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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1144. Robert Southey to [Thomas Norton Longman], [10 January 1806] ⁠* 

Dear Sir

I have long thought that a Literary Magazine would be a good speculation, [1]  & last night, after the receipt of your letter, being prevented from sleeping the whole night by this {a} dreadful tempest, – I made some use of watchfulness by reducing what I had before only thought of cursorily into some shape.

It should be exclusively Literary, – that is without any rigmarole controversies between Mr Wood & Mr Good, or Doo Noodle & Doodle, without any metaphysical disputes. foolish questions & que foolish answers, general obituary, or magazine poetry. Materials enough are furnished by Literature, – Biographies of eminent men, xx criticisms & analyses of good or curious books in all languages, – illustrations of good books topographical, historical or xxx glossarial, – &c. In particular there should be from time to time accounts of & extracts from the MSS. in the Museum.

Good workmen in literature are not to be had so certainly for money as artificers of any other kind, yet the best price gets the best, & old Magazines become worthys by filling their pages with correspondence. You might I think engage some Saxon scholar to work in his department at the Museum, Owen & Edward Williams, [2]  between them would supply you with the lives of the Welsh bards & translations, &c – some Runic scholar might be found to give an account of the Sagas, & thus every different department of curious xxx literature might be explored. In every number there should be a portion of curious anecdotes, really so – not such as Mr Phillips  [3]  Man of Letters produces from his Portfolio, which have been told regularly xxxx in all the Magazines for ever since Magazines were invented. You probably know that Sewards anecdotes [4]  were printed thus as scraps originally in the European. An account of new plays would be proper, & such gleanings only from the London & provincial newspapers as a man who cuts out curious things would select to paste in in his blue paper volume.

The European gives two Prints, sometimes very good ones. I conclude from this that they can be afforded. One should always be a portrait from some scarce pictures or prints, or of some living man of eminence, if a foreigner the better. The other should be an illustration, as it is the fashion to call such things. for instance a view of the ruins of Spensers dwelling in Ireland, [5]  with other {scenes} in its neighbourhood – Penshurst where Sir Philip Sydney [6]  was born &c &c – Branksome & Newark &c for Walter Scotts Lay. [7]  Or occasionally a facsimile of some illumination from MS manuscripts. Many persons will purchase the book for the sake of the print. You might price it xxxxxxxxxxxx, & have your printing handsomely open like the Censura. [8]  Six sheets would make two yearly volumes, – & the Editor should start with six materials for half a year in hand.


Notes

* MS: Houghton Library, Harvard University, Ms Hyde 10 (652)
Unpublished
Dating note: listed in the Houghton information as ‘Autograph letter draft, signed, [no place] to [Thomas Norton Longman] [1806?] 1s. Describing his plan for a literary magazine. A later note by Southey, signed and dated 1807 Sept., notes that this plan was used by Longman as a blueprint for the magazine The Athenaeum, launched in 1807 Jan’. Southey’s note reads: ‘This plan was sent to Longman in a more detailed form – & out of it Dr Aikin produced the Athenӕum: – a plan which originated avowedly from the dullness with which Dr A. had palsied the M Magazine, ended in making a new one to be paralysed by {the} same torpedo touch! RS. Sept 1807.’ See also Southey to Charles Danvers, 13 May 1806, Letter 1179. BACK

[1] The short-lived magazine was named The Athenaeum, A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information (1807–1809). It was edited by John Aikin and published by Longman. BACK

[2] Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) (1747–1826; DNB), scholar and forger of Welsh literature, reviver of bardism. BACK

[3] Phillips was a commercial publisher, who included a section of this kind in his The Monthly Magazine. BACK

[4] William Seward (1747–1799; DNB), Anecdotes of Some Distinguished Persons, Chiefly of the Present and Two Preceding Centuries (1795). BACK

[5] Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599; DNB) lived from 1589–1598 at Kilcolman Castle, near Cork. BACK

[6] Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB) was born at Penshurst Place, Kent. BACK

[7] Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805). Branksome Hall therein is based on Branxholme Castle, near Hawick, Scotland, ancestral seat of the Scott clan. Newark is thirty miles to the north east of Nottingham. BACK

[8] Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges, 1st Baronet (1762–1837; DNB), Censura Literaria. Containing Titles, Abstracts, and Opinions of Old English Books, with Original Disquisitions, Articles of Biography, and Other Literary Antiquities (1805–1809). BACK

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August 2013