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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1379. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 16 November 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

Your books are sent off, & directed to Longmans. The two copies of Palmerin de Oliva. Amadis of Greece. Esplandan. Primaleon. Polendos. Palmerin of England. Linschoten. Pere Tomich & the Hist. del Rey D Jayme el Conquistador. [1]  Except the Dutchman they have all undergone a more thorough perusal than they have probably had for the last hundred years, or will have for the next. They have been detained since the publication of Palmerin [2]  owing to this cause, – I was applied to concerning an edition of D Quixote which Smirke has projected with Cadell & Davies, they authorised Longman to treat with me concerning it, & I meditated a very extensive plan of illustrations & annotations, which was would have brought forth a greater body of Spanish xxxxx lore than is at present existing in our language. Meantime Cadell & Davies have concluded a bargain with Mr Balfour, whose imitations of Yriarte have shown him to be a man of tried & convicted incapacity. [3]  Had this plan taken effect your Romances would have been in farther request.

I am now about to edite Mort Arthur. [4]  My Round Table knowledge is as extensive as that of any person perhaps, but my Round-Table library is xxx scanty, – of old books it contains none except the English Geoffrey of Monmouth – & the two long poems of Luigi Alemanni. [5]  My plan is to give the history of Arthur & collect (by the aid of Turner, Owen & Edward Williams [6] ) all that the Welsh themselves can supply; – & then the critical bibliography of the Round Table. The notes will refer to the originals from which this delightful book has been compiled, & give all the illustrations that I can supply. – Once more therefore I must beg your assistance, & ask you to send me as many books as you have which bear upon the subject, – a Mr Goldsmid [7]  sent me a list of his romances some time ago, & his collection will probably contain what yours may want. – Will you add to them your copy of Oviedos History of the New World, – I have all the other primitive Historians, but of this, only that part which is included in Barcias collection. [8] 

The printers copy of Palmerin was I hope returned to you, according to your desire & my directions. It will show you that I am not an idle editor whatever those unhappy specimens may have induced you to think. Should this Palmerin sell I would gladly follow it with the third part, if the original could be procured; [9]  – but the only chance of meeting with one would be in the Kings library [10]  & there of course it would be useless.

I have many things in hand. The Chronicle of the Cid [11]  will be likely to please you. It will soon be followed by the History of Brazil, – & that by the other parts of the Hist. of Portugal & its Conquests. [12]  With poetry I must have done, unless I could afford another Madoc for five & twenty pounds, – which is all that it has pleased the xxx public to let me get xxx {by} it. I feel some pride in having done well, but it is more than counterbalanced by the consciousness that I could do better, & yet am never likely to xxxxxx the have an opportunity. St Cecilia [13]  herself could not have played the organ if nobody there had been nobody to have blown the bellows for her. Drafts upon posterity will not pass for current expences. My writings poems have sold exactly in an inverse ratio to their merit, & I cannot go back to boyhood & put myself again upon a level with the taste of the book-buying readers. My numerous plans & collections for them, will figure away when I am dead, & afford excellent xxxx occasion for exclamations of edifying regret from those very persons who would have traduced what they will xxxxx think it decorous to lament.

You will see in the Preface to Palmerin that I have tracked Shakespere, Sidney & Spenser to Amadis of Greece. [14]  I have an imperfect copy of Florisel of Nequea, the next in the series, – & there I find the mock execution of Pamela & Philoclea, & Amoret with her open wound. [15] 

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

Keswick. Nov. 16. 1807.


* Address: To/ Richard Heber Esqr
MS: Ms Hyde 10 (650), Houghton Library, Harvard University
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 116–118. BACK

[1] Southey’s borrowings cannot be identified with certainty but he refers elsewhere to the following editions: The [First-] Seconde Part, of the ... Historie, of the ... Princes Palmerin of England, and Florian du Desart his brother ... Translated out of French, by A. M. [Anthony Munday (bap. 1560–1633; DNB)] (1596); Palmerin d’Oliva. Translated by A. M. [Anthony Munday] (1588); 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; The First Booke of Primaleon of Greece (1595); The Famous History of Palmendos, Son to the Most Renowned Palmerin d’Oliva, Emperour of Constantinople, and the Heroic Queen of Tharsus (1589) [all translated by Munday]; Francisco de Moraes Cabral (1500?-1572), Libro del Muy esforzado caballero Palmerin de Inglaterra (1547); Jan Huyghen van Linschoten (1563–1611), the Dutch explorer and cartographer, who published in 1595 Reys-Gheschrift Vande Navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten and in 1597 Beschryvinghe van de Gantsche Custe van Guinea, Manicongo, Angola Ende Tegen over de Cabo de S. Augustijn in Brasilien, de Eyghenschappen des Gheheelen Oceanische Zees. The Latin edition, with plates, appeared as Pars Indiae Orientalis, in Qu Johan. Hugonis Lintscotani Navigatio in Orientem, 1599, in the collection of travel narratives published by Johan Theodor and Johann Israel De Bry, Peregrinationes (1598–1613); Pere Tomich (fl. 1431–1438), Histories e Conquestes del Reyalme Darago e Principat de Cathalunya (1438); Bernardino Gómez Miedes (1515–1589), Historia de la Vida de Don Jayme de Aragon, Primero Deste Nombre Ilamado el Conquistador (1584). BACK

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

[3] The projected edition with plates by Robert Smirke (1752–1845) appeared as Don Quixote de la Mancha. Translated from the Spanish by Mary Smirke, Embellished with Engravings, 4 vols (London: Cadell and Davies, 1818). John Balfour, author of Fables on Subjects Connected with Literature; Imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas Yriarte (1804) was not the translator. BACK

[4] 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

[5] The twelfth-century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100–c. 1155), Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136); Luigi Alamanni (1495–1556), Avarchide (1570), Girono il Cortese (1761 [the edition owned by Southey]). BACK

[6] Edward Williams, or Iolo Morganwg (1747–1826; DNB), scholar and forger of Welsh literature. BACK

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

[8] Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478–1557), La Historia General de las Indias (1535), excerpted in Andrés González de Barcia (1673–1743), Historiadores Primitivos de las Indias Occidentales (1749). BACK

[9] The Third and Last Part of Palmerin of England, Translated into English by Anthony Munday (1602). BACK

[10] The library of over 65,000 volumes assembled by George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). It was given to the nation in 1823. BACK

[11] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[12] Southey’s History of Brazil was published in three volumes from 1810–1819. The rest of his ‘History of Portugal’ was never completed. BACK

[13] Patron Saint of Musicians and frequently depicted playing the organ. BACK

[14] 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). See Southey’s Preface to Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (London, 1807), p. xliv–xlv. He finds that Amadis influenced Florizel, in the Winter’s Tale, and also Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene, Book III, canto xii; Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB), Arcadia (1593). BACK

[15] Feliciano de Silva (1491–1554), Don Florisel de Niquea (1532), another Amadis spin-off, influenced the mock execution and return to life of the two sisters Pamela and Philoclea in Sidney’s Arcadia and the figure of Amoret in The Faerie Queene, who has a gaping wound in her breast, symbolic of desire and its consummation in married love. BACK

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August 2013