2348. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [c. 15–17 December 1813]

2348. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, [c. 15–17 December 1813]⁠* 

Dear Senhora

I think there must be something omitted in one of your extracts. No. 27 P 262 “The hatred of the name of a Frenchman in Spain has been such the reality will by no means justify.” [1]  Pray refer to the passage. I dispatched my notes yesterday, & cannot have the proof of them before Saturday, so there is time to verify the extract. Thank you & Miss H. for your trouble — they are choice specimens, & plenty of them. The expression about strutting & fretting I remember to have seen, & it must have been in an early number for 1810. But it is of no consequence, for you have sent enough to put them to shame, — & they may remain for a battery in reserve, whenever I am disposed to open another.

It never occurred to me that any reserve could be required in this unhappy poem, — & this want of foresight proves that I thought of the poem & of nothing else. Rickman feels respecting it as you & Wordsworth have done. So I have sent it to Croker in order at once to ascertain the point, & so fully do I expect your apprehensions will prove just, that I have set about a different conclusion. So the best stanzas will most likely be cut off, & sent as a separate whole to the Courier. [2]  The whole has cost me ten times the time & trouble that it is worth. I have given it a Latin name rather than call it an ode, — for it is rather an oration in verse than anything else. The first proof is on my desk.

Farewell Doctor Barker. I want your AEsculapiaship [3]  to look at my finger which I burnt wickedly with sealing wax on Wednesday, & the blister ever since continues to fill as fast as I puncture it.

I have a nephew born at St Helens.

A Deos, Senhora!



* Address: To/ Miss Barker
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 424-425
Dating note: this letter was written after Southey had sent his letter to Croker on 15 December 1813 (Letter 2349), but before he received proofs of his poem on Saturday, 18 December 1813. BACK

[1] Mary Barker and Wordsworth’s sister-in-law, Sara Hutchinson, had been making extracts from the Edinburgh Review to provide Southey with material for his notes to Carmen Triumphale (1814). The fourth note to the published poem quotes Edinburgh Review, 14 (April 1809), 262: ‘The hatred of the name of a Frenchman in Spain has been such as the reality will by no means justify.’ BACK

[2] Carmen Triumphale, Southey’s first official poem as Poet Laureate, was extremely controversial and much altered prior to publication. Five stanzas were considered by Croker and Rickman to be inflammatory Southey bowed to pressure and deleted them from the version published as a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. He incorporated the deleted stanzas into an ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’, published in the Courier, 3 February 1814. BACK

[3] Aesculapius, the god of medicine. BACK

People mentioned

Hutchinson, Sara (1775-1835) (mentioned 1 time)
Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)