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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1365. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 28 September 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Where can Grosvenor be! I dread his arrival – having such intelligence to communicate to him. [1]  – & yet dread still more the probability that he is laid up somewhere on the road. How is that family going to wreck & ruin! – Grosvenor will – I very much fear – soon follow Horace, the old people drop off half-broken hearted, & very likely in a twelvemonths time Harry will be the only one left! –

As for coming to you it is impossible. My summers are much interrupted –which is good for my health, – indeed essential to it, for I feel the benefit of vigorous exercise – but then labour is accumulating for the winter, & I am obliged to become avaricious of time. I have received my account from Longman, – the total profit upon Madoc is 25£. – There is little likelihood that the remaining quarto copies will ever sell, unless at trade sales for a fourth part of their price. [2]  The small edition will go off drop by drop. [3]  – by leakage not by a run; – in about two years time it will perhaps begin to send in some returns, & then perhaps produce some yearly five or ten pounds. The laws of copy-right x are singularly hard, twenty or thirty years hence it is probable that this poem will have made its way, & settled into a steady & regular sale: – & then when the returns would be valuable, the property becomes common. ‘Sic vos non vobis!’ [4]  – Surely this deserves to be amended, & men of letters ought not to be the only persons whose children are not to reap the fruit of their fathers labours.

The Specimens, thanks to poor Grosvenor, cannot possibly get me any thing except heartily-deserved abuse. [5]  The sale of this edition of Espriella will right my account with Longman up to xxx midsummer: should it go thro another with any rapidity it would smooth my way fairly, & float me into quiet water. [6]  I have had unusual expences in settling myself here this year, & the edition of the Cid [7]  is mortgaged & gone for them, & for current out-goings. – When my first quarter was considerd due, & consequently what is at present due from thence, I know not. – but this temporary failure xxxxxx is embarrassing. I used just to make both ends meet, as the phrase is; – at present I am half a year behind hand. May I ask you to supply me, & receive the pension – till I can make a start, & enable myself to wait for it. This will probably be soon, – for there is a great likelihood that Espriella xx alone will do it. On this however I know nothing., but am now covenanting to revise the old translation of D Quixote, prologize & annotate it &c. [8]  This extra work will bring up my lea way. Next year too I shall be ready with Brazil in spite of all interruptions. [9]  – & then I may hope to be before hand with the world, & easily to continue so.

In this statement of income I had overlooked Palmerin, [10]  for which I am to share the profits. About 700 of Amadis [11]  have sold, if the same number of this should go off my share will be short of 100£, – about fourscore may probably be looked for in the course of a year & half; – & it may be more. Easily earned if there had been no more trouble in reediting it than I expected. – but very hardly as the thing proved to be. Your copy is ordered to George Street. There is a longish preface, most part of which is very bibliological & dull. Cervantes over-rates the book, [12]  – still it is a striking romance, & I confess I would rather be ill paid for such employ then get more by less congenial work.

I am very very anxious about Portugal. The removal of the Court to Brazil will be the best event that possibly could happen for this country, & for that general interest which one who lives out of the world may be permitted to think of more importance than any temporary or merely national advantage. [13]  Copenhagen is as you say a dreadful business. [14]  the general feeling seems to me, I am sorry to say, in favour of it. The damnable doctrine of expediency will never want advocates. – Is not your party likely to split upon the question of peace? – My own opinion is that it is the worst xxx thing which can betide us. – but that any ministry is likely to make it for the sake of purchasing a short popularity and putting off its embarrassments.

God bless you


Sept 28. 1807


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 457–458. BACK

[1] While Grosvenor Charles Bedford was en route to Keswick, following a visit to Wynn’s estate in Wales, his brother Horace died. BACK

[2] The first edition of Madoc (1805) was published by Longman in a luxurious quarto, costing two guineas. BACK

[3] A cheaper duodecimo edition of Madoc had recently been published. BACK

[4] Attributed to Virgil, meaning ‘Thus do ye, but not for yourselves’. BACK

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

[6] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). The book went into a second edition in 1808; but a third was not called for until 1814. BACK

[7] 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

[8] Southey intended to, but in the event did not, edit and update Thomas Shelton (fl. 1598–1629; DNB), The History of the Valorous and Witty Knight-Errant, Don Quixote of the Mançha (1612–1620). BACK

[9] The first edition of Southey’s History of Brazil was not published until 1810. BACK

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

[11] Southey’s translation of the Spanish romance Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[12] Palmerin of England is praised in chapter 6 of Don Quixote. BACK

[13] Southey is here speculating as to whether the royal family of Portugal would take the court to Brazil to escape the Napoleonic conquest of the mother country. This came to pass on 29 November 1807, when a British squadron under the command of Sir William Sidney Smith (1764–1840; DNB) escorted the Prince Regent, John VI (the Duke of Braganza) (1767–1826), and the Queen, his mother, across the Atlantic. BACK

[14] In summer 1807 the British, believing that France would gain possession of Denmark and its fleet, amassed ships and troops and on 2 September launched a pre-emptive attack on Copenhagen, causing the deaths of over two thousand townspeople. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013