2794. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20 May 1816

2794. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 20 May 1816⁠* 

My dear G

Guardant is having his face turned toward the spectator, – whether a Lion may or may not be Guardant without being Rampant G, as the Leopard may, is a question for the Heralds; – & whether my Lion, or more properly, the Arch-Coachmans Lion be simply Guardant, or Rampant Guardant I care not, Guardant in one way or other he is, & that suffices for me. The word will imply that I have made inquiry about the arms. [1]  The half title may be altered if you like it.

What am I to say in a letter, & in what form must it be written??? Xxxx the quid? & the quomodo??? [2]  – I would rather write another poem of double the length – See if you can shape this into any suitable form –

Mr S has the honour in of presenting to his R H. a poem on his R. Nuptials. It has been his earnest endeavour to produce something upon this happy occasion which should evince his sense of the honour x conferred upon him in the office which he holds, & prove hereafter as well as now the sincerity & respect with which he is his R Hs most dutiful & devoted servant.

The shorter the better. There is nothing asked here, – I do not care about the Dedication, – & you may determine whether it shall be asked or not. [3]  Do you put this into court dress, – I hope Keswick will afford a sheet of gilt paper to write it upon, – tell me how to direct the cover, & I will seal it with Pegasus. [4] 

I certainly think Wynns objection exceedingly frivolous, – the passage entirely in keeping with the whole of the proem, – & with the strain which I have always maintained. [5]  I am not at all afraid of such objections. Several persons have seen the first half of the poem, – & without one exception they all agreed with you that it was the best of all my minor poems. I am very sure that the latter half has not fallen off from the beginning.

John, I am sure John May, I am sure, will be glad to become acquainted with you, – & there is a reason why you should be acquainted. I have named him x Neville White & my brother Henry to act as Guardians &c in case of my death, – & the care of my papers & literary concerns is entrusted to you. J. May & Neville are both men of business, both have the sincerest affection for me, & I have the most perfect confidence in them. About my papers I shall very shortly draw up such hints & directions as may be useful, – & when you come here next we will look over some letters together as the Curate & the Barber did the Romances, [6]  – for I have an immense accumulation. With good carving, I shall cut up to great advantage. And there is a great deal which may be done while it can be done chearfully, & while I can lend a hand.

Be assured that I wish to live to long as I can, as chearfully as I can, & as actively as I can, – & that in self management whether of body or mind you may be perfectly satisfied with me.

God bless you


20 May. 1816.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9 Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate
Endorsements: 20 May 1816; 20 May 1816./ Recd 24 May
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanza 19, line 1: ‘Guerdant before his feet a Lion lay’, referring to the coat of arms of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865), who had married Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, on 2 May 1816. The poem was written to celebrate the marriage. ‘Guerdant’ replaced ‘Guardant’ in the manuscript, but this was a mistake; the lion on the Prince’s coat of arms was indeed ‘guardant’ and Southey here correctly describes the meaning of this term in heraldry. Lions could be depicted as guardant in a number of postures, including (but not exclusively) ‘rampant guardant’ which means standing erect, with one forepaw raised; lions ‘passant guardant’ i.e. depicted walking, with one forepaw raised, are usually known as leopards in heraldry, as in the arms of England. ‘Guerdant’ is not a word in heraldry (or English). In Southey’s Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), X, pp. [1]–132, the error was silently corrected and ‘guardant’ reappeared. BACK

[2] ‘The what and the how’. Southey was agonising over how to ask for permission to dedicate his poem to Princess Charlotte. BACK


[4] Pegasus was a winged horse in Greek mythology and in the common proverb, money ‘makes the mare to go’: Southey means he will pay postage to expedite the letter’s passage from Keswick to London. BACK

[5] Wynn had criticised The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘Proem’, stanza 3, on the grounds of its egotism and vanity. BACK

[6] In chapters 46–51 of Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), Don Quixote (1605), a curate, a barber and Don Quixote debate the truthfulness of books of romance and chivalry. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)