2401. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [13 April 1814]

2401. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [13 April 1814]⁠* 

Shipt by the grace of God in good condition on board the good stage coach the Defian Good Intent a Pike weighing 27lb. thi to be this present day April 13. 1814 conveyed to Penrith, & from thence forwarded by the Mail Coach, directed to G. C. B. Stafford Row. And so God send the good pike to its desired table in safety.

So large a fish at this early season had not been caught for fifty years in Basenthwaite Lake. This is the best season, & no person here makes any doubt of its arriving in good condition, for pike will keep five or six days, six Mrs Lovell desires me to say; a little salt does not injure them. A fish of this size is better cut & boiled like salmon. Thus they dress them in at Geneva, – & thus we always do;


I had imagined three likely catastrophes for Buonaparte; that he would fight till the last & die game, – that he would (like Lope de Aguirre [1] ) be forsaken by every body, & kill himself; – or that he would abscond & be lost. Another might have been added which is still probable enough, – that his own soldiers would take revenge upon him. Neither of these would be so humiliating to him as thus present to be pensioned off! [2]  Not that I would have assented to any such arrangement; he ought to have been hunted down, & exhibited upon a gibbet dead or alive. Austria has prevented this, & I dare say the Parisians are even more disappointed than I am. That amiable people would have delighted in seeing him on the wheel. He will suffer more in living to hear the execrations of mankind, which will perpetually x keep him in mind of the damnation in store for him. As for the French people – they have acted up to their xxxxxxx character. Folly Frivolity, baseness & unfeeling folly were never more beautifully exemplified than in the first effusions of the Bourbonized Monsteur. [3]  They have found out that B. is a Corsican! They have found out that no Frenchman presumed to sit upon the throne of the Bourbons, – good people so delicate towards the crown, – & so tender towards the head that wore it! – And I dare say that those Senators who before the King of Romes backside paid their appropriate reverence to the King of Rome [4]  are ready to exclaim what have we kissed his nasty dirty backside & all for nothing!

Well Grosvenor this Tragedy of five & twenty years is over. I shall never forget the sensation which the fall of the curtain gave me. But I will not dwell upon this subject.


Praise me for good will at least, if not for good works. I have laid down the timbers of another ode, [5]  & written the first stanza this morning. This & the Epithalamium, [6]  & the Inscriptions [7]  ought to intitle me to a discharge in full from all future official compositions, – the death of the King or Sovereign [8]  excepted. – The Times was sent me one day last week with that article in it concerning the Carmen & Jeffrey. [9]  The review which called forth this attack I have not seen, – but from the excessive soreness which Wynn expressed upon my notes, [10]  I was perfectly certain they would produce their full & proper effect. On the next occasion I shall serve up a second course, – & Master Jeffrey will find before I have done with him that he could not have laid hold of an uglier customer.

I am very much obliged to Courtenay [11]  for having frequently of late sent me news later news than the evening paper would have communicated.

God bless you – Let me have the books of Roderick [12]  as soon as you can. I have as yet made but little way in the 17th – but the spirit is come, & it will now be in good progress.

Do’nt be in a-hurry to go to Paris, – & perhaps I will run over with you wh for a few weeks when next I visit London. Entre nous if I ever go there it must be before my history [13]  is published, as I shall most certainly speak in very plain terms of certain Marshals & Dukes who have hitherto escaped a halter.

Vale –


Wednesday evening.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 16 AP 16/ 1814
Endorsement: 13 April 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The conquistador Lope de Aguirre (c. 1510–1561), notorious for his final expedition down the Amazon in search of El Dorado. Southey had published a ‘Life’ of Aguirre in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.2 (1812), [i]-l; republished as The Expedition of Orsua; and the Crimes of Aguirre (1821). BACK

[2] Paris had been captured by allied forces on 30 March 1814, but Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) did not abdicate until 6 April 1814. Under the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau, he was exiled to Elba, given sovereignty over the island, and permitted to retain the title Emperor. BACK

[3] Charles X (1757–1836; King of France 1824–1830). As the King’s eldest brother he held the title ‘Monsieur’ (which Southey lampoons as ‘Monsteur’) and acted as Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom until Louis XVIII (1755–1824; King of France 1814–1824) could arrive in Paris. BACK

[4] Napoleon’s son and heir, Napoleon II (1811–1832), whose title was King of Rome. Napoleon had attempted to abdicate in his favour on 4 April 1814, but when the allies would not accept this proposal, Napoleon abdicated on his own and his son’s behalf on 6 April 1814. BACK

[5] Possibly Southey’s proposed – but unexecuted – ode celebrating the peace of 1814. BACK

[6] The Prince Regent’s only child Charlotte, had been engaged since December 1813 to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, William (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849), the husband selected for her by her father and his advisers. As Poet Laureate, Southey was required to write on the occasion. He started the required poem (The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale) but in the event it was not needed as the engagement was broken off in June 1814. The Lay was recycled in 1816 to celebrate Charlotte’s marriage to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790–1865; DNB). BACK

[7] Southey’s ‘Inscriptions Triumphal and Sepulchral, recording the acts of the British army in the Peninsula’ had been recently advertised as ‘nearly ready for publication’ (e.g. in European Magazine, 65 (January 1814), 77). However, the promised volume did not appear and only 18 of the proposed 30 inscriptions were written. They were not collected together until 1837–1838 when they appeared in the last-lifetime edition of Southey’s Poetical Works. BACK

[8] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). His death led to Southey’s A Vision of Judgment (1821). BACK

[9] Southey’s feud with Jeffrey continued unabated. The notes to Carmen Triumphale had attacked the personalities and politics of the Edinburgh Review. The review of Carmen in Edinburgh Review, 22 (January 1814), 447–454, retorted: ‘For our own parts, when we are seriously occupied with the destinies of Europe, or of mankind, we should think very contemptibly of ourselves, if we could permit the recollection of our differences with Mr Southey to intrude either into our writings or our thoughts’ (452), before going on to criticise his support of the Spanish and acceptance of the Laureateship. An article in The Times, 7 April 1814 attacked these comments. Finally, The Times, 21 April 1814 reprinted the ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’, in a corrected version and retitled ‘Ode; Written in January, 1814’. A short headnote again defended Southey from the criticism levelled against him in the Edinburgh Review. BACK

[10] For Southey’s reply to Wynn’s criticisms, see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 January 1814, Letter 2364. BACK

[11] Thomas Peregrine Courtenay had previously been a civil servant at the Exchequer, where he probably encountered Grosvenor Bedford. BACK

[12] MS drafts of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[13] The History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Stafford Row (mentioned 1 time)