2691. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 January 1816

2691. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 January 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 7 Jany 1816

My dear Grosvenor

“Here where the woods receding from the road,
Have left on either hand an open space
For fields & gardens & for mans abode,
Stands Waterloo; a little lowly place
Obscure till now when it hath risen to fame
Usurping wrongfully the battles name.” [1] 

Damnatus ero, vel fuero; damnatus eris, vel fueris, [2]  & as for any third person be he who he may, damnatus erit, vel fuerit [3]  before I will alter that stanza, or call the field of battle in my verse by any other name than the Field of Fair Alliance. [4]  The name of Waterloo was given it by the Duke in the vilest spirit of meanness, that the Prussians might be deprived of their fair share of merit; an attempt was made to make me instrumental in this; [5]  I will not diminish a tittle of the praise to which the Duke is entitled, but by God I will call the battle as he ought to have called it, & would have called it if he had a proper sense of justice, or a proper feeling of generosity. And you may as well attempt to move old Skiddaw (which no person but the Butler [6]  ever thought of doing, or could do) as to dissuade me from my purpose. Amen.

The expression of walk the earth must not be altered. [7]  It is most decidedly preferable to any that can be substituted for it. As for the other alterations, the whether one word <stand> or the other be xxxx <xxxx> <inserted> is not worth the ink that would be used in making the substitution.

To recur to my title, The battle will be always called the battle of Waterloo, & for & so it may be, in England: of Mount St Jean in France, & of <le> Belle Alliance in Germany. [8]  My Poem will be called Southeys Pilgrimage, – this we are sure of, long titles are always thus shortened by common sense for common convenience, & a title soon comes to signify nothing than the name of the thing designated: – for instance who affixes any meaning to As you like it, – or Much ado about nothing – or Twelfth Night, when he speaks of the plays so called? The hymn of victory I write as P. L. pro fiddleribus surleyoque Sir Parsons. [9]  The poem, which makes the book, is in my individual character.

It is proceding well, this poem. I have now written 800 lines, & if I hold the <my> purpose of adapting that Proem which you saw have seen, there will then be 60 more in readiness, [10]  – besides the hym as much of the hymn as <is> in your hands, – if that should be adopted.

Perhaps it may be as well not to give a print of Ligny. [11]  I wish we had an interior view of Waterloo Church, – about which I have some stanzas, concerning the tablets there: but this there is no chance of finding. [12]  Do not however fail to beat up for sketches as you proposed. The sooner we get the drawings into the engravers [13]  hands the better. I am working almost exclusively at this poem, to Murrays great dismay: but done it must be without delay, & I am at present in good humour with it, having read it yesterday evening consecutively & aloud; I liked it myself, & it fitted where it was tried on.

Lunus was born in Oct. 1806, he is now therefore in his tenth year.

Will you when I am out of your debt, or when you can without inconvenience make me farther in it, send us a stock of tea from Twinings [14]  in the following quantities

24 pounds of black tea at 7/s-

2 Do –––––––––––––––––– 10/s

9 –––––– green at 10/s <If good at that price, otherwise not

exceeding 12/s>

The tea here is of higher price & worse quality.

And now I close my dispatches for the night, this being the third letter.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
Endorsement: 7 January 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 3, stanza 3. BACK

[2] ‘I’m damned, or shall have been; you’re damned, or shall have been’. BACK

[3] ‘He’s damned, or shall have been’. BACK

[4] In the published version of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Southey’s preference for ‘Belle Alliance’ as the name of the battlefield was altered. The last line of verse quoted here was changed to: ‘And given the victory its English name’. BACK

[5] Through interpolations made by Croker into Southey’s article on the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815) in Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 December 1815, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 2682. BACK

[6] A mythological hero of extraordinary powers, invented by Southey and Bedford as boys at Westminster school. BACK

[7] This phrase does not appear in the published poem. BACK

[8] Mont St Jean is a ridge and hamlet near the battle, after which Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; Emperor of the French 1804–1814, 1815) named the conflict; La Belle Alliance was the preference of the Prussian commander, Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher (1742–1819). BACK

[9] Southey had composed three stanzas to fulfil his obligation as Poet Laureate to produce a ‘New Year’s Ode’, which could be set to music and performed at Court ‘for the fiddling and surly’ Sir William Parsons, Master of the King’s Music. He hoped that these verses could be reused in the ‘Hymn of Victory’ with which he intended to conclude The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo – a hope that was not fulfilled. BACK

[10] Southey had written, in March–June 1814, fifty stanzas celebrating the engagement of Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, to William, Hereditary Prince of Orange (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849). He had to abandon the poem when the engagement was broken off, but he was able to reuse most of it, not in The Poet’s Pilgrimage but in his Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), which celebrated Charlotte’s marriage to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) on 2 May 1816. BACK

[11] An engraving of the ‘Ruins of Ligny’, after a sketch by Nash, was published in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), between pp. 90–91. BACK

[12] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), frontispiece [unpaginated], showed the exterior of ‘Waterloo Church’, but there was no picture of the interior. The tablets in St Joseph, Waterloo were described in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 3, stanzas 6–7. BACK

[13] George Cooke (1781–1834), engraver. BACK

[14] Twinings tea room in The Strand, London (founded 1706). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)