2688. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [25 December 1815]

2688. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [25 December 1815]⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

I have been doggedly at work & will torment my unwilling Minerva [1]  no longer. Here are three stanzas which are good enough for the fiddlers, – & by the time I shall have finished my poem I may either be able to compleat this, or substitute something something better in its place. [2]  – The Pilgrimage goes on to my liking – I am at Brussels now, & another evenings work will bring me to the Field of Battle; thus far all is well, & could not be otherwise; it remains to be seen how I shall succeed when description is to be exchanged for reflection a moral & severe strain. As for making a poem upon the Battle as you advise, it would be just as possible to make a plum pudding of it, – for battles as are unfit for poetry as they are for puddings; & if you can find a more dissimilar simily, you may substitute it as more to the purpose.

As for the memorial I cannot make out a list of the books, for I have no list of them, & cannot remember half their titles. Besides here is another difficulty, – two cargoes have now past the Custom house, & are probably on their way in one of Mr Vardons ships to Newcastle. The easier mode of preparing the memorial would be to state what duties had been paid upon these books, & so petition that the money might be returned; – I take it for granted the prayer is inadmissible, – but of two inadmissible things may I not ask for that which there will be least trouble in asking? [3] 

I shall put my journal in such order as to make a volume for posthumous publication; by which time it will have greatly increased in value; – that is to say it will be worth much more as a post-obit than as a bill at sight. [4]  My own recollections help me now & then to something which had been forgotten in its place, & I hear others from the two Ediths [5]  in the course of the many conversations upon our journey, – which had escaped my observation, or not fallen within the occurred to it. Besides this, I am reading about the countries which I saw, & am become so curious about them, that my collectanea Belgica [6]  will become amount to something considerable by & by both in extent & value. – I meant to have given you your letters [7]  in London, & behold they remained in my trunk – but I am not sorry for this


A Merry Xmas to you.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9 Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 28 DEC 28/ 1815
Endorsement: 25. Decr. 1815. with Ode for 1816./ recd. & answd. 28. Decr
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 10–11 [in part]. BACK

[1] Minerva, Roman goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts and magic. BACK

[2] In order to fulfil the Poet Laureate’s traditional duty of writing a New Year’s ode, which would be performed at court, Southey enclosed three stanzas, which he hoped would form part of his work in progress, The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816); see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 19 December 1815, Letter 2685. The fullest version of these verses, ‘Glory to Thee in Thine Omnipotence’, which survives is in Southey’s notebook, Huntington Library, San Marino, HM 2733, ff. 44r-46r. They were not included in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo. BACK

[3] Southey had written a memorial to request that the import duty on the books he had bought on his recent travels be waived or reduced; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 December 1815, Letter 2683. He had sent it to Bedford, to forward to fellow government officials; see see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 8 December 1815, Letter 2678. BACK

[4] The Journal was finally published as Journal of a Tour in the Netherlands in the Autumn of 1815 (1902). BACK

[5] Edith and Edith May Southey, who had accompanied Southey on his 1815 tour to the Netherlands. BACK

[6] Collection of things relating to Belgium. BACK

[7] Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s record of his visit to the Continent in 1814–1815. BACK

People mentioned

Vardon, Thomas (dates unknown) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)