3600. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 January 1821

3600. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 January 1821⁠* 

Keswick 1 Jany. 1821.

My dear G.

Why what a Jack-Ass must that Paternosterling [1]  be who could suppose that I would pay for setting up a poem [2]  for the purpose of sending it round to the damnable newspapers, with a liberal attention to the feelings of their double-damned editor, that there might be no preference or xxxxxxxx shewn, but that Peter Finnerty [3]  of the Chronicle, & the scourge of the Old Times, [4]  should have it as soon as the Courier! – I could not act with more imbecillity, nor with a <more> despicable subservience to the domination of these wretches, if I were actually a member of Cabinet Minister, Grosvenor; – rather than recognize, any claim in them to this sort of deference, or rather than show them any thing but defiance, I would put the ode behind the fire. I will not even send it to the Courier, – where a civility of this kind is due to Stuart, for having sent me that paper so many years: because next to getting rid of the task which the Laureateship imposes upon me of writing verses at stated times, the best thing I can do is to avoid publishing them, except when at my own choice, & my own time.

I will publish both Odes under the title of The Warning Voice, with the Vision. [5]  Allowing a blank title to each they will make twenty pages, – useful therefore in the way of stuffing. They will do as much good six weeks hence as they could now, – that is to say no great deal, – but still some; & the extracts which the newspapers may then make will tend to assist the sale.

You are wrong in proposing that I should rewrite half the Ode for the purpose of altering the dithyrambick measure in which it was purposely xxx cast, xx which is laid aside when it becomes unsuitable & taken up again in the last stanza, – & which is quite necessary to the character of the poem. – I cannot part with the 11th stanza. Those lines in the latter half are some of the best of the Ode, x the part which precedes them is the stalk upon which they grow, & from whence they cannot be dissevered.

Every man who carries a watch in London ought to carry pistols. If the police will not protect us, we must protect ourselves – & by the time two or three villains had been shot in the street Government would be shamed into a sense of its duty. I hope Henry is quite recovered. Remember me to him & to Miss Page. I wish I had you all three here, beside this comfortable fire. The out-of-door glass at the north side of the house has never been more than one or two degrees below the freezing point. The snow keeps off, & the winds are still. I go tomorrow for Rydal & shall hope for a long proof about the end of the week.

When the book is finished you must get two copies bound alike, one for presentation, & the other for my Governess, – the materials & the manner at your worships choice. [6] 

If tea dealers play the trick which you suspect concerning discount, they differ from all other tradesmen. It is true they have it peculiarly in their power. I have discount chaxgex from my wine merchant, & for what little furniture I purchase.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ A 4/ 1821
Endorsement: 1 Janry. 1821
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 26. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] An employee of the publisher Longman, based at Paternoster Row, London. BACK

[2] Southey’s duty as Poet Laureate was to produce a New Year’s Ode each year. Southey regarded this as task work and was not happy with the quality of most of these poems. Since the publication of Carmen Triumphale (1814) he had ensured that none of them had appeared in print. His ode for 1821 was later published as ‘The Warning Voice. Ode II’ in The Englishman’s Library: Comprising a Series of Historical, Biographical and National Information (London, 1824), pp. 384–389. BACK

[3] Peter Finnerty (c. 1766–1822; DNB), Irish journalist and parliamentary reporter (not editor) of the Whig daily paper the Morning Chronicle (1769–1862). BACK

[4] Thomas Barnes (1785–1841; DNB), editor of The Times, 1817–1841. At this time The Times was critical of the government, unlike the rival New Times (1817–1828). The Courier (1792–1842) was a pro-government daily evening paper, which had employed Southey to contribute poetry, particularly in 1798–1799. He was still sent free copies by the Courier’s co-owner, Daniel Stuart. BACK

[5] ‘The Warning Voice. Ode I’, the New Year’s Ode for 1820, was not published until it appeared with its companion for 1821 in The Englishman’s Library: Comprising a Series of Historical, Biographical and National Information (London, 1824), pp. 381–389. They were not published with A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[6] A Vision of Judgement (1821), no. 2626 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, described as ‘superbly bound in blue morocco, leather joints, richly tooled and lined with silk’. BACK

People mentioned

Bedford family (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Stuart, Daniel (1766–1846) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Rydal Mount (mentioned 1 time)