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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1283. Robert Southey to [Mary] Hays, 7 March 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Madam

You attribute more weight among the Booksellers to my recommendation than it possesses. It might be of some avail if they referred a manuscript to me, xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx but it is of none in introducing a work to them, for this reason – that they regard subject as the main thing, & consider themselves as the best judges of that, which probably they are. If the subject be likely to succeed among other winter fashions, then they think about the execution, & refer it to some professor of criticism which in contradistinction to cobbling, may be called the ungentle craft.

I should conceive your subject a good one, but that the booksellers would object to the proposed extent of the work, & that you would be far more likely to obtain a purchaser for three volumes than for six.

I will peruse your MSS. with great pleasure, & return it with such remarks as may occur upon perusal. Messrs Longman & Co are the only publishers with whom I am acquainted; – to them I will mention the book – if you still think such mention can be of use; – but the truth is that they find my own books so little successful in point of sale, that tho my opinion might induce them to think I well of a published work, it is by no means likely to induce them to publish one.

The history of our manners from the accession of the Stuarts, is I fear only to be collected from scattered authorities. Just at that point you will find a very interesting document at the end of Stowes Chronicle, [1]  containing all his recollections of the changes which had taken place. A continuation of Wartons History of Poetry [2]  is announced which will probably give you all the light you want respecting the literature. But for morals, fashions & domestic habits, till the days of xx Addison, [3]  there are I believe no better documents to be found than what can be gathered xxx picked out of the dunghill of our comic writers. For this reason the latter part of your work will be the most laborious.

Messrs Longman are about to send off a parcel to me, in which your papers may be inclosed. I am sorry you should have laboured at Olivier in vain. With the name of Cazotte, & the praise of Gibbon I should have thought any bookseller would willingly have purchased the translation. [4] 

yrs very truly & respectfully

Robert Southey.

Keswick. Cumberland.

March 7. 1807.


Notes

* Address: To/ Miss Hays/ 3. Park Street/ Islington/ London/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 10 O’Clock/ MR 10/ 1807 FNn; E/ MAR10/ 1807
Endorsement: March 1807
MS: Pforzheimer Collection, New York Public Library, Misc MS. 2214
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 417–419. BACK

[1] John Stow (c. 1525–1605; DNB), Annales, or a Generale Chronicle of England from Brute until the present yeare of Christ 1580 (1580). This was reprinted in 1592, 1601 and 1605, the last being continued to 26 March 1605, or within ten days of his death; further updated editions were published in 1615 and 1631. BACK

[2] Thomas Warton (1728–1790; DNB), The History of English Poetry, from the Close of the Eleventh to the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century (1774–1781) was to have been continued by Southey’s acquaintance, the critic, editor and literary historian Thomas Park (1758/9–1834). Park abandoned the plan. BACK

[3] Joseph Addison (1672–1719; DNB), journalist. BACK

[4] Jacques Cazotte (1719–1792), Les Prouesses Inimitables d’Olivier, Marquis d’Edesse (1762). Edward Gibbon praised the work in his journal on 12 November 1763; see Miscellaneous Works of Edward Gibbon, Esquire, 3 vols (Dublin, 1796), II, pp. 470–471. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013