2788. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 May 1816

2788. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 May 1816⁠* 

Wednesday 15 May. 1816

My dear G.

I received a proof [1]  on Monday, kept it as is my custom four & twenty hours for due consideration, & sent it back by yesterdays post. It contains the first 15 stanzas of the dream. So that all to which you or Wynn object up to that point is irrevocable, – & to let you into a secret had the case been otherwise, not a syllable of it would I have altered. The Guards indeed I admit to have stood there <only> for this apparent cause – that the throng which they repelld – is a true & lawful rhyme, – which is cause sufficient. [2]  But as for Dream it would have been mere waste of time to have changed the word, if it could have been done in that place, – in my judgement (quoad the use, & weight & current value of words I am not disposed to submit it to any mans) – there was not the slightest reason for changing it. [3] 

Stanzas 30–1- are meant to be congratulatory. [4] 

If egotism in poetry be a sin God forgive all great poets! But perhaps it is allowable in them when they have been dead a few centuries, – & therefore they may be permitted to speak of themselves & appreciate themselves provided they leave especial orders that such passages be not made public <statute> till the <critical> limitation expires. How can Wynn be weak enough to suppose that the man who wrote that third stanza [5]  would be deterred from printing it by any fear of reprehension on the score of vanity! Who is to reprehend him? None of his peers assuredly: not one person who will sympathize with him as he reads, – not one person who enters into his thoughts & feelings, not one person who can understand the strain & enjoy it. Those persons indeed may who live wholly in the present, – but I have taken especial care to make it known that a faith in hereafter is as necessary for the intellectual as the moral character, & that to the man of letters (as well as the Xtian) the present forms but the slightest portion of existence. – He who would leave any durable monument behind him must live in the past, & look to the future. The poets of old scrupled not to say this, – & who is there that is not delighted with these passages whenever the event has justif time has set his seal upon the prophecy which they contain?

____

My spirits do not recover; [6]  – that they should again be what they have been I do not expect; – that indeed is impossible. But except when reading or writing I am deplorably depressed; – the worst is that I cannot conceal this; – to affect any thing like my old hilarity, & that presence of joyous feelings which carried with it a sort of perpetual sunshine, is of course impossible, – but you may <well> <well> imagine that the absence of all this must make itself felt. The change in my daily occupations, – in my sports, my relaxations, my hopes – is so great that it has chan seems to have changed my very nature also. Nothing is said, – but I <often> find anxious eyes fixed upon me & watching my countenance. – The best thing I can say is that time passes on, & sooner or later remedies every thing.

____

So you have put me in large paper, & your whole list of nominees consists of my friends! [7]  Thank you. I will have the books bound separately, – because a book is a book, & two books are worth as much again as one, – & if a mans library comes to the hammer this is of consequence, – & whenever I get my knock-down blow, – the poor books will be knocked down after me. – But when did I touch upon this string! – Alas Grosvenor it is because all things bear upon one subject, – the centre of the whole circumference of my natural associations.

I should like Nash to have one of the vacant copies: – a proper compliment to a man who has laid me under a great obligation; – & upon whom I have farther designs of the same kind. John May will thank you very heartily – he is one of the best men living. – I hope Elmsley gets all my books according to my instructions: he has an ungracious way of never acknowledging them, & therefore I never know whether he has received them or not. – See in your copies that the half title to the Proem [8]  be put in its right place

God bless you

RS.

Remember; small copies for my Governess & the Prince of Cobourg’s. [9] 


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 18 MY 18/ 1816
Endorsement: 15 May 1816/ Recd 18 May – 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 183–185 [in part]. BACK

[1] A proof of The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanzas 1–15. BACK

[2] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 7, lines 2–4: ‘And I too in my dream was borne along/ Eftsoon, methought, I reached a festal hall/ Where guards in order ranged repelled the throng’. BACK

[3] 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

[4] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanzas 30–31 congratulated Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) on their marriage on 2 May 1816, wishing them ‘blessings for their bridal bed’ and ‘The joys from which domestic virtue flow’. BACK

[5] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816),’Proem’, stanza 3 features ‘Fancy’ addressing the poet: ‘“For what hast thou to do with wealth or power,/ Thou whom rich Nature at thy happy birth/ Blest in her bounty with the largest dower/ That Heaven indulges to a child of Earth, . ./ Then when the sacred Sisters for their own/ Baptized thee in the springs of Helicon?”‘ BACK

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

[7] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), no. 2693 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, described as: ‘plates, India proofs, calf extra, gilt leaves LARGE PAPER, not printed for sale: a Presentation Copy from G. C. Bedford, with his autograph’. BACK

[8] The half-title to the ‘Proem’ of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), p. 1, had been misplaced by the printers. BACK

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

People mentioned

Nash, Edward (1778–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)
Elmsley, Peter (1774–1825) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)

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