3587. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1820

3587. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1820⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

The third & last portion of the Vision [1]  goes by this post, but the frank will be too heavy to take any thing else under its cover, so I direct this to Stafford Row first for the purpose of acknowledging the half notes, & secondly to have a little talk with you at the distance of three hundred miles.

Poor Hyde! [2]  I am truly sorry to hear of his death, my introduction to him by you in 1801, & the scene which followed when he denied the existence of the coat on my back, being one of those things not to be forgotten, – but now no longer to be remembered with the same kind of hilarity. By all means pay my bill to the widow; & if the business is continued on her account, she shall have my custom, – a kind of debt this which one owes to an honest man.

Next, when you are near your tea-dealer (N.B. do not go out of your way to do it, but, at your leisure, there being no hurry) order for me 24 pounds of souchong at 6/6d. 3 Do at 8/. 3 Do at 10/ & 6 pounds of green at 10/. If this be paid for when it is bought, I suppose you are entitled to the usual discount of five per cent, which is worth asking for.

Now concerning the Vision. You may growl as much as you like. But before you begin to put on your critical cap, observe with respect to the metre, that I write upon the postulate of using in the four first feet of the verse, any foot of two or three syllables: the English hexameter in this respect bearing the same loose resemblance to the Latin, that the English heroic verse of ten syllables does to the ancient Iambic verse, after which it is sometimes called. This of course is to be explained in the preface. [3]  – I have tried the verse upon ears enough to judge of its effect. Those persons who were most inclined to disapprove, were shaken in their decided prejudice against it. Wynn instead of exclaiming against the possibility of the design, objected to the quantity of one or two syllables. – Bowles protested against the attempt, & acknowledged its success when he heard the first thirty lines. Wordsworth & Barry xxxx Cornwall [4]  admit it to be a legitimate English metre, no ways unsuited to the language. – You can answer for its effect upon your own ears. No person has thought it forced, or uncouth or ludicrous. Recollect I do not propose it as a better metre than blank verse; any more than I should offer xxx venison as a better thing than turtle, – but as something else, there being room for both. Let it be abused, – I care not. I have wished for <more than> twenty years to make the experiment, & the experiment reconciled me to a subject which I should otherwise not willingly have taken up.

You & Longman may determine whether to print it in common quarto or in foolscap quarto. [5]  The poem you see will make 38 pages – notes & preface may extend it to nine sheets, which if a good thick paper be used may make a substantive appearance in boards. If the common quarto be preferred, it must be printed in the same type as Roderic, – with a running title, & twenty lines in a page.

To whom shall I dedicate it? Not to Elmsley I think, for the reason which you gave, & which I anticipated. The great Peter I hope will pay me a visit next summer; & one of these days I will prefix his name to something to which he will have no dislike. [6]  – When you have perused the whole, you will judge whether there be any thing in the matter which would make a dedication to the King improper. If there be not, I should like to do it, – because my blood is up, – & x it would gratify me at this time to wear the Kings colours. Perpend this, if it is to be done, I suppose it would be decorous to ask permission, & that I can do thro Lord Wm Gordon, [7]  or Sir Wm Knighton. Should there be any unfitness, as perhaps there is, I may very likely address it to Wordsworth.

God bless you

RS.

21 Dec. 1820.


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 23 DE 23/ 1820
Endorsements: 21 Decr 1820/ with the last part of the/ “Vision of Judgment”; 21 Decr 1820
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 221–223 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[2] Hyde (d. 1820) was Southey’s London tailor. BACK

[3] A Vision of Judgement (1821), ‘Preface’, pp. ix–xxvii. BACK

[4] Wordsworth’s view of the applicability of hexameters to English was certainly not uncritical; see Southey to William Taylor, 20 February 1800, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 491. Bryan Procter (1787–1874; DNB) wrote under the pseudonym, ‘Barry Cornwall’. Southey possessed presentation copies of his Dramatic Scenes (1819) and A Sicilian Story (1820), no. 617 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] A Vision of Judgement (1821) was published as a quarto volume. The ‘Preface’ occupied 18 pages, the poem itself ran to 46 pages, and the ‘Notes’ and ‘Specimens’ a further 31 pages. The poem was printed with a running title and about 20 lines per page, as Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) had been, and was dedicated to George IV. BACK

[6] Southey’s The Book of the Church (1824) was dedicated to Elmsley. BACK

[7] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), son of Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon (1720–1752). He owned the Waterend estate on the west side of Derwentwater and was married to Frances Ingram-Shepherd (1761–1841), sister of Isabella Anne Ingram-Shepherd (1760–1834), second wife of the Marquess of Hertford, the Lord Chamberlain. BACK

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