2776. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 May 1816

2776. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 May 1816⁠* 

1 May. 1816

My dear G.

You have here the Lay of the Laureate, [1]  concerning which you know my indifference, – an indifference perhaps proceeding from a state of mind which feels little interest in any thing. [2]  The Senhora here threatens to quarrel with you fiercely if you disadvise the publication, & she abuses me bravely for having suggested such a thought. This however will not intimidate you. I have only to say that if it be published Longman will use his own judgement in every respect as to form, & number of the edition. I rather think it had better be in the small size like the Pilgrimage, [3]  – in which it will make three sheets; – to which a note or two may be added merely indicating the passages which I have imitated, or referred to, in Spenser, & another poet of the same age. [4]  It will be very thin, – but still might be put in boards to give it a local habitation on the shelf. When my devoir was done by publishing it separately, hereafter I might print it with the Carmen Tr. the Carmina Aulica or Congratulatory Odes, – & the Inscriptions in one volume with the title of Poems upon public occasions – or some such thing to the same purport. [5] Pople must send me the proofs, & the relative advantages of expedition for the occasion, or delay for the sake of the Pilgrimage, Longman must determine. The vellum is not worth thinking of, – unless you think otherwise. But I sho would have two copies bound precisely alike, – one for presentation, – & the other for Edith, as a state-copy, & an heir-loom. [6] 

Edith May compleats her twelfth year, this day.

I gain strength, – but rather lose spirits. To employ myself without intermission is impossible, – but in the intervals I can scarcely refrain from tears. Conversation does me no good, – on the contrary, it exhausts me more than study, – Koster takes me out daily for an hours walk & I never feel myself so deprest as on my return, – bodily weakness is not the cause of this, for certainly I am much recovered.

It is better that these feelings should have a channel opened for them I think of beginning a poem as desultory as the Task, & containing my mind as that contains Cowpers. [7]  Consolation might be a proper title, – & if it be not fit for publication while I live, it will af hereafter. My scenery would be here, & Nash or the Senhora would make me some drawings for it. But this is a kind of thing whereof you can form no conception unless I entered into longer details, – you will probably I shall soon begin, –

God bless you



* Endorsement: 1 May 1816/ Recd 4 May./ with Carmen Nuptiale
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816) was a wedding gift celebrating the marriage of Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) on 2 May 1816. BACK

[2] Herbert Southey had died on 17 April 1816. BACK

[3] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816) was indeed published in duodecimo like The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[4] The notes to the Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (London, 1816), pp. 70–77, credited Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene (1590–1596), Book 1, canto 10, and Thomas Storer (c. 1571–1604; DNB), ‘Wolseius Moriens’ from his The Life and Death of Thomas Wolsey (1599) for inspiring phrases in Southey’s poem. BACK

[5] This proposed volume never appeared. Carmen Triumphale had been published in 1814; it and Carmen Aulica – the ‘Congratulatory Odes’ that Southey had addressed in 1814 to the victorious allied sovereigns, the Prince Regent, Alexander I (1777–1825; Tsar of Russia 1801–1825) and Frederick William III (1770–1840; King of Prussia 1797–1840) – were collected in a publication of 1821. Eighteen Inscriptions commemorating sites and people of significance in the Peninsular War (mostly written in 1814–1815) were not collected until Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 122–156. BACK

[6] The copy of The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), no. 2694 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, was described as ‘elegantly bound in morocco, lined with silk, richly tooled, and gilt leaves.’ BACK

[7] Southey began, but did not finish, such a poem, entitled ‘Consolation’. Sections were published after his death as ‘Fragmentary Thoughts Occasioned by his Son’s Death’ in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 93–95, and ‘Additional Fragment, Occasioned by the Death of his Son’, Poetical Works of Robert Southey. Complete in One Volume (London, 1850), p. 815. Southey suggests here that the poem would be in the style of The Task (1785) by William Cowper (1731–1800; DNB). BACK

People mentioned

Barker, Mary (c. 1780–1853) (mentioned 2 times)
Koster, Henry (1793–1820) (mentioned 1 time)
Nash, Edward (1778–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)