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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1426. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 11 February 1808 ⁠* 

My dear Scott

I should long ago have thanked you for your offer of Sir Lancelot, [1]  – but as I had written to Heber requesting from him all his Round Table books, [2]  I waited xxx or rather have been waiting to see whether or not it would be among them. It is above two months since news came that Heber would look them out for me, but as they are not yet arrived & my appearance in London has been expected for the last two or three weeks, it is probably that he is waiting to let me look them out for myself. I go for London next week, – my family having just been increased by the birth of another girl, – an event for which I have been waiting.

I prest upon Longman your opinion as to the shape in which Mort Arthur should be printed. [3]  They in the Row like long rows of books, thinking that those persons who furnish libraries like them also; & they press upon me the expediency of printing one in the same size. They are however very willing to give prints of costume, & this shall be done if I find it possible to get xxxxxx any designs which will satisfy me. Mr Ballantyne printed so carefully as well as so beautifully for me, that I should be glad to have him always for my printer, even without your tho you had not mentioned it, – if it were not for two reasons, – the one that all my proofs pass backward & forward between this place & London franked by George Longman; [4]  – & the other that there is in London a young printer just starting in business who I have known thirteen years, who know xx xxx xxxx my proof sheets; – who learnt his trade upon my earliest publications, & whom I am very desirous of assisting, just at this time, when assistance is of most consequence to him.

Wordsworth has compleated a most masterly poem upon the fate of the Nortons, [5]  – two or three lines in the old Ballad of the Rising in the North gave him the hint. [6]  The story affected me more deeply than I wish to be affected; younger readers however will not object to the depth of the distress, & nothing was ever more ably treated. He is looking too for a narrative subject to be pitched in a lower key. I have recommended to him that part of Amadis wherein he appears as Beltenebros, which is what Bernardo Tasso had originally chosen, [7]  & which is in itself as compleat as could be desired. – This reminds me that to day I met with the name Amadis as a Christian name in Portugal, in the age between Lobeira & Montalvo. [8]  having found Oriana: Briolania Grimanesa & Lisuarte there before, they may be looked upon as five good witnesses that the story is originally Portugueze.

My Chronicle of the Cid [9]  is printed & waits for the Introduction & supererogatory notes, both which will be of considerable length, & must be compleated at Holland House, where I shall find exactly those books which were out of reach of my means. The History of Brazil will be in the press as soon as this is out of it. [10]  What an epoch in history will this emigration of the Braganzas [11]  prove, if we are not cajoled by such cowardly {& dwarfish} politicians as Little Jeffray the Second into making peace & cajoling them back again to Portugal! Such men as this have long since extinguished all political morality & political honesty among us, & now they {would} extinguish national honour, which is all we have left to supply their place. My politics would be to proclaim to France & to the world that England will never make peace with Napoleon Bonaparte, because he has proved himself to be one whom no treaties & no ties can bind, & {still more} because he is notoriously a murderer, with whom it is infamous to treat. or xxxxxx xxxxx Send this language into France, & let nothing else go into it that our ships can keep out, & the French themselves would in no very long time rid the world of a tyrant. The light of Prince Arthurs shield would bring Orgoglio to the ground. [12] 

God bless you –

yrs very truly

R Southey.

Keswick. Feby 11. 1808


Notes

* Address: To/ Walter Scott Esqr/ Advocate/ Edinburgh
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Watermark: shield/ 1803/ T BOTFIELD
Endorsement: Southey/ 11th. Feby. 1808
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3876
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 131–133 [in part]. BACK

[1] The medieval ‘Romance of Lancelot du Lac’, on which Scott drew in Marmion (1808) and The Bridal of Triermain (1813). BACK

[2] For these letters, see Southey to Richard Heber, 16 November 1807 (Letter 1379) and 22 December 1807 (Letter 1403). BACK

[3] Southey’s edition Morte d’Arthur: The Byrth, Lyf and Acts of King Arthur appeared in 1817. The letter to Longman has not been traced. Writing to Heber, Southey noted: ‘Scott’s plan was to print in small 4to, & give wooden cuts of costume’; see Southey to Richard Heber, 22 December 1807, Letter 1403. BACK

[4] George Longman (c.1773–1822), MP for Maidstone 1806–1812, 1818–1820, and thus the possessor of franking privileges. Brother of Thomas Longman. BACK

[5] The White Doe of Rylstone, published in 1815. BACK

[6] Wordsworth had his source, ‘The Rising in the North’ a sixteenth-century ballad collected in Thomas Percy (1729–1811; DNB), Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), printed with his poem. BACK

[7] In 1560, Bernardo Tasso (1493–1569) published his verse romance based on the medieval Spanish romance Amadis of Gaul in part of which the hero retires to the Poor Rock and takes the name Beltenebros. Southey’s translation was published in 1803. BACK

[8] Authors to whom Amadis of Gaul was attributed: Vasco de Lobeira (d.1403), and Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (1450–1504), the compiler of the first printed version (1508), the fourth book of which he composed himself. BACK

[9] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish comprising 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 first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[11] On 29 November 1807, a British squadron under the command of Sir William Sidney Smith (1764–1840; DNB) had escorted the Portuguese Prince Regent, John VI (the Duke of Braganza) (1767–1826), and the Queen, his mother, across the Atlantic to escape the French invasion of their country. BACK

[12] In the seventh canto of Edmund Spenser’s (1552–1599; DNB) The Faerie Queene (1590–1596), Orgoglio, in the form of a beast, attacks the Redcrosse knight. He is then slain by Prince Arthur, who frees the knight. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013