3221. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1818

3221. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1818⁠* 

Ode [1] 


Death has gone up into our Palaces!
The light of day once more
Hath visited the last abode
Of mortal Royalty.
The dark & silent house.


But not as when the silence of that vault
Was interrupted last, [2] 
Doth England raise her loud lament
Like one by sudden grief,
Surpriz’d & overpower’d.


Then with a passionate sorrow she bewaild
Youth on the untimely bier;
And hopes that seemd like full-swoln buds
Just opening to the sun,
For ever swept away.


The heart then struggled with repining thoughts,
With feelings which almost
Arraignd the inscrutable decree,
Embitterd by the sense
Of all that might have been.


This grief hath no repining. All is well,
What hath been, & what is.
The Angel of Deliverance came
To one who, full of years,
Awaited her release.


All that our fathers in their prayers desired
When first their destin’d Queen
Set on our shores her happy feet,
All by indulgent Heaven
Had largely been vouchsafed.


The household Virtues held their place at Court.
The marriage bed was blessd;
Domestic Purity maintaind
Her proper influence there,
And length of days was given.


No cause for sorrow then, but thankfulness,–
Lifes business well performd,
When weary Age lays down its load,
And falls asleep, to wake
In immortality.


Long long shall England hold her memory dear
And future Queens to her
As to their best example look; –
Who imitates it best
Will best reserve our love.

My dear Grosvenor

I send you as bad an exercise as I ever shewed up at Westminster. [3]  flat as a flounder, & absolutely good for nothing; – fit indeed to be fiddled, – but fitter to be bum-fiddled. They were written doggedly, – there was nothing in my head, & therefore nothing could come out of it: – but in pure courtesy to the composer [4]  (my old enemy being defunct) I put the words into a regular stanza, in order that the music which does for five lines, may do for all. Transmit it to Shields with my compliments, – & if you see him, say something xxxx civil to him on my part, – for I have met him formerly at poor Mr Barbaulds, [5]  & should be glad to meet him again.

Tell me who James Fontaine [6]  of Hornsey is, – a friend of Mr Fielding [7]  thro whom, & {so} thro you he meant to have introduced a subject to me, – which he has now done in a xxx more direct way. – A book about Eternal Punishment on which I am sure he is right in the main. But his book is far too long, & wants method. And he does not seem to know that the same opinions have been held by others before him.

God bless you


Keswick. 21 Dec. 1818.

I had almost forgotten a commission of main importance. When you go in the way of your Tea dealer send us two dozen lb. of seven shilling souchong, three pounds of ten shilling Do. & four lb. of ten or twelve shilling green. N. B. Desire them not to send it in lead, – for we have lead to keep it in when it arrives, & the lead paper last time added nearly a full third to the carriage.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 21 DE 21/ 1818
Endorsement: In Ltr of 21 Decr 1818; 21. Decr 1818/ Ode on the Queen’s death
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s annual New Year’s Ode as Poet Laureate, mourning Queen Charlotte (1744–1818; DNB), who had died on 17 November 1818. The ode was neither performed at court, nor published – until Southey let it appear in Friendship’s Offering and Winter’s Wreath (London, 1829), pp. 106–108. BACK

[2] On the occasion of the death of Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, on 6 November 1817. BACK

[3] Here Southey compares his ‘Ode’ to school exercises he undertook at Westminster School. BACK

[4] Part of the ode would need to be set to music in case it was required to be performed at Court, by William Shield, Master of the King’s Music. BACK

[5] Rochemont Barbauld (1749–1808; DNB), schoolmaster, Unitarian minister, writer and husband of Anna Barbauld. BACK

[6] James Fontaine (1778–1826) had sent Southey a copy of his Eternal Punishment Proved to be not Suffering, but Privation; and Immortality Dependent on Spiritual Regeneration; by a Member of the Church of England (1817), no. 1468 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] William Fielding (1748–1820), barrister, magistrate and son of the novelist, Henry Fielding (1707–1754; DNB). Southey had been introduced to him in 1817 in St James’s Park. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)