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

2510. Robert Southey to John Murray, 4 December 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. 4 Dec. 1814

My dear Sir

The Vienna MSS has been here eight & forty hours, & in that time I have read two thirds of one volume, which tho not enough to satisfy my curiosity is, I think sufficient, for forming an opinion of the work. Certainly it is a highly curious work, but I very much doubt whether it would find purchasers enough to indemnify the publication. [1]  For tho there is something for the historian, something for the geographer, something for the statesman & something for the poet, there is very little for the general reader. It is one of those works which a public body should take the expence & the credit of publishing, but alas we have no Academy in England. – Buchanans Travels [2]  may be considered as almost a case to judge by: xxx there was the same proportion of valuable but unamusing matter of statistic detail, – & that I believe proved a very losing concern. This has clearly been apprehended in Germany, or the translation would not have been made in English. It would be a fit book to publish by subscription, – if that mode should be adopted. I should willingly be a subscriber: – but for fear it should not find a publisher, you will allow me to keep the mss. two or three days longer. I will go thro them {it} as fast as I dare tax my eyes.

However gratifying I may think Ld Byrons opinion of Roderick, [3]  your readiness to communicate is much so. I have no expectation of its becoming popular; neither the reputation of an author, nor the merit of a book will secure a popular sale. You know how much of fashion & how much of accident there is in these things.

I shall like well to abstract Roccas Memoirs, – which in point of picturesque & characteristic circumstances exceed any book of the kind. [4] 

I gave up the Ed: Ann: Register with the fourth volume. [5] 

Forbes with all speed: – the first part most probably tomorrow. [6] 

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 7 DE 7/ 1814
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1814 Dec 4/ Southey Rob
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551
Unpublished. BACK

[1] An unpublished English translation by the Austrian orientalist Ritter Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774–1856) of Evliya Çelebi (1611–1682), Seyahatname, which described the latter’s travels through the Ottoman empire. Von Hammer-Purgstall had published a German translation of Çelebi in 1814 and his English version, Narrative of Travels in Europe, Asia and Africa, appeared in 1834. See also Southey to John Rickman, 4 December 1814, Letter 2511. BACK

[2] Possibly a reference to John Lanne Buchanan (fl.1780–1816; DNB), Travels in the Western Hebrides (1793). BACK

[3] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Byron’s opinion was encapsulated in a letter to Annabella Milbanke, 28 November 1814: ‘I think Southey’s Roderick as near perfection as poetry can be – which considering how I dislike that school I wonder at – however so it is – if he had never written anything else he might safely stake his fame upon the last of the Goths’, Lord Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand, 13 vols (London, 1973–94), IV, p. 235. BACK

[4] Albert Jean Michel de Rocca (1788–1818), Mémoires sur la Guerre des Français en Espagne (1814). Southey did not review it for the Quarterly. BACK

[5] i.e. The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). BACK

[6] James Forbes (1749–1819; DNB), Oriental Memoirs (1815), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 12 (October 1814), 180–227. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013