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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1051. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 29 March 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Duppa

I am a little surprized at Mr Hills pertinacity. – Three years ago I received a letter signed with that name requesting that my xxx {I} would be graciously pleased to beautify the Monthly Mirror with my portrait, – to which I returned a civil answer declining that honour, as I had done on former occasions of the same kind. here it ended – I afterwards became acquainted with Mr Hill, who is the very useful dry-salter in Queen Hithe, – & recognised his hand-writing. but the portrait has never since been mentioned to me, & I am still in the same mind, that it is better to keep out of the Magazines. If you are plagued again say I have an objection to it, & have always returned the same answer to other applications.

I shall now look seriously to Michel Angelo, & will send you the best I can. [1]  the Italian is not easy, but we shall make it out. & Coleridge is at this time setting out, or on his way home, [2]  so that, if no mishap delay him he may be expected in time to lend a hand.

My Spaniard, D. Manuel Alvares Espriella, [3]  is a young man, of good family, travelling solely for instruction. he is come to England with a Mr J. a London merchant, with whom he had become acquainted in Spain, & in whose family he is domesticated in London. He arrives early in May & travels immediately to town, where he remains for a few weeks, & then takes certain journeys into the country – winters in London, & returns late in the spring thro the West of England to Falmouth. He brings some knowledge of the language with him, is indefatigably industrious, & has an eye for every thing around him, & is fortunate in having intelligent friends to assist his enquiries. in short as able a man as I can make him, with high notions of family, & a rooted belief in the Catholic faith, even in its absurdities, – which weakness is not inconsistent with his general talents, if you conceive that his fathers solar (family seat) is in a remote province, & not in a town, – & that he is affectionately attached to his Confessor.

Such a man when he feels the present degradation of his own country, looks with some pleasure to the symptoms of decline in this. you may conceive him familiar with the pictures of Titian, Rubens, & the Spanish Masters Velasquez & Murillo – & Mengo [4]  if he be worth thinking of – for he would have seen the collections at Madrid & the Escurial. [5]  In literature he knows that of his own country well, which, as far as he can know learn any thing of English literature, excels it because it being impossible that he can appreciate Shakespere & Milton & our few first rates – the rest are really very scurvy cattle. What he most abominates here (except our heresy) is the spirit of trading which has poisoned every thing.

It will be impossible to finish this book without going to London. xxx it must contain something of travels, which I can make sufficiently dramatic. there are certain papers of mine in town which will furnish some sketches for this part, which my memory will not; & also it is necessary that some little matter-of-fact-ery appear, from topographical histories – just enough to give an appearance of verisimilitude to the whole. Now & then those dull deadlily dull books, which are the disgrace of English literature contain an historical anecdote, or notice of some antiquarian local custom, which would look well if set in a better place. But all the thinking-part of the business the satire, & the philosophy & the speculation, can be done here. I have begun many letters. & finished but few, – leaving off when the vein is for the time expended. This method saves time – the first – which is mere travelling I will send by way of the Emperor of the Franks [6]  that you may see xx whether or no I have looked thro Spanish spectacles. It is a very likely speculation to attract notice & to succeed – for there will be a precious mystery of iniquity laid open, & I expect never to be troubled with bile after the thorough discharge, as long x as I live. – The letters are written home – to father mother or brother.

By this time you have – or ought to have – my book. [7]  what I began to think was gone to the bottom of the sea by way of getting rid of an edition speedily. I wrote to Mr Smith three weeks ago, thinking it was then ready for delivery.

We go on well. I never go beyond the premises tho our weather has been delightful, xx xxx more so perhaps than ever winter was remembered here. the snow has never covered the valley half an hour during the whole winter. Mrs C. is not yet returned. [8]  We live as compleatly without society as if we could do in Kamschatka, [9]  & feel it as little as you may imagine. Summer is coming on & then there will be too much of it. I get on steadily with my Opus Majus the history, [10]  & only wish that I were rich enough never to do any task work, & sometimes to have an amanuensis at hand, & to buy all the books which would be useful to me. As for family events the most important is that Johnny Cockbain [11]  has made me a new pair of pantaloons.

Remember me at Stockwell [12]  – & to Edridge when you see him. I expect to hear from Elmsley & from every body else when they have had time to cut open the leaves of Madoc. Longman was instructed to send the book to you – Tomkins [13] SharonCarlisle – & Elmsley. You can perhaps learn whether they have been delivered that if not I may renew my instruction. All here desire to be remembered – We talk of you very often & wish you were here again

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

R Southey.

March 29. 1805


Notes

* Address: To/ Richard Duppa Esqr/ 13. Poland Street/ Oxford Street/ London./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] 29
Watermark: 1797
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library, 3 A.L.S. to Richard Duppa
Unpublished. BACK

[1] After Duppa’s visit to the Lakes in the summer of 1804, both Wordsworth and Southey translated poems for Duppa’s Life and Works of Michel Angelo Buonarroti, which was published in 1806. Wordsworth translated one sonnet; Southey three sonnets and a madrigal. A further poem, ‘And sweet it is to see in summer time’, was a joint effort, the first four stanzas by Wordsworth, the following five by Southey. See Kenneth Curry, ‘Uncollected Translations of Michelangelo by Wordsworth and Southey’, Review of English Studies, 14 (1938), 193–199. BACK

[2] Coleridge was working as the private secretary to Sir Alexander Ball (1757–1809; DNB), the naval officer governing Malta. He arrived back in England, in August 1806, but did not come back to live in Keswick. BACK

[3] The fictional protagonist of Southey’s fake travel narrative Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[4] All Old Masters from Italy or artists influenced by Italian painting: Vecellio Tiziano (Titian) (1490–1576), Pieter Pauwel Rubens (1577–1640), Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682), Fray Juan Bautista Maino (Mayno) (1581–1649). BACK

[5] The palace, monastery and museum built for the Spanish king, Phillip II (1527–1598), near Madrid. BACK

[6] A nickname for the Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Abbott, who had the power to frank mail. Rickman, his secretary, used this facility on Southey’s behalf. BACK

[7] Madoc (1805). BACK

[8] She was visiting the family of Dr Peter Crompton (dates unknown) of Eton House, Liverpool, a radical reformer who supported John Thelwall in the 1790s and who contested elections at Nottingham (1796, 1807, 1812), Preston (1818) and Liverpool (1820). BACK

[9] Kamchatka: a peninsula in the East Asian part of Russia, proverbial for cold and isolation. BACK

[10] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

[11] A Keswick tailor (dates unknown). BACK

[12] Stockwell Park, Surrey was the home of Thomas Woodruffe Smith. BACK

[13] Thomas Tomkins (1743–1816; DNB): writing-master and calligrapher, who carried out commissions for decorative book titles of luxury publications, including Southey’s Madoc (1805). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013