3620. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 January 1821

3620. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 January 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 29 Jany. 1821

My dear Grosvenor

I hope you have not delayed sending the Preface for the Patres Nostri, in expectation of my answer <with> an amended dedication, for this may be returned with the proof sheet. [1]  My present intention is to retain the first & last sentences & nothing more. A mere dedication sans phrase would look as if I were afraid of giving the King that praise th which he deserves, but he certainly is a splendid patron of art, he has done for science every thing that has been asked of him, & has shown the same disposition towards literature. I have lived long enough to know that praise is the best kind of excitement. – In the other part of the Ded: I suspected an informality, but was willing to give it a chance, knowing that then it would be upon that point you & Herries would decide without fear of error. I shall send a copy for him to your care, unless in the mean time you give me a direction to him. – Did you read the Preface? The metre I think is clearly explained to the unlearned & the question of its adaptability stated with the utmost fairness. The part about D Juan will make a certain bookseller feel “unpleasant as a gentleman” [2]  – but I cannot help that.

There is an ugly passage in your letter, as if you were not preparing for an early visit, upon which I am calculating, as the best help both for my health & spirits; – the latter have sustained a sad shock, & the former needs more exercise than I can take without a companion to stimulate me. It could do me a world of good to Butlerize [3]  with you & cut out pantaloons for a Centaur. [4] 

The eighth proof of the H of the War is before me. The unhandsome affair about the printing it has vexed me a good deal. – You would be much pleased with the introductory chapter. [5] 

Did you ask Henry for that official fact which I wanted about Rodneys cruise in search of O Brazil? [6]  – If he cannot get at it for me I will write to Barrow, [7]  who mentioned it to me.

God bless you.



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 1 FE 1/ 1821
Endorsement: 29. Janry. 1821./ French translation of/ Roderick
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 26. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), ‘Dedication’, pp. [v]–viii and ‘Preface’, pp. xvii–xxii. The ‘Dedication’ was controversial, not only praising Britain’s victory in the war against France, but stating: ‘The same perfect integrity has been manifested in the whole administration of public affairs’ (vi); not a view the Whig opposition endorsed. However, the earlier draft of the ‘Dedication’, in Huntington Library, San Marino, HM 2733, shows Southey had intended to go much further and urge that ‘adequate remedy should be applied to that intolerable licentiousness of the press … either by the vigorous application of existing laws or by the enactment of such new ones as the suspension of the abuse may render necessary’. BACK

[2] While the ‘Preface’ to A Vision of Judgement (London 1821) did not name Byron or his poem, it described the ‘publication of a lascivious book’, which Southey believed Don Juan to be, as ‘one of the worst offences which can be committed against the well-being of society’ (p. xviii). It also named and shamed the ‘Satanic school’, of which Byron was, by implication, a leading light (pp. xx–xxi). Murray was Byron’s publisher, as well as Southey’s. BACK

[3] To ‘Butlerize’ was to spin comic stories about a mythical hero, ‘the Butler’ invented by Southey and Bedford. BACK

[4] Southey had discussed with his daughter, Edith May Southey, the difficulties of making a shirt for a centaur, a subject provoked by their reading of Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC–AD 17/18), Metamorphoses, Book 9, lines 95–135, in which the centaur Nessus was killed by the hero Hercules, but a shirt daubed with Nessus’s blood in turn killed Hercules; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 January 1821, Letter 3615. BACK

[5] History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 3–62. Southey had wished the book to be printed by William Nicol (d. c. 1855), a friend of Bedford’s, but Murray had insisted on using his regular collaborator, Thomas Davison (1766–1831). BACK

[6] George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney (1718–1792; DNB), naval commander. Southey had been informed that Rodney had been told to search for the mythical Enchanted Island of O Breasil, information Southey wanted for the second edition of the first volume of his History of Brazil (1822). The story, like the island, was a myth. BACK

[7] Sir John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), Second Secretary to the Admiralty 1804–1806, 1807–1845. BACK

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