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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

923. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 10 April 1804 ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

Of Roberts’s book I had not heard till your letter spoke of it. I will find out among the Welshmen in London whether he is a man who can be employed as you propose, & whether if so circumstanced he is also so qualified. [1]  Davis’s Celtic Antiquities are at length advertised, to which, if my memory do not deceive me I put my name as a subscriber eleven years ago. [2]  In London I shall look after it, & see whether any thing fit for Madoc can be gleaned from these new researches.

I have lately received a cargo of books which will almost enable to fit the first part of my history for the press. [3]  among other treasures is the Collection of Castilian Poems anterior to the fifteenth century [4]  – a work which has not been compleated for want of sale to my bitter regret & great misfortune. The oldest of all is the Cid – which I do not open till my return from town when I can enjoy it fully & leisurely. [5]  there is also a Romance of Alexander [6]  which ought to be compared with Adam Davies [7]  – which it is said Park [8]  is to edite under Elliss direction. [9]  & a poem or rather series of Poems which by the table of Contents seems to resemble the Confessio Amantis. [10]  The Volume on which I have begun consists wholly of saintly & miraculous poems, but I am gleaning from them many facts & corollaries. I am also upon the Fuero Juzgo – the Laws of the Wisi-Goths. [11]  a small quarto contains them – & I have half got thro with profit abundantly equivalent to the patience required, in fact old laws are never tiresome. the next Code in order – the Fuero Viejo – has not yet reached me [12]  – the third Las Partidas [13]  – in four folios, is awaiting me in town. All these are anterior to the oldest Portugueze Code, & I must go thro all – for I will leave nothing undone.

Madoc [14]  meantime stands still – perhaps partly because I have run myself out of breath & still more because the daily expectation of Ediths confinement [15]  does not leave my mind sufficiently at ease for composition. As soon as she is out of danger – if so it please God that it should turn out – I shall prepare for my journey to London.

Remember when we meet to ask me for a story of Coleridge & Nicols the M.P. [16]  – Coleridge is on the seas – for Malta. – Is Elmsley in town?

Farewell. I hope to write again soon – & if within the week – shall direct to Chester.

God bless you –

RS.

Tuesday. April 10. 1804.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Chester.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Peter Roberts (1760–1819), cleric, biblical scholar and antiquarian who published several Welsh histories, including A Sketch of the Early History of the Cymry (1803). BACK

[2] Edward Davies (1756–1831), Celtic Researches on the Origin, Traditions, and Language of the Ancient Britons (1804). Although Southey’s name is not included in the List of Subscribers, he did own a copy of this work no. 796 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] Southey’s projected ‘History of Portugal’, which he never completed. BACK

[4] No. 3720 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Romances Sueltos en Verso Espanola. Published in Alicante, Seville and Valladolid, the date of publication is unknown. BACK

[5] Southey had access to the story of the Cid in several books listed in the sale catalogue of his library: no. 3449, Juan de Escobar (dates unknown), Romancero e Historia del Cid Ruy Diez de Bivar en Language Antigo (1632); no. 3344, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (c. 1043–1099), Chronica de la Famoso Cavallero Cid Ruy Diez Campeador (1593); no. 3338, Alfonso X of Castile (1221–1284; King of Castile 1252–1284), Chronica de Espana (1541). Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, including an introductory discussion of the origins of the tale, was published by Longman in 1808. BACK

[6] The Romance of Alexander is a collection of mythical tales about the deeds of Alexander ‘the Great’ (356–323 BC), dating from a third-century AD Greek manuscript. It was translated into most European vernaculars in the medieval period. In Spanish it formed the basis of the epic poem Libro de Alexandre, attributed to Alfonso X of Castile, and dating from the late twelfth, or early thirteenth, century. BACK

[7] In George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn. 1801, 3rd edn. 1803), the English version of the Romance of Alexander – ‘the Life of Alexander’ – was ascribed to Adam Davy (fl. early 14th cent.), author of a verse account of five prophetic dreams (in Bodleian MS Laud misc. 622), who described himself as ‘Adam, the marshal’, ‘of Stratford-atte-bowe’ (London) (DNB). BACK

[8] Thomas Park (1758/9–1834; DNB): antiquarian, bibliographer and editor, who was praised by Southey to Longman as the best editor for the projected Bibliotheca Britannica. Park’s editions of poetry included Works of the British Poets (1805–1808), John Dryden’s (1631–1700; DNB), Fables from Boccaccio and Chaucer (1806) and Thomas Percy’s (1729–1811), Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 5th edn (1812). BACK

[9] Ellis edited, with Park’s help, Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances (1805). BACK

[10] John Gower (1330–1408; DNB), Confessio Amantis (1390). BACK

[11] No. 3463 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was J. A. Llorente (dates unknown), Leyes del Fuero-Juzgo ó Recopilacion de las Leyes de los Wisi-Godos Españoles (1792). BACK

[12] This book did reach Southey: no. 3387 of the sale catalogue of his library was D. Ignatius Jordan de Asso y del Rio (1742–1804), and D. Miguel de Manuel y Rodriguez (fl. 1780), El Fuero Viejo de Castilla, con Notas Historicas, y Legales (1771). BACK

[13] No. 3610 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Gregorio Lopez (1496/7–1560), Partidas (las Siete) del Sabio Rey Don Alonso el Nono Glosadas (1789). BACK

[14] The poem Madoc, which Southey had written in 1797–1799 and since then had been intermittently revising. It was completed in October 1804 and published in 1805. BACK

[15] Edith May, the Southeys’ second child, was born on 30 April 1804. BACK

[16] Possibly John Nicholls (1745?–1832): M.P. for the rotten borough of Tregony and author of Reflections, Personal and Political as Connected with Public Affairs (1822). The story Southey refers to has not come to light. BACK

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August 2013