2785. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 10 May 1816

2785. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 10 May 1816⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

The Senhora says that the beginning of your letter has given her the stomach ache for the rest of the evening, – & that she has unluckily no assafelidated snuff to comfort her. It was a wicked trick she says.

There can be no other objection to what Herries suggests, – than the sort of impropriety which may appear in asking permission which you have already taken for granted in or you would not have printed the poem. I wish Herries would present it himself & make the request verbally – suppose that leave were asked to dedicate to her. [1] 

The delay which this will occasion in publishing is so much the better, for undoubtedly the Long men are right in wishing to let the Pilgrimage have the field to itself for a while. [2] Murray even thought it injudicious to publish the Pilgrimage, as in some degree diverting the public eye from Roderick [3]  – but he was wrong. However Longman will <must> not advertise the poem till the day of publication, both for this reason & also because of what Herries has advised,

I cannot alter Dream because of the rhyme. [4] 

If guardant [5]  be wrong it is your friend the Heralds error, [6]  & not mine, – he says Guardant in the paper which you transmitted me

strange means extraordinary, – therefore the fit word. [7] 

Ere now, if you please [8] 

I feel the objection about St Paul, & am unable to remove it [9] 

I cannot tell whether skïey be the best orthography, but the word must be, – because it is only in celestial blue that Hope can be clad. [10]  The word is analogically formed

I have not the lea slightest objection to printing the two lines in capitals. Thy kingdom come is certainly meant in that place with an earthly application, – ‘in earth as it is in heaven’. [11]  I am glad you feel these lines as they were written

The L’Envoy is compleatly in keeping with the tone <character> & manner of the poem, – & compleats the Elizabethan tone of the whole. It grew out of my own sense of fitness, – certainly not from any other feeling. [12] 

I assuredly think of this Lay as you do. You may do me good service by reviewing the Carmen, the Odes, the Pilgrimage & the Lay at once, as the Laureates poems; [13] 

I am glad to have my mind occupied for a while by such things as this. If sympathy were of any avail, no man I believe ever had more of it – I do not think any like event would have affected so many persons with sincere sorrow. I shall soon strike off the beginning of my intended poem – perhaps the last poem of any considerable extent that I shall ever undertake, – the one which will be most generally felt & understood, & perhaps produce most good. Say not a word of this, – for only to you have I hinted it. It will be Herberts monument & mine. [14]  I do not contemplate this undertaking without a kind of pleasure, & I must practise more & more that alchemy which can extract pleasure from each hope & comfort from affliction. But no more.


You mistake the L’Envoy if you conceive it as implying any feeling of indifference, – far otherwise, – the book is cast on the waters in fait the belief that it is good, in the hope that it may fare according to its desert, – in the faith that it will be found after many days.

I send you the few notes which are required. The title page I think will look better without my name, the English title implyi designating the author sufficiently. [15]  – My plans of printing verse have been changed more than once in conformity to the advice of others, – my own opinion is that as we spell words in prose as they ought to be written and not as they are pronounced, therefore making no elision in the verb, we ought to do the same in verse. Every body will read pleased & appeared &c as disyllables. In verse however it sometimes happens, tho very rarely, that a syllable usually which is usually quiescent is to be pronounced, – the word beloved is the perhaps that which is most often in this predicament, – I know two poets (no matter what of merit, – they are authorities in such a cases) who wish this were denoted by a mark, & one of them has used the mark of t a long syllable in Latin – for this purpose. [16]  I have preferred the .. the meaning of which any person who reads French or Latin will instantly recognize. As for redd I thought it was you yourself who advised me to write redde a short time since & not caring myself which way it were written I thought to please you. [17]  Red is certainly the lawful spelling – but it has a scarlet look with it, & is therefore to be avoided, – so if you please I will stick to the old mumpsimus. [18] 

Let there be two copies of the Lay bound precisely alike, one for Edith my Governess, & one for the Prince of Cobourgs; [19]  & do you send my Governesss, down in a treasury frank, as carefully as you did the prints. – You will settle with Herries about the mode of presenting, & whether the simpler way will not be for me to write a no few lines with it; as short & as respectful as possible (without asking any permission, or saying any thing about her petty-toes. Something to this effect that I have endeavoured to discharge my duty upon an occasion of great national joy, by producing something worthy to hold a place hereafter in the national literature, – that it had been my pride & my pleasure If we ask leave to dedicate, this can easily be managed by not striking off more than the two title pages than for the two Court-copies till the leave be granted. [20]  Do you determine all this.

They have made a provoking a blunder in printing the Pilgrimage in boards – by placing the half-title to the Proem as if it were a half title to the Book. [21]  When you get your own copy bound see that this is rectified.

Remember me to all at home

God bless you


10 May. 1816.

If Lord Wm Gordon [22]  is to present it he x Harry will take it to him for that purpose with a letter from me. I am quite upon terms to ask such a favour of him.


* Endorsements: 10 May 1816; 10 May 1816./ Recd 13. May
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey refers to his wish to dedicate The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816) to its subject, Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent. The poem was written to celebrate her marriage to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) on 2 May 1816. Permission was finally granted to dedicate the volume to the Princess. BACK

[2] Southey’s publishers delayed publication of The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816) so as to lessen its competition with The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) published earlier in May. BACK

[3] A fourth edition of Roderick, the Last of the Goths was published in 1816. BACK

[4] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘Proem’, stanza 20, lines 5–6;’“And hast not thou, my Soul, a solemn theme?”/ I said, and mused until I fell into a dream’. BACK

[5] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 19, line 1: ‘Guerdant before his feet a lion lay’. ‘Guerdant’ replaced ‘Guardant’ in the manuscript. BACK

[6] At Southey’s request, Bedford had sought advice on Prince Leopold’s Coat of Arms from Joseph Hawker (c. 1766–1846), Richmond Herald 1803–1838, Norroy King of Arms 1838–1839, Clarenceux Kings of Arms 1839–1846. His day job was as a Clerk in the Bank of England 1792–1834 and this may be how he encountered Grosvenor Bedford. ‘Guardant’ was the correct heraldic term to describe the position of one of the lions supporting the arms of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, as it faced outwards; ‘guerdant’ is not a term in heraldry (or English). In Southey’s Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), X, pp. [1]–132, the error was silently corrected and ‘guardant’ reappeared. BACK

[7] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 26, line 6; ‘For some strange pageant sure a prelude meet’. BACK

[8] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 49, line 4; ‘Ere now for that most sacred charge hath Heaven’, changed from ‘Ere this for that most favoured Church hath for Heaven’. BACK

[9] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 68, contains a description of the annual charity service in June each year in which children educated in Church schools sang in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. BACK

[10] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 70, line 3; ‘a virgin clad in skiey blue’. BACK

[11] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 82, lines 5–6 (the first of which is a paraphrase of Matthew 6:10); ‘Thy kingdom come! thy will be done, O Lord!/ And be Thy Holy Name through all the world Adored!’ BACK

[12] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘Epilogue’, stanza 13 was headed ‘L’Envoy’: ‘Go, little Book, from this my solitude …/ I cast thee on the waters: . . go thy ways!/ And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,/ The world will find thee after many days./ Be it with thee according to thy worth: . ./ Go, little Book! in faith I send thee forth.’ BACK

[13] Southey hoped Bedford would review Carmen Triumphale (1814), the ‘Congratulatory Odes’ (1814), The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) and The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816) in the Quarterly Review, but no such review appeared. BACK

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

[15] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (London, 1816), pp. 70–77, contained the poem’s limited notes. Southey’s name did appear on the title-page. BACK

[16] Unidentified. BACK

[17] See Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 2 March 1816, Letter 2731. BACK

[18] A traditional custom or notion adhered to although shown to be unreasonable. BACK

[19] Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, who married Princess Charlotte on 2 May 1816. 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


[21] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), p. 1. BACK

[22] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823) owned the Waterend estate on the west side of Derwentwater. He was married to Frances Ingram-Shepherd (1761–1841), sister of Isabella Ingram-Shepherd (1760–1834), second wife of the Marquis of Hertford, the Lord Chamberlain. BACK

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