2513. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 December 1814

2513. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 December 1814 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Ready as I should be to repent of any unjust severity, or even of just severity if exercised without adequate occasion, I have no compunctions respecting Alexander Chalmers. [1]  He may be the best natured man in the world, & the most inoffensive, – but he has approached the Ark with irreverent hands, & I as one of the servants of the Altar, am bound to resent the pollution. It is not to be borne that a man who is ignorant of the very nomenclature of poetry, & the commonest principles of versification should undertake to form a Collection of the English Poets, reject & insert writers with no other rule than his own caprice, & pass sentence upon them with oracular solemnity. At Murrays desire I expunged some passages of personal severity, which were well deserved; – & having done this, & read the article with Wordsworth, he as well as myself felt satisfied that nothing more was said than what was due to t our predecessors. Perhaps you have heard Duppa speak of his complaints, for Duppa knows him. I cannot repent. By the bye I am to have double pay for the article, – a thing equally unexpected & convenient at this juncture, when the Constable is lagging sadly astern. [2] 

The battle in which Roderick [3]  was defeated was fought near Xeres, (– between Seville & Cadiz.) [4]  He goes from thence due north till he comes to the Caulian schools which are on the Guadiana, near Merida. Then his journey lies West, or W N W. He crosses the Tagus about Abrantes, then the Zezere, & so by the site of Alcobaça to the sea at Nazareth which you will find in the maps. When he sets off again he goes to Leyria, the Pombal (which is on the Arunca,) Condeixa which is the old Conimbrica, – Coimbra, Guimareus (the cradle of that famous monarchy [5] ) – Braga – (Bracara Augusta) & Orense (Auria.) You have him next at a monastery in the Bierzo, from whence he travels to Cordoba, & from Cordoba across the country to Cangas in Asturias, passing near Leon <(the city)> on the way. Gegio is the present Gijon.

The MSS [6]  in no very clean condition & improper disorder, is here for you – I shall send a coach parcel to Murray early in the week & will inclose it; & at the same time I will inclose my own original mss. that you may get it either bound for me, or a case made for it; the latter I think will be better, as preserving them compleatly in their original form: in which I think those who come after me would like to have them best. This is a curious mss inasmuch as there is probably no other such extant, the place where I began to write being dated day by day throughout, so as to shew the hot & the cold fits, the long intervals, & the hard gallops at last. I think I should like a Russia case resembling a book in its appearance, & lettered “Roderick the original MSS.” You & the workman may determine in what manner it should open &c.

Murray leads me into temptation by saying he has a fancy to go on with the Register [7]  himself & asking me if I should like it. Now I find it so difficult to go on without it, that I know not how to answer. For tho, God knows, I am willing enough to be at work, I require sometimes the prospect of a direct remuneration to make me progress working upon a given subject. To express myself more plainly I xx am so much inclination to sacrifice work of profit, to work of reputation which is in other words work of pleasure, that it sometimes useful to have the profit full in sight. On the other hand I am not made of iron, & having but one head & one pair of hands if I take the yoke of a yearly volume again upon my neck there will be very little leis time left for other & greater worthier things. This edition of Roderick will give me from 100 to 120 £: a second edition will produce about as much more, & may probably sell in the in this the first twelvemonths; the book will then settle into a slow & steady sale, & may bring me in regularly some 20 or 30 £ – per year. And this is the extent of the possible profits. I am not discontented at this, believing it is not possible that the same work should produce great immediate profit, & permanent fame. It cannot become popular if it be about the above the pitch of the σι τιολλοι, [8]  – & if it be not, – it must find its way at last to the family vault.

I will write a few lines to Mr Roberts. The book is, to me, very interesting – [9] 

Remember me to your Mother & Miss Page & the Mag: Rot:

& God bless you


I hope Gifford will exhibit the Docstor in his next number [10] 

11 Dec. 1814.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate
Endorsement: 11 Decr. 1814/ Route of Roderick
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Alexander Chalmers (1759–1834; DNB), The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper (1810), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 11 (July 1814), 480–504; and Quarterly Review, 12 (October 1814), 60–90. BACK

[2] i.e. a time when Southey was short of cash. To ‘outrun the Constable’ was an old phrase signifying money worries. BACK

[3] Roderick (d. 711/ 712), last Visigothic ruler of Hispania and the subject of Southey’s Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[4] The location of his defeat against the Moors is uncertain. It was possibly near the mouth of the river Guadalete, hence the name popularly given to it, the Battle of Guadelete. BACK

[5] The Portuguese Monarchy. Guimaraes was the first capital of the County of Portugal in the 11th century. BACK

[6] i.e. A MS of Roderick, the Last of the Goths. This was probably the final, fair copy, from which the poem was printed: now Beinecke Library, Yale University, Gen. MS 298. BACK

[7] John Murray was proposing either to take over or continue the failing Edinburgh Annual Register or to establish a new annual publication. He was sounding out Southey, who had written for the Edinburgh Annual Register from 1810–1813, as a possible lead contributor. In the end, nothing came of the idea. BACK

[8] The ‘hoi polloi’. BACK

[9] Grosvenor Bedford’s Letters and Miscellaneous Papers … With a Memoir of His Life (1814) of his cousin Barré Charles Roberts, who had died in 1810 aged 21. For Southey’s review see Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 509–519. BACK

[10] No review of Henry Herbert Southey’s Observations on Pulmonary Consumption (1814) appeared in the Quarterly. BACK

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