2715. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 16 February 1816

2715. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 16 February 1816⁠* 

My dear G.

You must not send this to the Printer till the Proem reaches you, – for such an Introduction I think there will be. There are twenty stanzas of it written, such as will put good readers in good humour with me, & with what is to follow. Tomorrow you shall a second portion of equal bulk, containing ‘Brussels’ & as much of ‘The Field of Battle’ as the number will hold. It is not yet compleated for it grows under my hands – the section which I thought to have comprized in one part will fill two. – The second I began this morning; it will be well if I can make this second part stand in place of an ode. In these latter cantos you will see that I take a higher tone. [1] 

The drawings should be put into the hands of different engravers for the sake of saving time. [2]  What has been done about a view of La Haye Sainte? Nash has no sketch of it; – but it was a most important point in the battle, & as you will see, is dwelt upon in the poem. If we can get one in no other way, we must take it from the Panorama print. [3] 

Longman will print what number he thinks best, I think 1500 will not be too many, – perhaps 2000, but he will determine this. [4]  He must determine too the bulk of the volume. Reckon the poem at 1500 lines, that is 250 stanzas. If there be three stanzas in the page this will be 84 pages, say 90. & some 30 notes, – 120. Two stanzas per page would carry the text to 130; a scant page I grant, – but not so as to be remarkable, – the numbering the stanzas occupying the place of two lines to each, thus making the complement in the printers form 16 which is not uncommon. In this case let us have large top & bottom & the text compacted for beauty, & not spread out for filling up: – because the more beautiful the appearance of the book the better [5] 

There is another reason for preferring this last distribution. If I print the Lay of the Laureate in the small size instead of 4to it will not admit of more than two stanzas in the page, – as its length will not exceed 100 stanzas, & there can be no notes. [6] 

Let me hear from you concerning your Mother.

God bless you


I think I can improve the second chapter of Jehephary the Prophet [7]  so do not send that part to the newspaper yet.

Keswick. 16. Feby. 1816.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer Endorsements: Feby. 1816; 16 Febry. 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The published Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) began with a ‘Proem’ describing Southey’s return home after his visit to the Netherlands in 1815; this was originally intended to be the conclusion to the poem, entitled ‘The Return’. The first book of Part One was broken into two and entitled ‘Flanders’ and Brussels’, followed by ‘The Field of Battle’. The sections Southey was writing grew into Part Two of the poem, consisting of ‘The Tower’, ‘The Evil Prophet’, ‘The Sacred Mountain’ and ‘The Hopes of Man’. These replaced the ode, ‘Hymn of Victory’, with which Southey originally intended to conclude the poem. BACK

[2] All the illustrations in the poem were engraved by George Cooke (1781–1834). BACK

[3] An engraving of La Haye Sainte (a farmhouse that was fiercely contested in the Battle of Waterloo) appeared in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), between pp. 62–63. Southey was able to use a sketch by Nash and so did not have to resort to the works of Henry Aston Barker (1774–1856), who had become well-known through his exhibition of panoramas at his purpose-built hall in Leicester Square, London. Barker drew the scenes for his Waterloo panorama at the battlefield and visitors to his exhibition could purchase copies of the various sections. BACK

[4] 2,000 copies were printed of the first edition of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[5] The Poet’s Pilgrimage was printed in duodecimo, in a volume of 232 pages, at two numbered stanzas per page. There were 35 pages of notes. BACK

[6] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816) was published in duodecimo rather than quarto. It ran to 120 stanzas, at two stanzas per page. There were only 77 pages, though, and six of these were notes. BACK

[7] Southey’s parodic attack on Jeffrey, the ‘Book of the Prophet Jehephary’, was, on the advice of his friends, not published in his lifetime. It appeared in John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 35–42. BACK

People mentioned

Bedford family (mentioned 1 time)
Nash, Edward (1778–1821) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)