731. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 2 November 1802]

731. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 2 November 1802] ⁠* 

Kehamiana. 1st


Your first emendation stands [1]  – albeit I do hanker to kick the word “note” out of doors because it is a musical word – ergo a damned word – a fiddlers word – curse the fellow – I will lay my life the word must be of the neuter gender – or even epicœne – but the objection to the incipient Rose – is a final objection, & theres an end of it.

Concerning polygamy give me credit till we meet & I show you my written chapter upon the system of Mohammed. [2]  that is a system utterly subversive of individual happiness & general prosperity.

For the opening – I had thought about the commutation act myself. – & you have given me the detail – read therefore accord to the Bedford Edition.

My stop is thus – Myriads of torches fling

Their flaring radiance on the gloom,

Blotting the stars from heaven; –

You may chuse between – rise upward – & ascending – but the image is wanting – at least, to my eye it is a tremendous picture – a sort of hell fire light – a yellow blaze below – & above smoke & blackness.

for chāuntiňg tȟy sōng ǒf prāise – chuse you which be the most falling to your ear – ănd chāunt tȟe sōng ǒf prāise – to me the first has a more jelly-bag sort of a sound.

Multitude I prefer to train – because it is a bigger word. your association with upright – will be nobody elses association – I pray you let Arvalan sit still. your after annotation I will think about

Bright & bridal I likes.

For in that mighty multitude

Was none who loves the dead. – my stupid printer made the error, & the stupid reader did not discover it.

The voice of the coming storm – is perhaps not loud enough. – reserved for the opinion of the Twelve Judges. [3] 

Come on – is not bald Sir – & if it be bald Sir tho you put a wig upon the it – it will still be bald at bottom below it. mark you Sir – what does a big word with a little meaning look like? – Why like me in a Dutchmans breeches.

A noun substantive can stand by itself – the Devil must be in it then if two substantives cannot stand together – arm in arm Grosvenor –

Kehama lights the pile – probatum est. [4] 

The xxxxx remarks which I have not noticed – conclude I do not like – & as they are not a matter of mere liking – the voice potential may as well be subintellects. But you will perceive the use of your remarks by the alterations they have made – so go on.

The more dramatic – the more lyric narrative poetry is, the better. this is a main article of my poetical creed. But Grosvenor I have acquired a relish for the research – & the reasoning, & the authoritative tone of history [5]  that threatens to blast many a laurel bud. nor do I merely like it – I look to my history as a sheet anchor of profit, – as a security of a fair support for age or sickness & a something to remain behind me, more substantial than fame. Look now at the allotment of my time – till twelve my time labour is sold to this Amadis [6]  (N.B. this is a secret –) I must take exercise – I must eat – I have acquaintance – alas from 9 – to – 12 – make 5 hours out of the 15 of my waking day – & eating walking & visiting incroach sorely greatly upon the rest. Kehama will fare the better for you. I shall write sometimes for the sake of the sooner filling a sheet. – Sometimes I stop for pure vexation that there exist in England sources of information which are yet beyond my reach – the views of Hodges [7]  – & Daniel [8]  – & the Costume prints [9]  would be actual food for my brain – the very chyle & blood of my xxx imagination would be digested from them. there are botanical works for my foregrounds – & these books I know not where to see – tho they ought to be always at my elbow –


Dear Grosvenor so much was written immediately on receiving yours – the rest of the first book is also in great forwardness for you – but for many days my eyes have suffered such ‘dim suffusion’ [10]  that I am enjoined vigorous absence from book pen ink & paper – & to increase the comfort of this blind-beetle state one side of my face is swolen to the size of a salmon jowl – & I cannot leave the house – So God bless you


Can you not come on the other half way to No 12 St James’s Place Kingsdown? –


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ at J. Bulleys Esqr/ Forbury/ Reading
Postmark: [partial] 2/ BRISTOL/ NOV 2 02
MS: Houghton Library, bMS Eng 265.1 (4). ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] This letter consists of Southey’s response to Grosvenor Bedford’s criticisms of the draft of Book 1 of the Curse of Kehama which had been sent to him on 7 October 1802, Letter 726. BACK

[2] Muhammad (570-632), Prophet of Islam. Muslim men may have up to four wives. BACK

[3] In the Book of Judges, the ‘Twelve Judges’ were some of the most famous leaders of Israel after the death of Joshua. BACK

[4] The Latin translates as ‘it is proved’. BACK

[5] Southey was working on his unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[6] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[7] William Hodges (1744-1797; DNB), the first English landscape artist to visit India, in 1779-1785; he produced Select Views of India (1785-1788). BACK

[8] Thomas Daniell (1749-1840; DNB), visited India in 1786-1794 with his nephew, William Daniell (1769-1837), also an artist, and produced six series of Oriental Scenery (1795-1808). BACK

[9] Possibly Francois Balthazar Solvyns (1760-1824), A Collection of Two Hundred and Fifty Coloured Etchings: Descriptive of the Manners, Customs and Dresses of the Hindoos (1796-1799). BACK

[10] John Milton (1608-1674; DNB), Paradise Lost (1667), Book 3, line 26. BACK

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