1593. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 March 1809

1593. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 March 1809 ⁠* 

Dear Grosvenor

It was well that Giffords very handsome letter inclosing sweet remuneration in the shape of L 21.13. arrived a few hours after the Quarterly itself. For when I beheld the cruel mutilation which my poor article had suffered, [1]  & saw how dexterously he had no xxx xxx cut every thing down to the standard of orthodoxy, – in spite of all former experience of the sow-gelding propensities of Review-Editors, I was on the point of vowing a vow that nothing should ever again induce me to send my opinions to be for revision & correction at xxx <an> Inquisition. Anger does not last long with me; – it is some comfort that he has only implied for me an assent to Doctrines which I disbelieve, for that <had> there been an express belief asserted, that, even I, should not have borne. So upon taking into consideration the number of sound & orthodox divines, Doctors, Deans, yea haply Bishops, – who on will read this good Review with their wigs on, I began to think him not unwise in expunging things which might have made those wigs start off, abhorrent of my heresies. I have returned an answer of perfect acquiescence; – observing only that the printer has jostled one paragraph out of its place, & that the beginning of another is made nonsensical, by the omission of what proceeded it in the Manuscript. [2]  – This is the danger of omissions, – they are sure, in any thing which is carefully <& philosophically> written, to injure the train of reasoning, – or break the chain of thought, or dislocate the connection of language. I could show you some striking instances in this case.

The Cid is ill done. [3]  In the first place, there is not the slightest intimation given of the age of the book, – that it is considerably older than any thing either in French or English literature. Scott seems to have forgotten this, or he would not have compared the Cid with Froissarts [4]  heroes, – the age of William the Conqueror with that of Edward 3. [5]  The sin which most easily besets a Reviewer (& which I hold to be a very great one) is that of taking credit to himself for knowledge which he does not possess. What are the words which I have misunderstood? would they not have been pointed out if the Reviewer had known them? – Scott himself knows little of Spanish, & of Spanish Literature nothing more than what D Quixote, [6]  & my translations have taught him. Yet he doubts the truth of the conquest of Valencia, [7]  – a fact as undoubted in Spanish history, as the battle of Poicters & Crecy in our own. [8]  – As for his verses Lady & Maravēdĭ, are just such rhymes as Idumæa & Guinēă would be, or ‘you may then see, & sixpēncĕ.’ [9]  Scotts powers are powers of reminiscence not of creation. He is like a man on the glass legged i electricians stool, brimfull of borrowed fire, – touch what he will & light comes from him, – but let him sit in a common seat <chair>, & his fingers are mere flesh & blood. When he reviewed the Cid he was not charged.

The Quarterly is as bad in its spirit of criticism as the Edinburgh, [10]  & so I have told Gifford; [11]  – & it is not a whit better in point of taste.

I did not mean that any account of Spanish literature &c was needful or even that it could be properly introduced, – but that if you wished to have any specific information it was likely I could give it you. [12]  The main thing to be the noted is the very curious antiquity of the book, – & the about the style that it is what the original naturally ran into, – for half what will be called Hebraisms are literal Hispanicisms. The Chronicle of the Kings of Spain were written under circumstances very similar to the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, & the manner of narration is most remarkably alike.

Murray sent me the Number by itself, & the parcel <carriage> cost 5/3 – a cheap way of getting a present. I shall desire him next time to delay it till it can be inclosed in a parcel. Gifford tells me I am to have L Valencias Travels. [13]  Will you tell him that I should like well to have Eltons Hesiod also, [14]  – if it be not in other hands.

God bless you


March 7. 1809



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Endorsement: 7 March 1809
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR 10/ 1809
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey reviewed the Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61, but there are no reviews by him on the South African missions. BACK

[2] See Southey to William Gifford, dated 6 March 1809. BACK

[3] Southey’s The Chronicle of the Cid (1808) was reviewed by Scott in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 117–134. BACK

[4] Jean Froissart (c. 1337-c. 1405), author of Chronicles (1369–1400). BACK

[5] William I (known as William the Conqueror; 1027/8–1087; DNB), King of England 1066–1087; Edward III (1312–1377; DNB), King of England 1327–1377. BACK

[6] Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), author of The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote, trans. Tobias Smollett (1721–1771; DNB), 6 vols (London, 1792). BACK

[7] Valencia was conquered in 1094 after a long siege. The conquest is described in Southey’s The Chronicle of the Cid (London, 1808), p. 203. BACK

[8] Fourteenth-century English victories against the French in the Hundred Years’ War. BACK

[9] Scott’s review, p. 129, included a ‘slip-shod translation’ of verses from a ballad of the Cid, containing these lines: ‘Nor the champion, nor his lady,/ Had of treasure, coin, or rent,/ Even a single maravedi;/ All in war and wassaill spent’. BACK

[10] The Edinburgh Review. BACK

[11] See Southey to William Gifford, dated 6 March 1809, Letter 1592. BACK

[12] Southey had suggested that Bedford could review his Chronicle of the Cid (1808); see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 28 February 1809, Letter 1590. The book was reviewed in complimentary terms in the Monthly Review, 63 (1810), 131–144. BACK

[13] George Annesley, Viscount Valentia (1770–1844), Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (1809), in Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 88–126. Southey’s article underwent major revisions by Gifford before publication. BACK

[14] Charles Abraham Elton (1778–1853; DNB) published The Remains of Hesiod the Ascraean: Translated from the Greek into English (1809). Southey did not review this work. BACK

People mentioned

Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 4 times)
Gifford, William (1756–1826) (mentioned 3 times)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)