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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1377. Robert Southey to Longmans, 13 November 1807 ⁠* 

Nov. 13. 1807.

Dear Sirs,

We have certainly some reason to complain of Cadell and Davies; poor Cervantes, however, has more.            .            .            .            .            .            .             [1]  Their splendid edition will be sure to sell for its splendour. I would have made such a work as should have been reprinted after the plates were worn out. I thank you for offering to engage in it, but my nature is as little disposed to this kind of warfare as yours; and I have as many plans to execute as I shall ever find life to perform. Let it pass. Morte d’Arthur is a book which I shall edit with peculiar pleasure, because it has been my delight since I was a school-boy. [2]  There is nothing to be done in it but to introduce it with a preface, and accompany it with notes. No time need be lost. As soon as you can meet with a copy, it may be put into Pople’s hands: and by the time he has got through it, the introduction and annotations will be ready. I will send back Heber’s books (which I have detained, expecting to use them for the D. Quixote). For the Athenæum, it will be sufficient to say that I am preparing an edition of Morte d’Arthur, with an introduction and notes. [3] 

I have materials for a volume of Travels in Portugal, which the expulsion of the English from that country, and the consequent impossibility of my returning there to visit the northern provinces, as was my intention, induces me to think of preparing for the press. In what form are such works most profitable? If in quarto with engravings, I can procure some sketches and some finished drawings. If you judge it expedient to reprint my former volume, it must undergo some corrections; for though it has pleased the public to receive my first publications far more favourably than my later ones, I am fully sensible of their faults, and look upon them with efficient humiliation. [4] 

.           .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .             The D. Quixote shall be returned in my first parcel. The only reason I have for regretting that Mr. Balfour [5]  has elbowed me out of an office to which he certainly has no pretensions whatever is, that I wished to do something, the emolument of which should be certain, for I cannot be anticipating uncertain profits without feeling some anxiety. I have translations enough almost to make a little volume like Lord Strangford’s, [6]  but then I am not a lord. I have ballads enough for half a volume, but people are more ready to ask copies of them now, than they would be to buy them; and were I to write as many more, according to all likelihood I should not get more by publishing them than any London newspaper would give me for any number of verses, good, bad, or indifferent, sold by the yard, and without the maker’s name to warrant them. What I feel most desirous to do is to send Espriella again on his travels, and so complete my design; but this must not be unless he hits the fancy of the public. [7] 

Yours truly,

R. Southey.


Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 111–112. BACK

[1] Here Southey was abandoning his plans to edit Don Quixote upon learning that an edition was to be published by the firm of Cadell and Davies. This appeared as Don Quixote de la Mancha. Translated from the Spanish by Mary Smirke, Embellished with Engravings, 4 vols (London: Cadell and Davies, 1818). Longman had proposed Southey edit it earlier that year; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [end of August 1807], Letter 1356; for a fuller account, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 November 1807, Letter 1378. BACK

[2] 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

[3] The Athenæum, A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information. Southey’s Morte d’Arthur was not announced in The Athenaeum. BACK

[4] The expanded third edition of Southey’s Letters written during a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797; 2nd edn 1798) was published in two volumes by Longman in 1808 as Letters Written During a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal. BACK

[5] John Balfour (dates unknown), author of Fables on Subjects connected with Literature; imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas Yriarte (1804). BACK

[6] Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford (1780–1855; DNB), Poems from the Portuguese of Luis de Camoens: with Remarks on his Life and Writings (1803). Southey reviewed this book in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 569–577. BACK

[7] A follow-up to Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807) did not appear. BACK

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August 2013