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

1822. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 3 November 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Saturday. Nov. 3. 1810

My dear friend

On turning to your letter of Oct 31. 1808 I find that you thanked me for the Cid [1]  – “in the name of the English people, in the name of the Spanish people, & in the name of Literature in general.” It adds – you proceed – to our domestic stock of books another good & lasting one. It will strengthen national sympathies, at present of high value to the liberties of mankind. It augments the mass of recorded experience, critically & benevolently commented. It is philosophic history in the form of contemporary history, & unites the interest of coœval with the instruction of contemplated annalism. – You would however quarrel with the theory of Mahommed [2]  in the Introduction, & you say “it is not true that the Koran contains no maxims of morality – The command to record debts in the second Sura, & the general care for pecuniary probity, is one honourable instance – the inculcation of the eleemosynary virtues is another.” [3]  – In a subsequent letter you wish that I had seperated from the text of the Chronicle all that I disbelieved, & that I had thrown it into notes or appendix. [4]  – But this I think would have been relying too confidently on my own powers of discrimination, & certainly setting a dangerous example: – nor does their appear any necessity for it, as whenever any reason for doubting part of the story existed, it has uniformly been stated.

Scott wrote a poor reviewal of this book in the first Quarterly – & expressed an opinion that the capture of Valencia was a particularly suspicious fact. [5]  He was not aware that there is no fact more fully authenticated in history. – The Mocedades del Cid by Guillen de Castro is I believe the play from which Corneille formed his tragedy. [6]  xxxx The most pertinent piece of information I can give you about it is that Lord Holland means to publish a rhyme-translation of it, – he like Fox [7]  carrying his love of rhyme into the drama. & I suspect (if they venture to say so) preferring Racine [8]  to Shakespeare. He probably means to enter a good deal into the bibliography of the Cid, for about a few weeks ago I had a letter from him requesting me to collate my copy of the Romances del Cid with his. [9] 

I rejoice that you have an opportunity of giving this poor book a lift in the world, [10]  & shall rejoice still more if you make it an opportunity of fighting the good fight for the Spaniards against that cowardly & calumnious spirit which the Edinburgh Review has been the principle means of diffusing. I have never for a moment despaired of their cause, never had any other feeling than a full confidence in their final success, founded upon my knowledge of their national character, as displayed in their whole history, – & upon the strength of the moral nature of man.

You will receive Kehama [11]  very shortly, – I have abstained from writing for the last six weeks in expectation of telling you when to expect it. If it should not reach you in due time after its is advertised, fail not to let me know, that I may re-order it.

My Anti-Catholic opinions, would I was well aware, clash with your anti-church politics. I fear too that there are some other points on which we do not thoroughly accord – but I am sure you are well pleased with the perfect freedom of this Annal, [12]  & its thorough consistency with the good old cause. I am hard at work upon 1809. Indeed I am deeply concerned in this Register [13]  – they pay me 400 £ a year for it, & I have vested 209 £ of the first years payment in a twelfth share of the property, which will pay me 40 per cent. Thus I am at last well paid for my labours. My books in Longmans hands may now be left to clear off arrears with him, I have begun to discharge a debt contracted for Harry to John May, – & have a fair prospect, (life & health permitting) of beginning in a very few years to get above the world, – in the worldly meaning of the phrase.

I have a rod in pickle for Jeffray in the shape of a review of Montgomerys poems, [14]  & another for Sidney Smith [15]  & the Unitarian Barrister concerning the Methodists. [16]  Of all the ignorant & dishonest controversialists which I have ever met with, this Barrister is the very worst. Such arguments against Methodism as he & S Smith make use of, would persuade me into it, – if that were possible.

Coleridge is in town, & will probably visit Bury before he sets his face Northward. If you talk to him about your theological theories you will find a man thoroughly versed in the subject, – bringing to it all that can be brought from erudition & meditation. I like Martin [17]  but cannot think him as deep as a well upon any subject.

Griffiths will remember that for ten years his Review has been my bitter & even malicious enemy; & how this is to be got over I hardly know. [18] 

I know nothing of the authorship in the second part of the Register. [19]  The criticism is indeed preciously absurd. I should as soon think of being measured with Tom Thumb as {with} Thomas Campbell [20]  – But as every dog will have his day, so it seems may every puppy.

Rickman was with me last week. You are now almost the only friend whom I have never seen here. In the spring I go southward & take Edith with me. It is not impossible that we may visit Clarkson, & if so I shall find my way once more to Norwich. Pray remember me to your Mother, [21]  – the recollections of twelve years make me feel like an old guest of the family –

God bless you

Yrs very affectionately

R Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ William Taylor Junr Esqr/ Surry Street/ Norwich
Endorsement: Ansd Feb 2
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4866
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 298–302. BACK

[1] Chronicle of the Cid (1808). See J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, p. 222. BACK

[2] Muhammad (c. 570–632), Prophet of Islam. BACK

[3] J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 222–223. A response to Southey’s assertion: ‘There is nothing in the Koran which affects the feelings, nothing which elevates the imagination, nothing which enlightens the understanding, nothing which ameliorates the heart: it contains no beautiful narrative, no proverbs of wisdom or axioms of morality’, Chronicle of the Cid (London, 1808), p. xviii. BACK

[4] Taylor to Southey, 27 December 1808, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, p. 234. BACK

[5] Scott had reviewed The Chronicle of the Cid (1808) in Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 134–153. He expressed his doubts about the Cid’s capture of Valencia (Ibid, 152). BACK

[6] Guillén de Castro (1569–1631), Las Mocedades del Cid (written 1605–1615) did influence Pierre Corneille’s (1606–1684), El Cid (1636). BACK

[7] Charles James Fox (1749–1806; DNB) was Lord Holland’s uncle. BACK

[8] Jean Racine (1639–1699), French playwright. BACK

[9] Southey had written to Lord Holland on 6 October 1810, Letter 1812. Holland published Some Account of the Lives and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio and Guillen de Castro (1817), but he did not complete a translation of any of the Spanish author’s plays. BACK

[10] In a letter of 29 October, Taylor mentioned that he planned to review the Chronicle of the Cid for the Monthly Review, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, p. 295. The article, which drew attention to parallels with the contemporary struggle for Iberian independence, appeared in Monthly Review, 64 (January 1811), 131–144. BACK

[11] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[12] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810). BACK

[13] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811). BACK

[14] James Montgomery, The West Indies, and other Poems (1810) and The Wanderer in Switzerland, and other Poems (1811), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 405–419. BACK

[15] Sydney Smith (1771–1845; DNB), one of the founders of and leading contributors to the Edinburgh Review. Southey’s strictures on Smith were included in his review of Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[16] Southey’s review of Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. The author was James Sedgwick (1775–1851; DNB), barrister and civil servant. Southey was annoyed that many of his more cutting points were removed prior to publication; see Southey to Tom Southey, 5 December 1810, Letter 1836. BACK

[17] Thomas Martin (1769–1850), formerly a Unitarian minister at Great Yarmouth, where Southey had met him in 1798, but by this time a Liverpool merchant, Secretary of the Royal Liverpool Institution and author of Zetemata dianoetika: or a View of the Intellectual Powers of Man (1819), whom Taylor had proposed sending drafts of his ‘original theory respecting the historic portion of the Gospels’, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, p. 297. BACK

[18] George Edward Griffiths (1771/2–1828; DNB), editor of the Monthly Review, 1803–1825. Taylor had asked to review the History of Brazil for the Monthly, J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, p. 296. The review did not appear. BACK

[19] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.2 (1810). BACK

[20] Southey, Thomas Campbell (1777–1844; DNB) and Scott had been described as ‘the three most successful candidates for poetical fame’ in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.2 (1810), 419. BACK

[21] Sarah Taylor, née Wright (1735/1736–1812). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013