3051. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 17 December 1817

3051. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 17 December 1817⁠* 

Keswick. 17 Dec. 1817.

My dear G.

Thank you for the halfnotes. – Your letter falls in even as I should wish it to do with my own inclinations. Public events as you well know are things upon which ex proprio motu [1]  I should never write a single verse, having a proper dislike to such subjects. You have now the exercise-verses for the Mus Doc, [2]  & so till the next years pepper-corn rent [3]  becomes due – if I live so long, that score is discharged.

The more I consider the matter about emancipating myself from any engagement which subjects me to the controul of an editor, the more I perceive & feel the fitness of so doing. And regarding it as I ought to do, without any feeling of anger, I shall consult my own perfect convenience in the matter: & leave the Murraymagne to discover that I find other modes of composition more agreeable if not more profitable. – Tant mieux [4]  for certain works which have been too long shoved aside by his egregious Journal. [5]  I have done a little of late to the Tale of Paraguay: & will compleat it forthwith for publication in the course of the season. [6]  & when this is done, the time which would have been otherwise allotted to reviewing, will suffice in the course of twelvemonths to carry me thro Oliver Newman: [7]  – I can calculate upon myself for these things. Certain indeed it is that reviewing costs me full thrice the time that any other species of composition does.

As for political affairs I have nothing to do with them now. The battle has been won. that indeed was a cause for which had it been needful, I would have spent something more precious than ink. At home there is an appearance of security for some time to come. And when I touch upon political topics it will be with a wider range & a longer view than belongs to any temporary topics. I have abundant materials marked out for Espriellas second travels, [8]  – & this I have no doubt will pay me to the full as well in money as the xxxxxxxx Maecenas of Albemarle Street [9]  could do, – & far better in reputation. This is the only vehicle in which I could write with perfect freedom, such is the advantage afforded by speaking sometimes in an assumed character sometimes thro it, – & leaving it to the readers sagacity to discover the one if he can.

The Voyage dans le Belgique [10]  was not left here. – Farewell – Whether I shall conclude the evening by a spell at my poem, or at the Life of Wesley, [11]  is doubtful just now, – & will be decided while I am folding up & directing this letter –

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 20 DE 20/ 1817
Endorsement: 17 Decr 1817.
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 83–84 [in part]. BACK

[1] ‘Of one’s own accord’. BACK

[2] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 December 1817 (Letter 3050), which contained Southey’s verses commemorating Princess Charlotte, who had died in childbirth, after 18 months of marriage, on 6 November 1817. Southey intended his ‘Funeral Song for the Princess Charlotte’ to serve as the Poet Laureate’s New Year’s Ode for 1818, with a selection of verses set to music by William Shield, the Master of the King’s Music (though no performance of such an ode had taken place since 1810). Southey did not publish his poem until 1828, when it appeared in Friendship’s Offering: A Literary Album and Christmas and New Year’s Present, for 1828 (London, 1828), pp. 1–6. BACK

[3] A nominal rent; in this case the next New Year’s Ode that Southey would be required to write as Poet Laureate. BACK

[4] ‘So much the better’. BACK

[5] The Quarterly Review. BACK

[6] A Tale of Paraguay was not completed and published until 1825. BACK

[7] Southey never finished this epic poem on colonial New England. BACK

[8] Southey never completed a second instalment of his Letters from England: By Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella (1807). BACK

[9] Murray’s firm was based in Albermarle Sreet, London. Gaius Cilnius Maecenas (70–8 BC) was a wealthy patron of poets. BACK

[10] Jean Baptiste Joseph Breton De La Martin (1777–1852), Voyage dans la ci-devant Belgique, et sur la Rive Gauche du Rhin (1802). Bedford had visited Greta Hall earlier in 1817 and thought he had left the book behind him. BACK

[11] The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

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