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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1331. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 June 1807 ⁠* 

Thursday June 11. 1807

My dear Wynn

Day after day have I looked in the papers to see your return announced, that my letters epistles might bear a red letter mark at the post office: [1]  but never could I find it till yesterday evening when the rascally Courier gave a list of all the returns. [2]  & yesterday I could not write, – for a whole hundred weight of books made their appearance from the carriers, & I was engaged with Portugueze Jesuits as long as my eyes would let me.

Your Specimens shall be waiting for you when you reach London, – a dismal book you will find it worthy of a groan whenever it is mentioned [3]  – . The small edition of Madoc [4]  ought to have been advertised a fortnight ago – tho there {are} not above half a dozen alterations I shall direct Artaxerxes to send you a copy., – for it will be more lendable than the quarto, & one alteration (at the beginning of the interview with Llewelyn) greatly improves the passage by removing a clumsy abruptness in the speech of Madoc. [5] 

There are three, or perhaps four sheets of Espriella [6]  still unprinted – It will certainly be finished in ten or a fortnight: & Palmerin [7]  about the same time. I expect the proof of the preface to the latter every day – the only proof which I see of it. The rest I left to Burnetts revision, for the sake of accommodating the printer & not keeping his types standing. He is a young beginner with little capital, whom I wish to serve, because when quite a boy he used to bring my proofs to me at Bristol. [8]  – was then one of the very finest boys I ever saw & is now a man far above the common standard of intellect & morals. This preface is very bibliographical & dull – but it contains all that can be made out about the history of the Book & of its author.

Next I go to press with the Cid, [9]  – not however till certain books from Madrid arrive, which my uncle has sent for. I think this will certainly be the most curious chival piece of chivalrous history that has ever appeared in our language. In the winter I must visit London to compleat the introduction to it, & the notes from books which will be to be found either at the Museum [10]  or at Holland House. [11] 

My progress in S America is more satisfactory than that of our troops in the same country. I am in want of two books – a Latin Hist: of Paraguay by P. Nicholas del Techo: [12]  of which there is a mutilated translation in Churchill, [13]  and the France Antartique of Thevet. [14]  The former I must wait patiently for. But with respect to French Books my readiest way will be to make out a list of all the titles I can collect and put them it into a booksellers hands to send & search for them in Paris. My first volume will I trust be written by the end of the year. [15]  – if I chose to sell it out & out as the phrase is, I might certainly get five hundred pounds for it, but it would be folly to do this, xx {considering} the possible profits of a work on such a subject at this time, & the very great value of my materials

It is very much against my inclination to interrupt these two works in both of which I take so much interest: Longman however writes to me that there is a dispute about the Edinburgh Review – Jeffray wanting to take it out of his hands, in consequence of which he has obtained an injunction on the sale in London & must prepare to carry it on without him, – in this state of affairs he requests me to review him two or three articles, in what he calls my best manner – at the Scotch price of ten guineas per sheet. The phrase of my best manner tickled me. – I told him in reply [16]  that there were many articles of which the value was in exact proportion to the time & trouble bestowed upon them, but that these articles were not of that kind: that I could review no better for an Edinburgh Review than for an Annual one. & that the worst articles he had ever received from me had cost me more time & trouble than the best: – In such cases every thing depending upon the subject, & the previous knowledge in the writer’s mind of which he could bring to bear upon it. But that I would do my best, & that upon one of the books which he mentions (Clavigero’s Mexico [17] ) I could promise him a better criticism than he could possibly obtain from any body else. Luckily he is {in} a hurry which must hurry me & when these books arrive I shall get then thro five & twenty guineas worth in about a fortnight.

Have you seen Sharon Turners new edition in quarto? [18]  greatly altered amended & enlarged. Some of his beauties still want weeding out. – but in point of matter collected & faithfully brought forward it stands before any historical work in the language. Have you also seen Wordsworths new poems? some are very childish, – some very obscure, tho not so to me who understand his opinions – others are of first rate excellence. [19]  Nothing comparable to them is to be found any where except in Shakespere & Milton: of this character are most of the sonnets which relate to the times. I never saw poetry at once so truly philosophical and heroic.

As a literary anecdote to conclude with – I have found in Hebers Amadis of Greece besides Spenser Mask of Cupid, Sir Philip Sidneys Telmane & Shakesperes Florisel [20] 

God bless you

RS

I have daily been in hopes to hear you were on your way here, – tho you would not have found me in my glory. My books are not yet shipped, & when they are they must be allowed full six weeks before they can be expected. Meantime I have had the plaisterers in my study, & now the painter has possession of it – I enter it again on Tuesday. – Rickman & his wife are likely to come here when Parliament lets him loose should if they should that will prevent me from seeing Wales – for which indeed I cannot well spare time, considering that in the winter I must go to town. – Your godson is a very fine fellow – I xxxx should like to see whether your daughter be as like you as mine is for very like you she was till she fell down two days ago and made her upper lip strut out like a snout. Is the Capt Strachey whose ship is taken off Dantzick Georges brother Christopher? [21]  I fear it must be.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Acton Park/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales MS 4812D
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 12–15. BACK

[1] Southey was eager to hear of Wynn’s return to parliament after the general election because he wished to avail himself of Wynn’s MP’s privilege of franking mail. BACK

[2] The The Courier for Thursday 11 June 1807 listed all ‘English members who were in the Last Parliament and are not in the Present’. BACK

[3] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), co-edited with Grosvenor Charles Bedford, and published, to Southey’s dismay, with numerous errors. BACK

[4] The second, duodecimo, edition of Madoc (1807). BACK

[5] For this alteration see Part I, Book 13 of Madoc, ed. Lynda Pratt, vol. II of Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), p. 91. BACK

[6] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

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

[8] The printer of Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807) was William Pople. BACK

[9] Southey’s edition of 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

[10] The British Museum. BACK

[11] To take advantage of the library of Spanish books assembled by Henry Richard Vassall-Fox. BACK

[12] Nicolás del Techo (dates unknown), Historia de la Provincia del Paraguay de la Compania de Jesus (1673). BACK

[13] Awnsham Churchill (1658–1728; DNB), A Collection of Voyages and Travels (1744–1745). BACK

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

[15] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[16] See Southey to Longmans, 5 June 1807, Letter 1330. BACK

[17] Francisco Javier Clavijero (1731–1787), Storia Antica del Messico (1780–1781). BACK

[18] A second edition of Turner’s History of the Anglo Saxons was published by Longmans in 1807. BACK

[19] Poems in Two Volumes (1807). BACK

[20] Southey had borrowed from Heber, Feliciano de Silva (1491–1554), Noveno libro de Amadís de Gaula, crónica del muy valiente y esforzado príncipe y caballero de la Ardiente Espada Amadís de Grecia, hijo de Lisuarte de Grecia, emperador de Constantinopla y de Trapisonda, y rey de Rodas (1530). He found it to be a source for stories and characters in Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene, Book 3, Canto 12, Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB), Arcadia (1593) and Shakespeare. Florizel, whom Shakespeare dramatised in the Winter’s Tale, is the subject of de Silva’s Don Florisel de Niquea (1532). These borrowings are noted in Southey’s Preface to Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (London, 1807), p. xliv–xlv. BACK

[21] On 16 May Captain Christopher Strachey (dates unknown), surrendered his ship HMS Dauntless to the French at Danzig after grounding and being bombarded by shore batteries. BACK

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August 2013