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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1800. Robert Southey to John Murray, 12 August 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Aug 12. 1810.

My dear Sir

I send off this evening the review of the Obs. Portugueze. [1]  Both your parcels arrived safely. I thank you for Eltons Poems, [2]  – he succeeds best when he relies most upon himself, – some of his blank verse is very beautiful, & I remember in a former volume of his, a sonnet which I thought one of the best & most original that I had ever seen. [3]  The Spanish volume [4]  which you have been kind enough to borrow for me, proves to be singularly curious. It consists of accounts of all the provinces under the several governments of Peru Chile &c – & contains more {far} more information published at the end of the Lima Almanacks from about the year 176 1759 – or 60 to 1776 – & the information which they contain is far greater than can be gleaned from the Mercurio Peruano. [5]  It will be of use to me in my second volume, [6]  & very probably some opportunity may occur in which it may be useful to the Quarterly.

When application was made to me some years ago to bear a part in the Edinburgh Review, I refused upon the ground, among other, of the cruel manner of criticism which Jeffray had adopted, & the case x which I specified as peculiarly cruel & unjust was Montgomery’s. [7]  I am very glad of this opportunity of doing justice to one man {one} whom I consider as undoubtedly a man of genius. [8]  – This article & one upon the Faroe Islands [9]  I hope to send in time for your 7th number. – The trans. Of the African Society came very seasonably, – upon this subject I shall be able to bring forward something from my Portugueze manuscripts. [10] 

There is an unlucky misprint in the article upon Grahame, hot-dressing (p 459) for hot-pressing, – by which a new meaning is made given to the sentence at the expence of the joke. [11]  – The account of the Chinese Laws [12]  is singularly curious, – & it is can you not prevail upon Turner to give you an account of the Welsh Archaiology, [13]  – the subject would be even more interesting, & the learning which it requires equally out of the reach of the Edinburgh. You were to have procured for me the Bernardo del Carpio of Balbuena, – a poem which has been lately republished by Ld Hollands friend Quintana, [14]  & which is the most famous in the language. I do not expect to find it a good poem, but it will doubtless have some striking passages which may be translated, it will furnish an amusing analysis, & may be xxxxxxxx introduce an essay upon that branch of the literature of Spain.

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ Mr Murray/ Fleet Street –/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 15 AU 15/ 1810
Watermark: BUDGEN/ 1807
Endorsement: 1810 August 12/ Southey R–
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42550
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s review of Observador Portuguez (1809), Quarterly Review, 4 (August 1810), 1–24. BACK

[2] The poet, translator, theologian and occasional reviewer for the Quarterly Review, Charles Abraham Elton (1778–1853; DNB). Elton, like Southey, was Bristol-born. In 1810 he published Tales of Romance, with Other Poems. BACK

[3] Elton’s Poems (London, 1804), pp. 59–72, included twelve sonnets. BACK

[4] ‘Descripcion de las Provincias Pertenecientes al Arzobispado di Lima’; no. 3645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, inscribed in his hand: ‘This book of which perhaps a duplicate is nowhere to be found, was given me by Mr Murray; it contains the fullest account which has yet been published on the old Vice-royalty of Peru, province by province. The information was obtained from the respective Corregidores, and printed for many successive years in the Lima Almanack, from whence some curioso cut out the whole collection, and formed them into this most valuable volume’. BACK

[5] Mercurio Peruano (1790–1795), the first newspaper published in Peru. BACK

[6] The second volume of the History of Brazil, published in 1817. BACK

[7] Montgomery’s The Wanderer of Switzerland, and Other Poems (1806) was savaged by Francis Jeffrey in Edinburgh Review, 9 (January 1807), 347–354. BACK

[8] Southey was reviewing James Montgomery, The West Indies, and other Poems (1810) and a new edition of The Wanderer of Switzerland, and other Poems (1811), Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 405–419. BACK

[9] Jörgen Landt (c. 1753–1804), A Description of the Feroe Islands … Translated from the Danish (1810), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 333–342. BACK

[10] Probably Fourth Report of the Directors of the African Institution (1810). The African Institution, founded in 1807, was a well-connected group of anti-slavery activists. Southey did not review this publication. BACK

[11] James Grahame, British Georgics (1809), Quarterly Review, 3 (May 1810), 456–461. The misprinted sentence read: ‘A more extraordinary project is that of agricultural hot-dressing: but this the reader shall have in the inventor’s own words, and with his own annotation upon the passage’ (459). BACK

[12] The review by John Barrow of Sir George Staunton (1781–1859; DNB), Ta Tsing Leu Lee; being the Fundamental Laws, and a Selection from the Supplementary Statutes of the Penal Code in China (1810), in Quarterly Review, 3 (May 1810), 273–319. BACK

[13] The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales (1801–1807), a three-volume compilation of Welsh manuscripts that was mainly the work of William Owen Pughe. BACK

[14] Manuel José Quintana (1772–1857), Spanish poet and man of letters, who in 1805 had published Pelayo, a subject Southey dealt with in his Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Quintana served as secretary to the Cortes during the French invasion and produced a series of patriotic odes and proclamations. In 1808 he had republished El Bernardo (1624), Bernardo de Balbuena’s (1564–1627) epic on the legendary Spanish hero Bernardo del Carpio, whose exploits included slaying the French paladin Roland at the battle of Roncesvaux (778). Southey did acquire a copy – it was no. 3175 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013