759b. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 10 February 1803] [translation] 

759b. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 10 February 1803] [translation]⁠* 

Ah you Dog! - & that’s my answer to your card Mr Bedford.

I have many things to do. I had Coleridge with me, and he made me lose a great deal of time. My eyes are always bad when the east wind blows, and during the winter months it is always blowing. I have – God only knows – how many books to review! [1]  big books, medium-sized books, and little books of every kind, which of necessity must all be killed off without delay. That is still another reason why I did not write.

I copied a great part of the second book of Kehama for your reverence, but I deliberated upon the propriety of adding some verses. Hence that delay. I hope during the coming week, God willing, to send you the book. [2] 

There are several things to say concerning the translation. I am quite angry that any man in the year of our Lord 1803 should waste his time translating a part of Ovid, [3]  seeing that we have a sufficient number of translations of that poet – and good enough – and as critics say of that epistle, recently translated, very well done. It is worthless labour, a flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication! If you are going to translate, take something not done before, something from the Silvae of Statius, [4]  the fragments of Valerius Flaccus, Claudian, [5]  or better still go to the Greeks, to Hesiod, or Apollonius, or perhaps to Nonnus, [6]  whom I very much wish to read. It is best not to translate at all because the best translator always injures the original. Although he eats good meat, he does not send forth good meat. He loses the odour and taste in the digestion. Even if your genius is not so good as Ovid’s, it is better than Ovid at second hand.

I shall write again as soon as possible. Farewell.


* Address: To/ G C Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ London
Postmarks: BRISTOL/ FEB 10 1803; [partial] B/ 11
Endorsement: 10 Feby. 1803 <1803>
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 23. ALS; 2p. The Latin version (original) is to be found in Letter 759b.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 307-308. BACK

[1] Southey was reviewing these for Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803). BACK

[2] Southey finally sent Grosvenor Bedford a draft of Book 2 of The Curse of Kehama (1810) on 9 March 1803 (see Letter 764). BACK

[3] Anon., Four Heroick Epistles of Ovid; Translated into English Verse (1803). BACK

[4] Publius Papinius Statius (c. AD 45-c. 96), Silvae (c. AD 89-96). BACK

[5] Gaius Valerius Flaccus (d. c. AD 90), who wrote an unfinished epic poem, the Argonautica; and Claudian (d. c. AD 404), who also wrote an unfinished epic, De Raptu Proserpinae (c. AD 395-397). BACK

[6] Hesiod (c. 8th century), author of Works and Days and Theogony; Apollonius of Rhodes (d. after 246 BC), author of the epic poem, the Argonautica; and Nonnus (c. 4th-c. 5th centuries AD), author of the epic poem, Dionysiaca. BACK

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