge of Padalon about whom there is a long story – how he was Almighty & Veeshnoo came down incarnate to destroy his power. but he being a good man was only made justice of the peace in hell, & is allowed to come upstairs once a year to see the Illuminations which are made on purpose for him. he gets overpowered also, & Kehama smites has smitten Kalyal with leprosy. Bely leads her to the Lake of Healing & Immortality – but she will not share her fathers sufferings. this last friend is forced from them. Ereenia then ventures to seek the throne of Seeva. Brama & Veeshnoo had in vain sought to find it – their motive was presumption. his being good he finds the great God & complains to him that there is Injustice upon the earth. Seeva answers only Yamen – Death – can help Laderlad & his daughter.

Yamen keeps the Amreeta. Kehama only wants the liquor of immortality to be master of all things above & below. he overtakes Ereenia Laderlad & Kalyal on their way to Padalon – drags them at his chariot wheels & forces Yamen to produce that Amreeta whose blessing only one mortal is ever to enjoy. Kehama drinks. that liquor imbibes the quality of the hand that holds it. to the wicked it is the draught of eternal anguish. the wrath-eye of Seeva falls upon him & heats him red-hot – & so he remains for ever. the cup is then given to Kalyal – & she now immortal becomes the wife of an Immortal. Laderlad joins them in the Sorgon, but he passes thro the Dark Portal.

All this will easily develope & naturally connect as the Poem goes on. I have a second sight feeling that certain parts, & in particular the conclusion will be very grand. Ereeni[MS torn] most beautiful of all beings, his wings shaped like the glums in Peter Wil[MS torn] [26]  membrane not feather – dark blue – & the bone bran or cartilage that branches thro them, like mother of pearl.

If pauper Ego had not four things besides to do, two more important & two less so than Kehama – he would soon be dispatched. I mean to publish Madoc [27]  first – perhaps because, modestly speaking, Madoc is to make me Chief Consul in poetry & then I may venture the queerness of Kehama safely. & because Madoc will sell best. next winter I calculate to have it compleat, & I shall print it by subscription & take as much profit from the booksellers as I can – whereby I hope to make 250£ by an edition of 500 quarto. Now I am calculating household furniture upon this fund – & actually last night wrote enough to set off against a close stool – huzza nothing like a light heart! the texture of the inexpressibles must vary with the season – as thin as you like in summer. now the Monthly Reviewer [28]  talks of Mr Southeys predilection for melancholy. Stern talks of the Reviewers of his Breeches [29]  the gentleman critic never saw my summer pantaloons.

RS.                                                                                                                           Jany. 2. 1803


* Address: To/ G C Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: [partial] 122
Postmark: B/ JAN 2/ 1803
MS: Houghton Library, bMS Eng 265.1 (7). ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Latin and Greek translate as: ‘Great friend. Like a friend, not as the diminutive of Philip’. BACK

[2] Nathaniel Brassey Halhed (1751-1830; DNB), A Code of Gentoo Laws (1786), no. 1167 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Halhed subsequently became a follower of the prophets Richard Brothers (1757-1824; DNB) and Joanna Southcott (1750-1814; DNB). BACK

[3] Bernard Picart (1673-1733), Ceremonies et Coutoumes Religieuses de Tous les Peuples du Monde (1723-1743). Volume 3 contained descriptions and illustrations of Hindu practices. BACK

[4] Southey probably means Lady Georgina Russell (c. 1768-1801), wife of Lord John Russell (1766-1839; DNB), from 1802 the 6th Duke of Bedford. She spent two years in Lisbon for her health. BACK

[5] Charles II (1630-1685, King of Great Britain 1660-1685; DNB). BACK

[6] Southey did not remember this quite correctly. The Puritan minister was William Jenkyn (1613-1685; DNB), but when he was arrested in 1684 he was only seventy-one years old; see Edmund Calamy (1671-1732; DNB), The Nonconformist’s Memorial, 2 vols (London, 1775), I, p. 100. BACK

[7] Francois Bernier (1625-1688). Southey cites a Collection of Travels … being the Travels of Monsieur Tavernier, Bernier and Other Great Men, 2 vols (London, 1684), I, pp. 100-101. BACK

[8] Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605-1689), Les Six Voyages en Turquie, en Perse, et aux Indes (1692), no. 2780 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] A Collection of Voyages and Travels, Some now First Printed from Original Manuscripts, Others now First Printed in English (1744), published by Henry Lintot (1703-1758; DNB) and John Osborn (dates unknown). BACK

[10] Thomas Maurice (1754-1824; DNB), Indian Antiquities (1792-1796) and History of Hindostan (1795-1799). BACK

[11] Pierre Sonnerat (1748-1814), Voyage to the East Indies and China (1788), no. 2614 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[12] Sir William Jones (1746-1794; DNB), Britain’s foremost orientalist. BACK

[13] Asiatic Researches, or Transactions of the Society for Inquiring into the History and Antiquities &c. of Asia (1801-1811), no. 77 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[14] Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo (1748-1806), Systema Brahmani, et Liturgicum Mythologicum (1791), no. 2143 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] Southey possessed a number of versions of the travels of Pietro della Valle (1586-1652), including: an eight-volume French translation (1745), no. 2239 in the sale catalogue of his library; a two-volume Dutch translation (1666), no. 2881 in the sale catalogue of his library; an English translation (1665), no. 2894 in the sale catalogue of his library: and an Italian edition (1667), no. 2931 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[16] Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society, for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen (1800), no. 2213 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey reviewed this work in Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 207-218. BACK

[17] William Hodges (1744-1797; DNB), the first English landscape artist to visit India (1779-1785), and author of Travels in India 1780-1783 (1793). BACK

[18] Johann Albrecht von Mandelslo (1616-1644), in Adam Olearius (1603-1671), The Voyages and Travels of the Ambassadors from the Duke of Holstein … whereto are Added the Travels of J. Albrecht de Mandelslo (1662) no. 1937 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[19] i.e. Southey’s erstwhile employment as secretary to Isaac Corry. BACK

[20] William Tyler (dates unknown), the half-brother of Southey’s mother. BACK

[21] An abbreviation of the Latin for ‘Uncle William’. BACK

[22] The title page of The Curse of Kehama (1810) carried the motto in Greek and attributed it (in Greek) to ‘The unedited sayings of William of Met’. BACK

[23] The Latin translates as ‘things which are deemed appropriate’. BACK

[24] Sir William Jones, Sacontala, or The Fatal Ring; an Indian Drama by Calidas (1789). BACK

[25] In the apocryphal Book of Tobit, the devil, Asmodeus, abducts and kills all of Sarah’s seven husbands on their wedding night. BACK

[26] Robert Paltock (1697-1767; DNB), The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, a Cornish Man, 2 vols (London, 1751), I, title page, described how the eponymous hero visited ‘the Country of Glums and Gawrys, or Men and Women that fly’. The novel also contained illustrations of a Glum’s wings (vol. I, between pp. 192 and 193). BACK

[27] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[28] Monthly Review, 39 (November 1802), 250, in a review (ibid., 240-251) of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[29] Laurence Sterne (1713-1768; DNB), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 9 vols (Dublin, 1759-1767), VII, p. 66. BACK

People mentioned

Corry, Isaac (1753–1813) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)