3464. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 April 1820

3464. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 April 1820⁠* 

My dear G.

I leave home on Monday next, bound for Llangedwin, [1]  where if I am lucky enough to hit the coaches & find room, I may arrive on Tuesday night. My intention is to reach Ludlow on the Saturday, or at latest on the Monday & to stay there two clear days. This will depend upon Wynns movements for London. But I shall be in town either on Wednesday the 26th or Friday the 28th. And I will let you know on which day to expect me, as soon as that point can be settled.

My Vision of Judgement is not finished. [2]  I have made a fair transcript of it as far as it is written, (260 lines) & may probably add something to it before my departure. But I think it will not do for publication at this time; because th such are an event as the Kings death, [3]  while it is recent, is too affecting & too solemn a reality (in the present case) to be made the subject of a fiction. This you will say I ought to have considered before I began to write. Very true, – but then I should not have written upon the subject. For certain as it was that every body would be putting their wits in requisition, I should not have chosen to send any thing into the world upon this such an occasion unless it were altogether different from all other compositions that were to be expected.

If however my labour should be lost for the present (& if the objection to its publication strikes any person to whom I shall show it, as it does myself I shall certainly lay it aside), x it will not be thrown away. The metrical experiment which I have long been desirous of making, has here been fairly made, & with compleat success. I have proved that hexameters may as well be written in English as in German; that they are in no respect dissuited to the genius of our language; & that the measure is full, stately & sonorous, capable of great variety, great sweetness & great strength. I shall certainly finish the poem, that it may be ready for publication after such lapse of time as may remove the objection to its appearance. xxxxx x

I am now filling up the paper upon the Churches, [4]  which I expect to dispatch by the next post; this being my <the> ways & means upon which I have to count in London. And I take work of the same kind to occupy me at Streatham, that I may not be run short in the summer. [5]  Wesleys life [6]  must sell better than I expect it to do, if it balances my account with Longman, for I am sadly on the wrong side of his ledger. I know not whether you will attribute the perversity to me, or my fortunes, but a perversity in one or the other, or both, there is. Twenty years ago when I would gladly have written poems as fast as the printer could carry them thro the Press, – xx I must have starved if I had done so, – & during seven long years I wrote reviews at seven pounds per sheet royal, because Thalaba & Madoc were lying in the publishers warehouse. [7]  Now, poetry would pay me better than any thing else, but the inclination for it is gone; & if it were not with a view to profit, I do not believe that I should ever finish either of the poems which I have begun, [8]  & am quite certain that I should never have courage to x undertake another. That motive however is likely to operate with increasing force as long as I live, & as I am likely according to all probability to die in the harness, I have only to hope that my strength may not fail me till the last.

Your godson, thank God, is well. I hope you mean to visit him this summer. We are all going on as could be wished at present.

God bless you


Keswick. 12 Apr. 1820


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 15 AP 15/ 1820
Endorsement: 12 April 1820; 12 April 1820
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 189–190 [in part]. BACK

[1] Home of Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, in North Wales. BACK

[2] A Vision of Judgement (1821). Southey had written less than half of the finished version. BACK

[3] George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) had died on 29 January 1820. BACK

[4] Southey’s review of Benjamin Haydon, New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591. BACK

[5] Southey’s review of The Works of the Reverend William Huntington, S. S. Minister of the Gospel, at Providence Chapel, Gray’s Inn Lane, Completed to the Close of the Year 1806 (1811) appeared in Quarterly Review, 24 (January 1821), 462–510. BACK

[6] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[7] While Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) and Madoc (1805) sold relatively poorly, Southey wrote reviews continuously for the Annual Review, for 1802 (1803) through to the Annual Review, for 1808 (1809). BACK

[8] ‘Oliver Newman’, Southey’s epic, set in New England was never finished. The completed sections were published after Southey’s death in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. However, he did complete A Tale of Paraguay (1825). BACK

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)