2714. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 13-[14] February 1816

2714. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 13-[14] February 1816⁠* 

Tuesday 13 Feby. 1816

My dear G.

I began the inclosed [1]  in a wanton mood several weeks ago, – & finished it this evening, – after having spent the greater part of the day on the sopha because of a sore throat. It is meant either for the Times or the Courier, & divided as you see into three doses, that each may operate separately upon the patient, who, you must know, is exceedingly sore under the lash. But it is as well perhaps that it should not go out in my hand writing, which is known at both places: so I wish you would take the trouble to transcribe & send it, either to one or the other; – one chapter at a time, with the promise of more. And show it to no one except the Mag-Rot: who belonging to the Secret Office is a great master of secrecy



I have got rid of my sore throat, which was yesterday so bad that I could swallow no solid food, & even liquids gave me great pain. Edmondson however enjoins more physic tomorrow, & in obedience to his injunction I must play the part of Pomp. [2]  I have got your letter. The poem [3]  is coming to you for Pople; one canto is transcribed & detained only for a reason which may seem ridiculous, – that I have not determined whether to place another portion which was first written, as the Introduction, or as the Conclusion. [4] 

Find out for me some thing about the Prince of S Cobourgs family – what relation he is to the General who defeated Dumourez at Tirlemont, & what his arms are. [5]  An easy weeks work will compleat what you saw in London, – which I will take care to publish at [6]  the right time, & call it Nuptiæ Regales or The Lay of the Laureate. Let me know all about this gentleman who is about to be so well married, – & the sooner the better.

Be the merits of my ‘Pilgrimage’ what they may, the book will owe its sale very much to the prints & derive not a little value from them. I long to hear that they are in the engravers hands. [7]  – By the next post you shall receive part of the poem, – to night I shall either transcribe or compose as I find myself inclined, – this little indisposition has left upon me a feeling of debility.

You shall soon hear from me

God bless you


Ligny is mentioned; but not dwelt upon; so we may have the print. [8] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer
Endorsement: 13 Feby. 1816/ with Jehephary which I/ returned to R.S. on 9 Sept. 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s parodic attack on Francis Jeffrey, the ‘Book of the Prophet Jehephary’, was, on the advice of his friends, not published in his lifetime. It appeared in John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 35–42. BACK

[2] ‘Take physic pomp’: King Lear, Act 3, scene 4, line 33. BACK

[3] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo, in press and published in May 1816. BACK

[4] ‘The Return’, which became the main part of the ‘Proem’ in the published version. BACK

[5] On 2 May 1816. Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) married Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent. The General concerned was Frederick Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1737–1815), Leopold’s great-uncle; his troops defeated the French army of General Charles-François du Périer Dumouriez (1739–1823), on 18 March 1793 at Neerwinden in Belgium, after a setback at Tirlemont on 16 March. The Prince’s arms are described in the epithalamion Southey wrote for the wedding, The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanzas 19–21. Southey was particularly concerned about the Prince’s arms because he wanted to reuse sections of the poem he had initially drafted in 1814 for the Princess’s engagement to William, Hereditary Prince of Orange (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849). Comparing the published text with the draft in Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, Box B/414, shows that Southey was fortunately able to change Prince William’s ‘Belgic’ lion into Prince Leopold’s ‘Saxon’ lion (stanza 19, line 2), as the arms of the royal houses of the Netherlands and Saxe-Coburg both contained lions as their supporters. BACK

[6] Initially ‘in’. BACK

[7] George Cooke (1781–1834), engraver. BACK

[8] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), between pp. 90–91 featured an engraving of the ‘Ruins of Ligny’, site of a battle between the French and Prussian armies on 16 June 1815. BACK

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