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

2366. Robert Southey to [Thomas De Quincey], 19 January 1814 ⁠* 

Dear Sir

I send by Miss Fletcher [1]  the volume of the Persian Tales. [2]  It was purchased about the beginning of October at Harris’s, [3]  the corner of Ludgate Hill & St Pauls Church Yard: the nature of the mistake they will perceive in a moment, & no doubt will rectify it by giving you a second volume in exchange. I purchased it myself, & if it be necessary, the following circumstance may possibly recall me to their recollection. Having promised one of my cousins at Streatham to bring him home Jack the Giant Killer [4]  I went into that shop to ask for a collection in four volumes, including the history of that famous giganticide. They happened to have but one set which had been used & was the worse for wear, but rather than disappoint the little boy I took that set upon some trifling abatement in the price. – While this point was settling I looked about the shop & bought these Persian Tales for Herbert. The mistake of course was not discovered till he came to read the books, – & this is the first opportunity which I have had of setting it right.

Believe me my dear Sir – yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

Keswick, 19 Jany. 1814.


Notes

* MS: Pennsylvania State University Library
Previously published: Eliza Beshero-Bondar, ‘Nine New Letters of Robert Southey’, The Wordsworth Circle, 30.1 (1999), 47–48.
Note: identification of addressee from pencil annotation on MS. BACK

[1] Miss Fletcher (dates unknown) ran a girls’ boarding school at Ambleside and was well-known to William Wordsworth and his family. Wordsworth described her, in a letter to Henry Crabb Robinson, 3 March 1822, as having ‘very good dispositions and I believe a good temper … but she was very deaf’, The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, 2nd edn, The Later Years: Part 1, 1821–1828, ed. Alan G. Hill (Oxford, 1978), p. 111. BACK

[2] Probably a volume of the Persian and Turkish Tales. From the French of M. Petis de la Croix (1809), translated by William King (1663–1712; DNB). See also Southey to Edith Southey, 16 September 1813 (Letter 2301) and Southey to Edith May Southey, 20 September 1813 (Letter 2304). BACK

[3] John Harris (1756–1846; DNB), publisher and bookseller. In 1801–1802 he took over the company founded by John Newbery (bap. 1713–1767; DNB), which had been the first to specialise in publishing books for children. He published Harris’s Juvenile Library and Harris’s Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction. A highly successful businessman, he played a key role in the development of picture books for the young. BACK

[4] Southey had probably bought a copy of Tabart’s Collection of Popular Stories for the Nursery, 4 vols (London, 1809), where Jack the Giant Killer appears in the fourth volume. BACK

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August 2013