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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1363. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 22 September 1807 ⁠* 

My dear friend

Longman is instructed to send you a copy of Palmerin, [1]  & another to Dr Sayers, [2]  whom I beg you towill thank in my name for his poems. The volume [3]  which he directed for Coleridge is placed in my library, but he is not here to receive it. I admire Jack the Giant Killer thoroughly; – it is the best burlesque I have seen, because it is not overdone. Guy is not so good, – because it is not asso apparent what he is burlesquing. Dr Sayers in his love of the ludicrous reminds me of the Italian verse-romancers.

I am almost as indignant at your No Bucerism [4]  as Dr Watkins can be, – & were the author of those articles unknown should exclaim with equal virulence at his utter want of candour, & his wilful ignorance. It is a little too bad to quote the authority of Sanders! [5]  – the Abbé Barruel [6]  of the English Reformation, – in whom the lie originated that Ann Boleyn was Henrys own daughter, known by him to be so. If however you happen to have this book it may be worth while to look in it & see whether or not the opinion (still existing traditionally) that Henry spayed both his daughters is xxxxto be found there, – for that lie must have had some author, & none so likely as this rascal of all rascals, on whom you rely, tho the Catholicks themselves have long been ashamed of his outrageous calumnies. Oh that you should take so strange a pleasure in playing off paradoxes, – creating with Chymic skill Jack-a-lanthorns of your own, for the sake of following them astray yourself! The Persiles [7]  I have not read, & have not at hand. A new edition of D Quixote is in contemplation of the booksellers, with splendid prints from Smirkes designs. It is likely that I shall, for the lucre of gain, or more truly for want, than for love of money, correct the old translation, annotate it, & prefix such an account of the Knights Library, as my own studies enable me to supply, – with a life of Cervantes & an account of his other works. [8] 

Neddy-asses – is the Somersetshire word, – & the term Lion is used at Oxford, [9]  as I have used it, & nowhere else to my knowledge. – I am not sensible of any thing new or striking in the letter about the theatre. It is one of the very few which were written because the subject could not properly be passed over, but which I was not led by the wish of saying anything. The tendency of the book you rightly appreciate. I am desirous of its sale, because I wish very much to say all that I have left unsaid, which, should Espriella be encouraged to return to England & travel again, may be done in two volumes more. In those I should (I think) be able to comprize a compleat the picture of society in England. [10] 

I trace your Romance-reading in the M. Magazine’s Portfolio. & you will find that I continue to persecute Dr Aikin with odd things which he utterly abominates, & of which he suppresses every one that he can invent any possible motives for suppressing. He beseeches more lifes like D Luisa [11]  – where are such to be found? However I shall give him one of St Francis, which Pitchford [12]  will not like, – & one of Vieira the Portugueze painter, abstracted from that poem, which furnishes the first note to Madoc. [13]  Am I not too paid too little for such things? Philips  [14]  gave Burnett ten guineas for his four letters upon Poland which fall short of a sheet. And five is what the Athenæum pays for every thing, no matter how good, nor how Aikinish. I think xxxx{such} work is good enough to be paid by the piece.

Dr Reeve’s [15]  marriage made me a little melancholy, – not that {because} Henry is ousted at Norwich, – but because it forcibly brought to my mind the sense of that fickleness about women, which he might not have had if he found it less easy to please them, but which is very mischievous in its effect to himself as well as them. Wherever he goes some new face supplants the last – with Miss Noel [16]  he was deeply smitten, & was for a few weeks, miserable enough in all conscience – – but it soon past off & he has left a deeper impression in another quarter than he ought to have done. I wish no man in whose welfare I am interested, to lead a single life, – but if he will {must} be single I had rather it were from a disappointed attachment than for want of one. In the former case the heart may be purified, in the latter it is likely to be hardened, – And if celibacy does not proceed from virtue, it very frequently leads to vice.

I go to London some time during the winter – will any business lead you there so that we may contrive to meet? my time will probably be early in the year, as soon as my family has received an expected addition.

God bless you – remember me to your mother –

R Southey.

Sir Kay is the Seneschal. read Mort Arthur  [17] 

The Cid [18]  is in the press.

Sept 22. 1807


Notes

* Address: To/ Wm Taylor Junr Esqr/ Surry Street/ Norwich
Endorsements: Ansd 22 Dec
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4857
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), II, pp. 206–209. BACK

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

[2] Frank Sayers (1763–1817; DNB), whose 1792 collection, Poems, had influenced Southey’s early work. BACK

[3] In 1803 Sayers published Nugæ Poeticæ, including versifications of ‘Jack the Giant-Killer’ and ‘Guy of Warwick’. BACK

[4] Taylor had contributed to the Monthly Magazine, 24 (1807), 24–25, an article entitled ‘No Bucerism’, a reply to a critique made, in the Monthly, 23 (1807), 327 and 418, by John Watkins (1786–1831?; DNB), (clergyman, biographer, contributor to the New Monthly Magazine) of his earlier article ‘Concerning a War Whoop’, in the Monthly Magazine, 23 (1807), 327–328. Martin Bucer (1491–1551) was a reformer whose early tolerance of other beliefs was replaced in Strasbourg by enquiries designed to produce Protestant conformity and leading to the imprisonment of those whose doctrine did not comply. BACK

[5] Nicholas Sander (c.1530–1581; DNB), Roman Catholic controversialist who authored De Origine ac Progressu Schismatis Anglicani (1586), in which the relationship of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is declared improper and invalid. BACK

[6] Abbé Augustin Barruel (1741–1820), the French Jesuit priest whose 1797 work Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire du Jacobinisme blamed the French Revolution on an international religious conspiracy. BACK

[7] Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, Historia Septentrional (1617). BACK

[8] Southey did not edit Don Quixote or write a life of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616); the old edition he thought of updating was Thomas Shelton (fl. 1598–1629; DNB), The History of the Valorous and Witty Knight-Errant, Don Quixote of the Mançha (1612–1620). The illustrator was Robert Smirke (1752–1845), painter and illustrator of editions of Shakespeare, the Arabian Nights, and, eventually, Don Quixote (translated by his daughter, Mary Smirke, 1818). BACK

[9] See letter 32 of Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807), in which it is explained that in Oxford a ‘Lion’ is a stranger. BACK

[10] A sequel to Letters from England did not appear. BACK

[11] Southey had contributed a ‘Memoir of D. Luisa de Carvajal’ (Luisa Carvajal y Mendoza (1566–1614)) to the Athenæum, a Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information, 1 (April/May 1807), 270–277, 391–399, 495–500. BACK

[12] John Pitchford (dates unknown), denizen of Taylor’s town of Norwich, where he had a partnership in a chemist’s and druggist’s, was a Catholic defender of St Francis. See his letter of 11 July 1808 to the Antijacobin Review, 30 (May-August 1808), 333, denying that St Francis had infected a lover with venereal disease. BACK

[13] A note to Part 1, Book 1, of Madoc (1805) cites a poem, O insignie Pintor e Leal Esposo Viera Lusitano, Historia Verdadeira, que elle escreve em Cantos Lyricos (1780) by Portuguese painter Francisco Vieira (1765–1805). BACK

[14] The essays in Burnett’s View of the Present State of Poland (1807) first appeared in Phillips’s Monthly Magazine. BACK

[15] Henry Reeve (1780–1814; DNB), physician and traveller, who after a European tour on which he met many leading men of science, settled in Norwich, marrying in 1807 Susan Taylor (1788–1853; DNB). BACK

[16] Henry Southey had met Emma Noel (d. 1873), while at the home of Charles Lloyd in Ambleside. She was the daughter of Gerard Noel Edwardes, of Exton Park, Rutland (1759–1838; DNB), who had adopted the surname Noel in 1798, and inherited a baronetcy in 1813 to become the 2nd Baronet Barham. When her family objected to the couple’s plans to marry, their relationship ended. BACK

[17] In Sir Thomas Malory (1415/18–1471; DNB), Morte d’Arthur, which Southey would edit in 1817, Sir Kay, Arthur’s ‘foster’ brother, is made seneschal of Arthur’s lands at his father Sir Ector’s request, immediately after Arthur draws the sword from the stone. BACK

[18] Southey’s 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

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August 2013