1287. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 14 March 1807

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1287. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 14 March 1807 ⁠* 

Dear Heber

You have had ere this my unhappy specimens, [1]  – hurried at last into the world, after three years delay, in such haste that the sheets were never sent to me for revisal, & so the cancels are to be made after the book is published. It is needless to say how much I am provoked with the printer [2]  for his intolerable blunders, how much with Bedford for his manifold offences both of omission & commission, & how much more with myself for trusting any thing to either the one or the other. If ever the book should reach a second edition (for which in my conscience I am afraid it is too bad) it shall assume a very different appearance. [3]  One half the Specimens shall be omitted to make room for the numberless authors now left out, I will insert what he has unaccountably thought proper to strike out, & strike out what he has with as little propriety inserted, – for if he had not undone much which I had done, & done much which I designed to leave undone, the book would have been far better than it is. I never intended that he should be Inquisitorial Censor over me. This however is only said to you, that you may not suppose me more in fault than is really the case. The book must take its chance in the world, as if all its sins rested upon my head.

I should not have written to you about this, – but having occasion to write, the subject was uppermost, & so out it came. I write to ask if you have Thevets France Antarticque. [4]  Lery [5]  says he was a Liar, & Thuanus [6]  that he was a scoundrel, but notwithstanding this I am at present in great want of his book. You may perhaps have heard that it is my intention, in consquence of political circumstances, to publish that part of my Opus Magnum first which relates to South America, & which I shall probably entitle Brazil & Paraguay, – for concerning the latter I shall have necessarily so much to say, [7]  that it will be most convenient to give the whole history of the countries between the Rivers Plata & Maranham. [8]  My MS. materials are very numerous & very important.

All your books shall be returned as soon as Palmerin is finished. [9]  I soon devoured Esplandian, [10]  which bad as it is well repaid my time, & I earnestly wish I could get at the whole series. Beyond a doubt Palmerin is the best of the Spanish Romances, except Amadis; – it is indeed a book of great merit – I shall be glad when my task is xx compleated, as the labour was very unexpected – thus it is not to look before leaping; – however as it was to be done, I was resolved it should be done thoroughly, & the printers copy will convince you (in spite of the Specimens) that it is not my way to do things carelessly.

I & my Books are about to be gathered together in this place, where I am likely to take root, & where I shall be very glad to shew them to you. [11] 

I have a strong desire to edite Morte Arthur one of these days. [12]  Will you secure a copy for me when one falls in your way, if the price be not beyond all reason. I am well qualified to annotate it, & to prolegomenize. A xx Mr Goldsmid [13]  has written to offer me the use of his Romances, – he has no Spanish Ones – but is tolerably rich in French. I would give the whole bibliology of the Round Table in the Appendix – as I shall do that of Amadis in the literary history of Spain. – My Chronicle of the Cid will extend to a quarto volume & supply the place of all introductory matter to the Hist. of Portugal, by giving a compleat picture of the heroic age of Spain – that is of the whole peninsula. a very curious work it will be, & will I am confident please you well. It is wrongly announced as a translation, – the Chronica del Cid is the basis, – but every thing not relating to the subject, is thrown out, & every thing which does relate to it & can be collected from other sound authority is put in, – references being annexed to every section. [14]  Do you happen to have Casire’s Bibliotheca Arabica-Hispana? [15]  – if not I must wait to consult it at the Museum, [16]  which will be less convenient on every account. There was a set for sale at Edinburgh which I should have purchased if the one volume had not been a tall copy, & the other cut down to a dwarf by some inhuman book binder.

yrs truly

Robert Southey.

Keswick. March 14. 1807.


* Address: [insertion in another hand] To/ Richard Heber Esqr/ <York Street/ Westminster>
Stamped: Penny Post/ Unpaid/ Pauls Yd
Postmark: 12 o’Clock/ MR 18/ 1807 Nn
MS: Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Eng. Lett. d. 215, fols 181–182. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: H. Cholmondeley (ed.), The Heber Letters 1783–1832 (London, 1950), pp. 216–217. BACK

[1] Southey’s and Grosvenor Bedford’s Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[2] The book was printed by S. Hollingsworth (first name and dates unknown) of Crane Court, Fleet Street. BACK

[3] A second edition was not called for. BACK

[4] André Thevet (1516?-1592), Singularitez de la France antarctique (1557). BACK

[5] Jean de Léry (1536–1613), Historia Navigationis in Brasiliam, quae et America Dicitur (1578). BACK

[6] Jacques Auguste de Thou (Thuanus) (1553–1617), author of Historia sui temporis (1620) and Memoires (1620). BACK

[7] Southey’s History of Brazil appeared in three volumes from 1810 to 1819. The remainder of his ‘History of Portugal’ was never completed. BACK

[8] The Marañón River, which begins northeast of Lima in Peru and is one of the headwaters of the Amazon river, was perceived to be the source of the Amazon in the nineteenth century. BACK

[9] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[10] Las Sergas de Esplandián, (1510) one of a series of Spanish chivalric romances by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (1450–1504) of which Amadis of Gaul, which Southey translated in 1803, is the first. BACK

[11] Southey was planning to have his books shipped to Keswick; see Southey to John Rickman, 23 February [1807], Letter 1278. BACK

[12] The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur ... With an introduction and notes by Robert Southey. (Printed from Caxton’s edition, 1485) was published in two volumes by Longmans in 1817. BACK

[13] John Louis Goldsmid (1789–1835), banker and book collector. BACK

[14] Southey’s edition Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish was published by Longmans in 1808. It comprised translations from the Crónica particular del Cid (1593), with additions from the Crónica de España of Alphonso the Wise (1541) and Romancero e Historia del Cid (1632). BACK

[15] Miguel Casiris (dates unknown), Bibliotheca Arabico-Hispana Escurialensis (1760–1770). BACK

[16] The British Museum. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)