2731. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 March 1816

2731. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 March 1816⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

I have got rid of two or three defects, & shall probably make more amendments in the proofs. ‘Here was the heat & centre of the strife’ [1]  removes the awkward expression about La Haye. & you may have the younger twain instead of births for poor Berthas sake, – which is altered entirely to please you. [2] 

The names of rivers are among the Propria quæ maribus [3]  in Latin, but in English where precedent does not stand in the way we he them or she them at pleasure. Thus Cam is a male creature & Isis a Lady stream. [4]  Thames & Medway have had their nuptials celebrated in immortal song. [5]  Schedlt I think therefore might either be Mynheer or Myvrouw [6] 

Barton is a legitimate English word in common use, meaning I believe precisely what I there wanted to express an inclosed farm yard. [7] 

I have no objection to streak, if you think that line rather means a horizontal than a perpendicular mark – The context makes it clear which is meant but I would as willingly use one word as the other, & as streak occurs no where else in the poem, that is a reason why streak it should be. [8] 

You will observe that your ‘not hallowed’ came directly after the word spot. However I must get rid of the two lines; because I have some which resemble them too nearly afterwards, & as you say unhallowed is equivocal. [9] 

The proposed transposition is impracticable as you will xxxx <perceive> upon reperusal. The final stanzas come in their place, in the description of the field; & relate what has been done to the field, – how the vestiges of war have been removed. At Hougoumont the remarkable circumstance is that the garden has suffered nothing, but was just as it would have been if there had been no battle. I suspect that my conscience will not be satisfied till I have inserted something more about that garden, – but the humour must come first. [10] 

Let me use my tongue Grosvenor, – for what can I do without it.

You mistake the use of the ë. It is only employed in those cases where the e being commonly, or at least frequently mute, is to be in that place pronounced, – such a word for instance as beloved which is as often made three syllables as two, or two as three.

And now let me exhort you if you chuse to xxxx <write> the perfect tense of the pre verb to read differently from the present (which I agree with you is very desirable) not to give it the antiquated of redde for which is no xx analogy in our language. – If you are afraid that red may be mistaken for scarlet, redde mihi rationem [11]  why redd may not be used without the mute e at its tail?


Currente calamo [12]  has been the excuse for much careless writing, but my gallopping calamus [13]  really becomes too bad; & may very well puzzle any body for it often puzzles myself. I almost doubt whether you will be able to decypher what I wrote upon the receipt of your last; – & half resolve to <upon> attempting to amend a vile habit, more easily <to be> explained than justified.

The first proof came yesterday, it likes me well. I have laid down my chariot in it, [14]  – for as the line stood it looked very much as if I had kept one – I have got rid of the licentious ran, tho by substituting something which is more obnoxious to minute criticism, & some other trifling amendments are made. The poem tho alas at some distance still from its completion, is perfectly mapped out; – it divides itself as compleatly as Madoc [15]  into two parts, & I am provided with Greek mottos for each, of decorous & learned appearances, & another for the title page. [16]  At present I am in a part of the vision which promises well in all respects.

By the by I should <like> to have proofs of the prints sent down, – not to make remarks upon them, but to please myself & the children.

God bless you


2 March 1816


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 5 MR 5/ 1816
Endorsements: 2 March 1816; 2. March 1816. No. 4/ Answers to observations on Pilgrimage to Waterloo
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 3, ‘The Field of Battle’, stanza 21, line 2 has ‘Here was the heat and centre of the strife’, replacing ‘For there was here’, a phrase to which Bedford had objected. See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 25 February 1816, Letter 2726. BACK

[2] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 24 February 1816, Letter 2724. In the published Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), ‘Proem’, stanza 11, line 1, ‘births’ was changed to ‘twain’. BACK

[3] The section of William Lily (c. 1468–1522; DNB), Accidence (1542), the most popular school text on Latin grammar that dealt with the gender of nouns. BACK

[4] The rivers flowing through, respectively, Cambridge and Oxford. BACK

[5] The marriage of the Thames and the Medway is celebrated in Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queen (1590–1596), Book 4, canto 11. BACK

[6] ‘Mr or Mrs’ in Dutch. In The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 3, ‘The Field of Battle’, stanza 30, line 1 this river is gendered masculine. BACK

[7] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 3, ‘The Field of Battle’, stanza 41, line 5: ‘And spacious bartons, clean, well-walled around’. BACK

[8] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 3, ‘The Field of Battle’, stanza 48, line 1: ‘One streak of blood upon the wall was traced’. ‘Streak’ replaced ‘line’. BACK

[9] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 3, ‘The Field of Battle’, stanza 26, line 6: ‘Here on a spot unhallowed by the dead’. In stanza 54, line 5 of the same book, ‘hallowed’ was changed to ‘consecrate’. BACK

[10] Despite this assertion, the order of the stanzas was altered. The stanzas that appeared in print as The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 3, ‘The Field of Battle’, lines 32–55 preceded lines 18–31 in both surviving manuscripts of the poem at the Huntington Library, San Marino, HM 2733 and at the Houghton Library, Harvard, MS Eng 934. The farmhouse, Chateau d’Hougoumont, was the scene of fierce fighting at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. BACK

[11] ‘Give me a reason’. BACK

[12] ‘Written at once, without making a rough copy first’. BACK

[13] ‘Quill pen’. BACK

[14] In The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), ‘Proem’, stanza 5, line 2, ‘chariot wheels’ was replaced with ‘wheels at length’. BACK

[15] Southey’s Madoc (1805) was divided into two sections: ‘Madoc in Wales’ and ‘Madoc in Aztlan’. BACK

[16] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) was divided into two Parts: ‘The Journey’; and ‘The Vision’. The motto for the whole was from Pindar (c. 522– c. 443 BC), Pythian 2, lines 62–63: ‘I shall embark upon a garlanded ship to celebrate your excellence’. ‘The Journey’ bore a motto from Aeschylus (c. 525–456 BC), Agamemnon, lines 461–462, ‘For the gods are not heedless of murderous men’; ‘The Vision’ has a motto from Pindar, Olympian 2, line 89: ‘Now aim the bow at the mark, come my heart’. BACK