2524. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 December 1814

2524. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 December 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. 22d Dec. 1814.

My dear G.

I have the half-note; [1]  – peradventure its conjugal part now disjunct may arrive in the letter which I expect from you on Monday, upon the odeous subject. [2] 

My opinion respecting a publication of Barres Remains entirely coincides with yours. In its private circulation all is well, so circulated a book passes for more than it is worth; whereas if it be made current it generally passes for less. [3] 

By this time I ha you have received the MSS [4]  I forgot to send with it, two single-sheet books of smaller size which contain the memoranda for the conduct of the story as they occurrd from time to time, & which ought to go with it: this is another reason for preferring the case-book (I must not say book-case.) I would have it a handsome old-fashiond back with broad bands & dead tooling: & for a thing of this kind I do’nt care much about expence <about> – an odd ten or fifteen shillings more upon the price, to make it a goodly heirloom.

Somebody has favourd me with a good word in the Courier; the character of the poem is given with good judgement, – the quotation very oddly chosen. [5] 

If Murray were to offer me 500 £ for a Register [6]  I certainly should not for a moment hesitate. Indeed I know not whether I ought not gladly to catch at the 400 £, circumstanced as I am. In that case I should advise him to begin with the peace, [7]  for many reasons. First because it would be so tremendous an undertaking to bring up the lee way from the beginning of 1812, & secondly because there is a great advantage in commencing with a new era in history. It might be worth while at leisure (if I could possibly procure it) to write the volumes for 1812–13 for <the sake of> connecting the former volumes with these – but this I should despair of – because my history of the peninsula [8]  will contain include what is to me the most interesting portion, & the only portion which I can do thoroughly as it ought to be done. And more than all, however I might spirit myself up to the undertaking, flesh & blood is not equal to it. I cannot get thro more than at present unless I give up sleep, or the little exercise which I take & I walk to the crag before breakfast: & that hour excepted, & my meals (barely the meals for I remain not one minute after them) – the pen or the book is xx always in my hand.

Had you not better wait for Jeffrays attack upon Roderick? [9]  I have a most curious letter upon this subject from Hogg the Ettrick shepherd, a worthy fellow, & a man of very extraordinary powers, whom I call the pet pig of the Muses. Living in Edinburgh he thinks Jeffray the greatest man in the world, – an intellectual Buonaparte whom nobody & nothing can resist. But Hogg notwithstanding this has fallen in liking with me & is a great admirer of Roderick. And this letter is to request that I will not do any thing to nettle Jeffrey while he is deliberating concerning Roderick, – for he seems favourably disposed toward me! Xxxx xxx xxxxx it is Morbleu! It is a rich letter! Hogg requested that he himself might review it, & gave me an extract from Jeffrays answer refusing him. ‘I have as well as you x a great respect for Southey, he says – but he is a most provoking fellow & at least as conceited as his neighbour Wordsworth”. – B[MS torn] shall be happy to talk to Hogg upon this & other kindred subjects & he should be very glad to give me a lavish allowance of praise if I would afford him occasion, &c – but he must do what he thinks his duty, &c –. I laugh to think of the effect my reply will produce upon Hogg, – how it will make every bristle to stand on end like quirrels of the fretful porcupine. The sum of it is that I despise Jeffrays commendation, & defy his enmity; that nettling is too weak a word for what I have in store for him, – that for in due time he shall be scorpioned & rattlesnaked, – yea served up to the public like a Turkeys gizzard sliced, scored, peppered salted, kiannd (how is that word spelt?) grilled & properly bedevilled. [10] 

God bless you


What can I call the Ode? Can you find any thing to stand with Carmen, – Annuum I will not use, nor will I call it Ode for the New Year, – for I will do nothing that I can avoid toward perpetuating the custom. – How would Carmen Hortatorium do if there be such a word. [11] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 26 DE 26/ 1814
Endorsement: 22. Decr. 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 92–94 [in part]. BACK

[1] i.e. half-banknote – a secure way of sending money in the post, by tearing banknotes in half and sending the two halves separately. BACK

[2] i.e. Bedford’s response to the draft of Southey’s ‘Ode, Written in December 1814’; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1814, Letter 2523. BACK

[3] Grosvenor Bedford had privately published Letters and Miscellaneous Papers … With a Memoir of His Life (1814) of his cousin Barré Charles Roberts, who had died in 1810 aged 21. It was reviewed by Southey in the Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 509–519. BACK

[4] A MS of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814); see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 December 1814, Letter 2513. BACK

[5] See the Courier (20 December 1814), which described Roderick as ‘distinguished … throughout by a style of the noblest kind, and enriched with passages of the most glowing and eloquent description’. The account quoted Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 12, lines 101–124 and Book 11, lines 43–53; neither extract dealt with the poem’s central themes or incidents. BACK

[6] 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; see Southey to John Murray, 4 December 1814 (Letter 2510) and 12 December 1814 (Letter 2515). BACK

[7] i.e. in 1814. BACK

[8] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[9] Bedford was reviewing Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) for the Quarterly Review. Southey here suggests he waited until Francis Jeffrey’s appraisal appeared. This did not happen. Bedford’s review was in Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 83–113; Jeffrey’s in Edinburgh Review, 25 (June 1815), [1]-86. The latter described Roderick as: ‘The best … and the most powerful of all Mr Southey’s poems’, though ‘now and then a little absurd – and pretty frequently not a little affected … The author is a poet undoubtedly; but not of the highest order’ ([1]). BACK

[10] These sentiments were expressed in Southey’s reply; see Southey to James Hogg, 24 December 1811, Letter 2528. BACK

[11] Southey’s ‘Ode, Written in December 1814’. A ‘Carmen Hortatorium’ would be an ‘Exhortatory Song’. BACK

People mentioned

Hogg, Edward (1783–1848) (mentioned 4 times)
Hogg, James (1770–1835) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)