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740. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 December 1802 ⁠* 

I am not dissatisfied with the Monthly Review [1]  as to its quantum of praise but very much so as to its quality. it is done with sufficient civility & fairness but it is not well done. the extracts are abundant but rarely adduced to justify either censure or commendation, & of the passages which I feel to be the most striking in the poem not one has been selected – no part of the life of Thalaba in book 3 – nor of the meeting with Maimuna [2]  – nor of the incantation of Khawla. book 9 [3]  – which is the most irregular in its metre & the most appropriate in the volumes. Such as it is, it is likely to help the lame dog over the stile for like a certain description of Xtians poor {Thalaba} stands in need of a hearty shove. [4]  yet I trust it is not a fundamental fault.

Thank you for the Catalogue. I possess all the Portugueze books in it & the Chronicle of the Cid [5]  which is to me the most important of the Spanish. the two Books of Amadis (the 8. & 9) I should like to see because I have the {an} eighth book in D’Herberays [6]  French wherein this in the Catalogue is alluded to as apocryphal, & a ninth in Spanish which is certainly in sequence to the one translated by D Herberay, & which treats of Florisel of Niquea, instead of his father Amadis of Greece. [7]  But this will be a dear book – & I must not pretend to make out a history of the Amadis story from imperfect materials. my dissertation must confine itself to the first four books – the work of the Portugueze author Vasco de Lobera [8]  – compared with which all that follow are trash. Did I tell you that Spensers Mask of Cupid [9]  is to be found in the 8th book of Amadis? The Amadigi of Bernardo Tasso [10]  has been lately brought me from Italy – there is however one book in the Catalogue which I could wish to have – No 304. the works of Bartholome de las Casas, [11]  the friend of the Indians. this will be worth from five shillings to three half crowns.

Should a copy of Giraldus Cambrensis [12]  fall in your way pray buy it for me – & if the old Welshman should be in company, as I have seen him, with some half dozen of our monkish annalists so much the better. I must read the English as well as the Welsh histories.

this weakness of sight drives me to poetry again. so much of that may be done by candlelight with closed eyes – & the lines then scrawled no matter how roughly. I move slowly on with Madoc [13]  – your second book will soon be ready. If you do not see how Kehama [14]  proceeds it is Dapples fault.

Is Elmsley still in Scotland? should you see the Ubiquitarian Heber tell him I am carefully using his Amadis [15]  & shall return it safe & uninjured with the English version [16]  as soon as that be completed –

God bless you –

R S.


December 5. 1802.

Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Lincolns Inn/ London
Postmark: [partial] DEC 5
Endorsement: Dec. 5/ 1802
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 296-297. BACK

[1] The appraisal of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Monthly Review, 39 (November 1802), 240-251. BACK

[2] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 8, lines 287-374. BACK

[3] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 9, lines 49-81. BACK

[4] A favourite saying of Southey’s, derived from An Effectual Shove to the Heavy-Arse Christian (1768), wrongly attributed to Richard Baxter (1615-1691; DNB). The pamphlet’s author was the Welsh minister William Bunyan (fl. 1760s). BACK

[5] Southey had transcribed for Wynn material relating to Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (c. 1040-1099), a Castilian aristocrat and military commander, whose exploits were the subject of numerous poems and tales. Southey’s English translation and compilation of three of these was published in 1808 as The Chronicle of the Cid. BACK

[6] Nicolas de Herberay des Essarts (d. c. 1557), author of an 8-volume French translation of Amadis of Gaul (1540-1548). BACK

[7] Feliciano de Silva (1491-1554), Spanish author of four ‘sequels’ (i.e. entirely new Books) to Amadis of Gaul. His Book 9 (1530) dealt with Amadis of Greece, and Book 10 (1532) with Florisel of Niquea. BACK

[8] Vasco de Lobeira (d. 1403) was believed, on the evidence of a 15th-century chronicle, to be the originator of Amadis of Gaul. However, the poem is now generally thought to have an earlier origin in 14th-century Spain. BACK

[9] Edmund Spenser (1552-1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene (1590-1596), Book 3, Canto 12, stanzas 3-27; and the eighth volume of Nicolas de Herberay des Essarts, Amadis of Gaul, published in 1548. BACK

[10] Bernardo Tasso (1493-1569), L’Amadigi (1755), no. 2773 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. An epic poem inspired by Amadis of Gaul. BACK

[11] Bartolome de las Casas (1484-1566), Spanish priest and critic of Spanish treatment of native Americans. BACK

[12] Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146- c. 1223), Norman-Welsh chronicler. Southey probably wanted a copy of his Itinerarium Cambriae (1191). BACK

[13] Southey had finished a version of Madoc in 1797-1799. He was revising it for publication, though it did not appear until 1805. BACK

[14] The Curse of Kehama (1810). Southey had sent an early draft of Book 1 to Charles Grosvenor Bedford on 7 October (Letter 726) and [c. 30 November 1802] (Letter 738). BACK

[15] Amadis of Gaul, a Spanish romance, first published in four books by Rodriguez de Montalvo (d. 1504). Southey had borrowed an edition from Heber earlier in 1802; see Southey to Heber, 7 May [1802], Letter 674. BACK

[16] Anthony Munday (1560-1633; DNB), The Ancient, Famous and Honourable History of Amadis of Gaul (1589-1619). BACK

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August 2011