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

2515. Robert Southey to John Murray, 12 December 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. 12. Dec. 1814

My dear Sir

I have finished Eulia, & return it by tomorrows coach. The parts which would probably serve to collate with the Spanish traveller [1]  are in the two first volumes, relating to Mecca & Medina. [2]  However I have made many extracts, & shall find means on more occasions than one to speak usefully of the work. [3]  Should you publish it I hope you will prevail upon the translator to fill up the gaps which he has left, for he (in my opinion very injudiciously) omitted historical circumstances, legends, & details of the authors personal adventures, because they contain nothing geographical; as if none but mere geographers were to read the book. It is certainly a most curious & valuable work, but as certainly it is suited for the curious & not for the public. [4] 

I sincerely thank you for your offer of an advance upon the Spanish war. [5]  In case of need I will not scruple to avail myself of it, – but I would rather make unusual exertions than incur that need. You lead me into xx Temptation when you hint at a continuance of the Register. [6]  I threw it up because my payments were stopt in an unhandsome way. [7]  It was an employment which left me too little time for other avocations, but I pursued it con amore, [8]  & it constituted the greater part of my ways & means. Whether I ought in prudence xx again to take upon myself such a burden is not easily to be determined. For tho’ sufficiently inclined, still it should seem that with my reputation, & with my powers both in verse & prose I ought to be better remunerated for avowed than for anonymous publications.

At present I have but too much in hand. Indeed I never have any prospect of finishing a work till it is fairly in the press: then, other things must give way. For this reason I shall wish to put the Spanish War in, as soon as the Brazil [9]  comes out.

I know of no continuous & laborious work in which I should so willingly engage as in the Cosmorama of which we talked; this if it were properly executed might form a source of permanent income. I have borne it in mind & the notes which have from time to time been collected are become numerous. [10] 

You need not send Charlemagne, for Longman has given me a copy. I think it a bad poem, – defective in all the higher requisitions of the art. The stanza is well constructed, & the fable, tho without xx any interest, put together with tolerable {some} ingenuity. But Lucien Buonaparte is neither a poet nor a philosopher. Would you wait for the translation before it is reviewed? it is not yet gone to the press. [11] 

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

I inclose with the MSS a small packet for Mr Bedford, & request that when you are sending to Mr Gifford you will have the goodness to let it be dropt at his door. [12] 


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 15 DE 15/ 1814
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1814 Dec 12/ Southey Rob:
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Domingo Badia y Leblich (1766–1818), who Rickman had met in London. He was a Spaniard who had travelled extensively in North Africa and the Middle East under the pseudonym ‘Ali Bey al-Abbasi’ and published Travels of Ali Bey: in Morocco, Tripoli, Cyprus, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, and Turkey, between the years 1803 and 1807 (1816) reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 299–345. Longman published this book, though, rather than Murray. BACK

[2] Murray had asked for Southey’s opinion on an unpublished 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 Murray, 4 December 1814, Letter 2510. BACK

[3] Southey kept his word. For example, an extract from Eulia Effendi appeared in the ‘Fragment of Interchapter’ on the ‘History of Cats’ in The Doctor, 7 vols (London, 1834–1847), VII, p. 579. This dealt with the value assigned by various cultures to cats, concluding: ‘Notwithstanding that high reputation and price of the Cats of Diorigi, they meet with dangerous enemies in their native place, where sometimes forty or fifty of them are killed secretly, tanned and converted into fur for the winter time. It is a fur scarce to be distinguised from Russian ermelin, and that of the red cats is not to be distinguished from the fox that comes from Ozalov.’ BACK

[4] Murray did not publish the translation of Effendi. BACK

[5] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[6] John Murray was proposing either to take over or continue the failing Edinburgh Annual Register or to establish a new annual publication. He was sounding out Southey, who had written for the Edinburgh Annual Register from 1810–1813, as a possible lead contributor. In the end, nothing came of the idea. BACK

[7] Southey had ceased working for the Edinburgh Annual Register at the end of 1813. BACK

[8] ‘with love’. BACK

[9] The final two volumes of the History of Brazil appeared in 1817 and 1819. BACK

[10] Also known as ‘A View of the World’, nothing came of this; see Southey to John Murray, 31 March 1813, Letter 2238. BACK

[11] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), brother of Napoleon and author of Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814). Southey had been asked to translate it into English and had refused. He did not review Bonaparte’s poem but did insert a swipe at it in his review of accounts of Wellington and Waterloo, Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526: ‘The publication of Charlemagne, so ostentatiously announced, was fatal to his literary character … his poem … proved him to be a sorry Homer’ (489). BACK

[12] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 11 December 1814, Letter 2513. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013