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


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


* 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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