3601. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 January 1821

3601. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 5 January 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 5 Jany. 1821.

My dear G.

If I could ever be induced for fear of exciting a ludicrous association, to leave undone what I had intended to do, or to make any alteration contrary to my judgement in what I had done, I should be as heartily ashamed of myself, as the Ape is in Cha-Cupn’s favourite print, who is asking the Fox to spare him a portion of his brush, [1]  with an appeal to the necessity of the case expressed so excellently in his gesture, that you will be as much amused at it as your Godson when I shew it you. Both Odes shall be published with the Vision, the twenty pages which they will make, being twenty good reasons for that measure. [2]  – As for altering the movement of the six stanzas, you may as well ask me for both my ears, or advise me to boil the x next haunch of venison I may have, which, next to poaching a Simorghs egg, [3]  would, I conceive, be the most inexpiable of offences. I cast them purposely in that movement, & with fore thought. And as Miss Page <says> I am sure, if you were to xxxx me hear me read them, you would feel how justly the tenor was pitched.

In Nomine Domini [4]  why should the rest of the world think meanly of me for offering a <deserved> compliment to Haydon? [5]  or for what possible reason consider it as a piece of flattery to a man who might fancy it his interest to flatter me, but whom I can have no imaginable motive for flattering? – This point however you will press no farther when I tell you that the very day after the passage was written, Haydon himself unexpectedly appeared; – that I read him the poem as far as it had then proceeded, & that he, who from the nature of his profession desires contemporary praise more than any thing in the world, except abiding fame, values it quite as much as it is worth. – You have shown me that I was mistaken about Handel: yet I think the lines may stand [6]  because the Kings patronage of his music is an honourable fact. [7] 

I have to insert Sir P Sidney among the elder worthies, & Hogarth among the later, perhaps Johnson also, [8]  if I can so do <it> as to satisfy myself with the expression, & not to seem to give him a higher praise than he deserves. Offence I know will be taken that the name of Pitt [9]  does not appear there. The King would find him among the eminent men of his reign, but not among those whose rank will be confirmed by posterity. The Whigs too will observe that none of their idols are brought forward: – neither Hampden, nor their Sidney, nor Russell, [10]  – I think of the first as ill as Lord Clarendon did, [11]  – of the last no better than I do of his descendants & concerning Algernon Sidney, it is certain that he suffered wrongfully, but that does not make him a great man. If I had brought forward any man of that breed it should have been old Oliver himself, [12]  – & I had half a mind to do it, as his bleaching must be over by this time, & his greatness nobody can call in question.

Nash lives at No 2. Duchess Street. Portland Place; very near the Dogstars.

I have finished the explanatory part of the Preface, touching the metre, – briefly, fully, clearly, & fairly. It has led me (which you will think odd, till you see the connection) to pay off a part of my obligations to Lord Byron & T. Moore, by some observations upon the tendency of their poems (especially D Juan) [13]  – which they will appropriate to themselves in what proportion they please. [14]  This I know, that the passage will do me credit in every way, & may possibly produce some good. – If Murray knew how much his character has suffered by that transaction about D Juan, I think he would hang himself; & if Gifford knew what is said & thought of the QR. for its silence concerning that infamous poem, I verily believe it would make him ill. Upon that subject I say nothing. The passage is a powerful one, & will be felt & talked of

Tomorrow I hope for a proof sheet. I am in good humour with the Vision, & with the Ode. – I long to see Westalls drawings: he is to chuse his own engraver for them. [15] 

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ JA/ 1821
Endorsement: 5 Janry. 1821
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 26. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), V, pp. 54–56 [in part]. BACK

[1] An illustration of the fable ‘The Ape and the Fox’, derived from fifteenth-century additions to Phaedrus (fl. 1st century AD), Fabulae Aesopiae. Cuthbert Southey had possibly been looking at the print in the engraver Thomas Bewick’s (1753–1828; DNB) The Fables of Aesop and Others (London, 1818), p. 319. BACK

[2] ‘The Warning Voice. Ode I’ and ‘The Warning Voice. Ode II’, the New Year’s Odes for 1820 and 1821, were not published until they appeared in The Englishman’s Library: Comprising a Series of Historical, Biographical and National Information (London, 1824), pp. 381–389. They were not published with A Vision of Judgement (1821). Bedford was providing Southey with advice about ‘Ode II’. BACK

[3] The simurgh was a fabulous bird in Iranian mythology. It appeared prominently in Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[4] ‘In the name of God’. BACK

[5] A Vision of Judgement (1821), Canto 11, line 45, where Haydon appeared among ‘The Young Spirits’. Southey’s most recent publication in the Quarterly Review was a review of Benjamin Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818), which appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591. BACK

[6] stand: written over ‘stay’. BACK

[7] Georg Friedrich Handel (1685–1759; DNB), German-born composer, appeared as one of ‘The Worthies of the Georgian Age’ in Vision of Judgement (1821), Canto 10, lines 7–8, where George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) was described as Handel’s ‘munificent pupil and patron’. However, Handel had died before George III became King, and Handel had never taught the young monarch or received any payments from him. Southey here suggests that the lines are intended to mean that George III was a patron and student of Handel’s music, which was undoubtedly true. BACK

[8] The poet Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB) did not gain entry into ‘The Elder Worthies’ (Canto 9) of A Vision of Judgement, nor did the writer Samuel Johnson (1709–1784; DNB) make it into ‘The Worthies of the Georgian Age’ (Canto 10), where the artist William Hogarth (1697–1764; DNB) was a last-minute addition (lines 11–12). BACK

[9] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. BACK

[10] John Hampden (c. 1595–1643; DNB), Algernon Sidney (1623–1683; DNB) and William Russell, Lord Russell (1639–1683; DNB), opponents of the power of the Stuart monarchs. Sidney and Russell were executed for their part in the ‘Rye House Plot’; Russell was from the same family as the Dukes of Bedford, staunch Whigs. BACK

[11] Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (1609–1684; DNB), upholder of the Stuart cause, was notably critical of Hampden in his The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (1702–1704). BACK

[12] Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB). He did not make an appearance in A Vision of Judgement (1821). Cromwell’s body had been disinterred from Westminster Abbey in 1661, posthumously executed and hanged in chains at Tyburn. His skull was on display on a pole outside Westminster Hall until 1685, by which time, as Southey suggests, its ‘bleaching’ should have been completed. BACK

[13] The first two Cantos of Byron’s Don Juan (1819), published by Murray. The coruscating and hilarious ‘Dedication’, which attacked Southey and others, had been suppressed (and was not published until 1833), but Southey knew of its existence. BACK

[14] A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), ‘Preface’, pp. xvii–xxii, where Southey denounced ‘the Satanic school’ of poetry without naming any one poet. BACK

[15] Westall produced the following six sketches of Lake District scenes that were engraved for Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829): vol. I: ‘Druidical Stones near Keswick’, ‘Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite-water, and Skiddaw, from Walla Crag’, and ‘Derwentwater from Strandshagg’; and vol. II: ‘Crosthwaite Church and Skiddaw’, ‘Greta Hall, Derwentwater, and Newlands’, and ‘Tarn of Blencathra’. A variety of engravers was employed. BACK

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