3625. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 February 1821

3625. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 February 1821⁠* 

My dear G.

Utrum horum? [1]  Choose which you like, & send it per post xxx <to> the Longmen. It will save time, if you correct it in the proof, – that is if you prefer the long one, – the other may be trusted to the printer.

You will perceive that I have cut down out the monitory & left the complimentary part. The compliments are so strictly true, & therefore so well deserved, that I do not like to omit paying them, especially when some additional obloquy is sure to be incurred by the payment, & when the rascally manner in which the King has been, & is treated, makes an honest mans blood flow the faster for indignation. But I do not care very much about it, because I know that after these things are once looked at, & perhaps talked of, they are thought of both by friend and foe as little as they deserve. So you will use your own with the full assurance that I shall be very well satisfied whatever may be your choice.

No proof yet of the preface or notes.

The Megistos said the same thing to me as to Gifford concerning Bulmers charges, & careless work, which I did not think worth repeating, because the motive was apparent. [2]  He appealed to the Ben Jonson [3]  in proof of coarse work & worn-out types, – he might as well have appealed to it as a specimen of the style of my book, as of what its printing would be. I dare say you have hit upon the real cause of his breach of promise. He was short of capital when he entered upon his present large way of business, & I happen to know that since that time he has been put to his shifts. – The present affair has vexed me on many accounts.

Can you get a copy of the Vision sent to Canning thro the Foreign Office? Whatever he may think of the metre, he will not be displeased at the manner in which his name is introduced. [4] Frere, I know, is favourable to the attempt. We are all tolerably well, & I am xxx beginning to train myself for exercise with you, when you make your appearance. – Tell me when the birth day is kept (me miserum!) – & if there is to be a coronation, – another evil – hanging over my head. The Laureateship is no sinecure to me. [5] 

Cupn is a fine creature, & an excellent playfellow.

God bless you

RS.

3 Feby 1821.

To

The King

——

Sir

To your Majesty alone can the present publication with propriety be addressed. As a tribute to the sacred memory of our late excellent Sovereign [6]  it is my duty to present it to your Majesty’s notice; & to whom could an experiment essay, which may perhaps be considered hereafter as of some importance in English poetry, be so fitly inscribed as to the Royal & Munificent Patron of Science, Art & Literature?

It is offered also the more willingly as a means of adding the Authors voice to that expression of loyalty & genuine upright, unsophisticated, old English feeling which is at this time making itself heard from all parts of these Islands.

Under your Majestys government the military renown of Great Britain has been carried to the highest point of glory, [7]  & from that glory there has been nothing to detract. The success was not more splendid than the cause was good; & the event was deserved by the justice, the generosity, the wisdom & the magnanimity of the counsels that prepard it. The same perfect integrity, & the same desire for the general good, has been manifested in the whole administration of public affairs. More has been done than ever before was attempted, for mitigating the evils incident to our stage of society, for imbuing the rising race with those sound principles of religion on which <the happiness of individuals & xx> the welfare of states has th<eir> only secure foundation, & for opening new regions to the redundant enterprize & industry of the nation. Under your Majestys government the Metropolis is becoming one of the finest Capitals in the world, as it has long been the greatest, sciences arts & letters are flourishing beyond all example, & the last triumph of nautical discovery, which had so often been essayed in vain, has been accomplished under the British flag. [8] 

We owe much to the House of Brunswick, [9]  & to none of that illustrious House more than to George IV. But we shall indeed owe more to him than to any of our former sovereigns, if under his reign an adequate remedy should be provided for that intolerable licentiousness of the Press by which whatever ought to be held most sacred is vilified, & insulted & attacked. Some notice of the rise of that licentiousness is taken in the following work. While the enormous evil continues, there can be no tranquillity for the nation, no safety for the state: & of the many miserable consequences which must inevitably result from its continuance a sure one would be the loss of the liberty of the press, that wholesome liberty without which no kingdom can prosper. If under your Majestys reign this evil should be effectually repressed, either by the prompt & vigorous application of existing laws, or by the enactment of such new ones as the magnitude of the abuse may render necessary, the name of William III. [10]  will not be regarded by posterity with more gratitude than that of George IV, as the Preserver of the British Constitution.

That your Majesty may long continue to reign over a free & happy people, & that the blessings of the wisest form <frame> of Government which ever under the favour of divine Providence has been raised by human wisdom, may be transmitted from generation to generation unimpaired, is the prayer of

Your Majesty’s

most dutiful subject & servant

Robert Southey.

To

The King

———

Sir

Only to your Majesty can the present publication with propriety be addressed. As a tribute to the sacred memory of our late excellent Sovereign, it is my duty to present it to your Majesty’s notice; & to whom could an experiment, which perhaps may be considered hereafter as of some importance in English poetry, be so fitly inscribed, as to the Royal & munificent patron of Science, Art, & Literature?

We owe much to the House of Brunswick; but to none of that illustrious House more than to your Majesty, under whose government the military renown of Great Britain has been carried to the highest point of glory. xx From that pure glory there has been nothing to detract: The success was not more splendid than the cause was good; & the event was deserved by the generosity, the justice, the wisdom, & the magnanimity of the counsels which prepared it. The same perfect integrity has been manifested in the whole administration of public affairs. More has been done than was ever before attempted for mitigating the evils incident to our stage of society; for imbuing the rising race with those sound principles of religion on which the welfare of states has its only secure foundation; & for opening new regions to the redundant enterprize & industry of the people. Under your Majestys government, the metropolis is becoming one of the finest Capitals in the world, as it has long been the greatest: sciences, arts & letters are flourishing beyond all former example; & the last triumph of nautical discovery & of the British flag, which had so often been essayed in vain, has been accomplished. The brightest portion of British history will be that which records the improvements, the works, & the achievements of the Georgian age.

That your Majesty may long continue to reign over a free & prosperous people, & that the blessings of the happiest form of Government which has ever been raised by human wisdom under the favour of Divine Providence, may be transmitted from generation to generation unimpaired, is the prayer of

Your Majesty’s

most dutiful subject & servant

Robert Southey


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer
Endorsement: 3d. Feby. 1821/ with Dedications of “Vision”
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 26. ALS; 7p.
Unpublished.
Note on MS: The letter contains an enclosure, which has survived: two draft versions of the Dedication to Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[1] ‘Which of these?’ The enclosures were two versions of the ‘Dedication’ to A Vision of Judgement (1821). The second shorter and less controversial text was printed. BACK

[2] History of the Peninsular War (London, 1823–1832): Southey had wished the book to be printed by William Nicol (d. c. 1855), but Murray insisted on using his regular collaborator, Thomas Davison (1766–1831). William Bulmer (1757–1830; DNB) was a celebrated printer of high-quality publications. On his retirement in 1819, William Nicol took over his business. BACK

[3] Gifford’s The Works of Ben Jonson (1816). BACK

[4] He appeared amongst ‘The Young Spirits’ in A Vision of Judgement (1821), Canto 11, lines 30–32. BACK

[5] As Poet Laureate Southey feared he would have to compose a Birthday Ode (the King’s official birthday was 23 April) and a Coronation Ode (for 19 July 1821). He wrote the ‘Ode for St George’s Day’, unpublished until Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 258–262, for the former; and avoided writing a coronation Ode. BACK

[6] George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB). BACK

[7] i.e. The final defeat of France in 1815. BACK

[8] In 1819–1820, an expedition led by William Parry (1790–1855; DNB) had been the first to cross the Arctic Circle and winter in the Arctic. It led to hopes that the north-west passage might finally be discovered. Parry documented his exploits in Journal for the Voyage of Discovery of a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific; Performed in the Years 1819–20, in His Majesty’s Ships Hecla and Griper (1821). BACK

[9] The dynasty established in 1714. BACK

[10] William III (1650–1702; King of Great Britain 1689–1702; DNB). His invasion of England in 1688 ended the attempt by James II and VII (1633–1701; King of Great Britain 1685–1688; DNB) to establish a Catholic dynasty and move towards an absolutist form of government. BACK

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