2710. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 February 1816

2710. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 February 1816⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

I thought I had fully explained every thing about the prints. [1]  The Long Men thought, & therein, I agreed with them, that the poem should be printed in the small size. The full size therefore of plate which this will allow does not exceed four inches in length by about 2¾; of this size therefore the view of Waterloo Church should be, & the three views of Hougoumont, (i.e. the two internal & the one outside view.) – I give up Ligny, because it is better to confine the illustrations to the British subjects exclusively. [2]  There remain as points of great historical interest & no beauty whatever La Haye Sainte, La Belle Alliance, & Les Quatre Bras; [3]  & Mr Nashx will be the best judge in what manner these are to be disposed of. Vignettes are out of the question unless they were affixed to each canto, & the subject of the different cantos will not allow of this. I think they must be given in the same size as the others, but in a slighter manner, – etching, or mere outline, – the others being well engraved.

The sooner they are in hand the better. Tom left me this morning, – I xxxx mutter aloud when I versify, & therefore poetry must needs stand still with me unless I am alone, or feel as if I were so. Now I go on again. There will be six cantos. The Journey, Brussels, the Field of Battle, Belgium, The Vision – & the Return, besides these an ode or Song of Victory if I can make one, – but the sample which you have seen is not very encouraging. I am disposed to let the Proem stay where it is, & reserve it for its original destination, if that should ever be accomplished. [4]  About 100 lines of the fifth canto are written, – & when this is finished, nothing remains but to fit The Return for the conclusion, xxxx it was originally designed as the Introduction. There must be notes for the sake of needful bulk, – xxxx I shall trouble Jeffrey with a few, just to keep his blister open. [5]  If I make him angry he will rail, otherwise he would overlook the book in malice; xxxx to be abused by him is always profitable, – & therefore as a matter of calculation I shall s will set him on.


This is a trying season for age & infirmity, – your mothers symptoms <indeed> do not seem of a nature to be much influenced by the time of year, & this is favourable. You will of course let me hear soon, & frequently, of her state. It happens to few men to live so long with their parents as you have done. Your feeling & forebodings I can well understand & sympthasize with. – Men marry for love, for interest, or for comfort: you are too old to be influenced by the first of these motives, – too good for the second; – are you philosophic enough for the third? – Shall I pursue the subject?


Keswick. 9 Feby. 1816


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer
Endorsements: 9 February 1816; 9 Febry. 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Engravings for The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[2] St Joseph’s Church at Waterloo, the farmhouse Chateau d’Hougoumont (the site of fierce fighting), and the Battle of Ligny on 16 June 1815 (two days before the Battle of Waterloo). Waterloo Church appeared as the frontispiece to The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), Hougoumont between pp. 58–59, pp. 68–69 and pp. 70–71, and Ligny between pp. 90–91. Ligny was not a ‘British’ subject because it was a battle between French and Prussian forces. BACK

[3] La Belle Alliance (an inn, near where Wellington met Blucher at the conclusion of the fighting) appeared in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), between pp. 56–57; La Haye Sainte (a farmhouse that was fiercely contested in the battle) appeared between pp. 62–63; Les Quatre Bras (a battle two days before Waterloo) appeared between pp. 88–89. All of these engravings derived from drawings by Edward Nash, except for ‘Entrance to Hougoumont’, between pp. 58–59, which was taken from one by Charles Bell (1774–1842; DNB). BACK

[4] The published poem featured a ‘Proem’, and two Parts, each containing subsections. Part One, ‘The Journey’, contained ‘Flanders’ ‘Brussels’, ‘The Field of Battle’ and ‘The Scene of War’; Part Two, ‘The Vision’, contained ‘The Tower’, ‘The Evil Prophet’, ‘The Sacred Mountain’ and ‘The Hopes of Man’. It did not include a ‘Hymn of Victory’, of which Bedford had seen three stanzas, which Southey had submitted as the Poet Laureate’s ‘New Year’s Ode’ for 1816. ‘The Return’ became the ‘Proem’ to the poem and Southey abandoned his intention to reuse the fifty stanzas he had written, in March–June 1814 to celebrate the engagement of Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, to William, Hereditary Prince of Orange (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849). He had to abandon the poem when the engagement was broken off, but he was able to reuse most of it, not in The Poet’s Pilgrimage but in his Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), which celebrated Charlotte’s marriage to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) on 2 May 1816. BACK

[5] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) featured 35 pages of notes; they did not include gibes at Francis Jeffrey, as the notes to Carmen Triumphale (1814) had done. The poem was not reviewed in the Edinburgh Review. BACK

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