633. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 30 November 1801 ⁠* 

My dear Henry

I have sent off the Review [1]  to Hamilton. [2]  its insertion does not depend upon me, however – unless another account should already be printed, I suppose he will in common decency oblige me. You directed your letter to me at Mr Corrys, instead of inclosing it to him – in consequence it was charged at the Post Office. the outside should be to him only – & remember you cannot send above an ounce weight.

Your reading now would be more immediately pleasant, & every way more profitable – if you erected land-marks as you went along. Hearing that you are at Ariosto [3]  an idea occurred to me which you may think of at leisure – & if you like pursue. about two or perhaps three year {ago,} a violent tho a well directed attack was made against the Italian Poets, in particular Ariosto, in the Monthly Magazine. [4]  I know you like Ariosto, – & if you could with critically defend the Orlando Furioso – it would not be difficult to get your paper inserted in the same Magazine – & thus put you perhaps in a way of adding a little to your yearly income, while you improved yourself still more – I should like to help you in tracing the history of that Paladin story thro all its families, from Turpin [5]  – or from ought older than Turpin – if it can be found, analysing & criticising the various poems. if this made too large a digression in my own book upon Spanish literature [6]  – it might be published in a separate form. Pulci [7]  & Boyardo [8]  are doubtless within your reach – the rarer books I will hunt out, & furnish all the triumphant poems upon Roncesvalles that are to be found in Spanish [9]  – I think you would like some such leisure pursuit – that the subject would stimulate you sufficiently, & eventually the result be useful & creditable.

Literary habits are not acquired late in life. if you think them worth acquiring, this is the time. they are always a source of pleasure – & that pleasure the most lasting. a more palpable & pressing motive may be urged to you. at present you are plentifully supplied with money, but hereafter you will be compelled to oeconomize, – if the resources of literature should not be absolutely necessary, you will find them convenient. I would now young as you are – introduce you to the Reviews – if it were in my power. but in this way I have no influence whatever. I could not even transfer my own employment on going abroad – neither can I now recover it.

You imagine me in the high road to wealth & power – & travelling full gallop – the whole truth is that for the next year I have an income without working – not exceeding what I should have else have earned & received. that what I write – in my vocation – will be for Mr Corry instead of a newspaper or a bookseller, & that at the years end the only certainty is that I shall be richer – by whatever my leisure hours may have produced. A possibility exists that some birth may be given me in Ireland – a bare possibility – naked as the legal phrase expre to which I have no claim – of which no expectation. the South of Europe is still the point of my wishes. a Secretaryship – & the regular salary there is but £300 – would satisfy my wants – & I would for it abandon far brighter prospects than lie before me. the climate annoys me here, & I find no advantages in England to counterbalance that heavy evil.

I wish it were in my power to visit Norwich – but God knows when that will be. if there were no other objection – I am tethered here.

Burnett is going on miserably & in a way that distresses all his friends. he is earning a poor & precarious subsistence by writing for Philips [10]  – a task for which he has neither activity nor knowledge. there is a hope – but a very poor one – that some office may be found for him in Ireland – if he will stoop to the duties of common attention. I labour to convince him, that if he has the power of ever producing any thing great – any situation is more favourable than that of a hackney author. that he ought to take a tutors place – or an Ushers if it could be got, & give his leisure to what he calls asserting his literary rank. he writes well – but he really possesses no knowledge – & from the little use he ever made of leisure I may say, no love of knowledge for its own sake. & now he has to get knowledge for the sake of getting literary reputation. It is not the first instance I have seen of Vanity misleading a man – but it is the most unfortunate one. poor fellow – I will do what I can to serve him – & wish heartily more were in my power.

I have turned over a whole bundle of Anthology {papers} to some new Editors [11]  who are about to publish print a third volume. the fault they find with my selection ought to imply severer conduct in themselves. Wm Taylors Hexameters [12]  are the great mark of xxxxx abuse in the last volume – I smile to hear the Authors of the very dullest poems there complain of the dull pieces inserted.

My Mother is coming to town with Mrs Lovell. I have been expecting them since Friday – & growling at the lazy & uncivil trick of not [MS torn] to prevent expectation. She was well enough to talk of travelling from Bath to Reading in one day. Of Tom I have not heard for many months. Edward & his Aunt both grow worse & worse – every thing I hear of them only vexes & irritates & distresses me –

Ediths love – God bless you –

yr affectionate brother

R Southey.

Monday. November – 30. 1801.


* Address: To/ Mr Henry Herbert Southey/ with Mr P. Martineau/ Norwich./ Single
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: No/ 30/ 1801
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 3
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 257-259. BACK

[1] An article written by Henry Herbert Southey for the Critical Review. Its identity is unknown, and indeed it may not have been published. Henry Herbert Southey later contributed to the Annual Review. BACK

[2] Samuel Hamilton (fl. 1790s-1810s), owner of the Critical Review, 1799-1804. BACK

[3] Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), Orlando Furioso (1532). BACK

[4] See Monthly Magazine, 8 (August 1799), 440-442; 8 (December 1799), 870-872. The articles were signed ‘G.T.’. BACK

[5] Archbishop Turpin, 8th-century Archbishop of Reims, and reputed author of the 12th-century forgery, Historia de Vita Caroli Magni et Rolandi, an early source for the story of Orlando. BACK

[6] Southey may have still been considering writing a book on the history of Spanish (and Portuguese) literature. BACK

[7] Luigi Pulci (1432-1484), Italian poet, whose Morgante (1483) also concerned Orlando. BACK

[8] Matteo Boiardo (1441-1494), Italian poet, whose Orlando Innamorato (1495) provided the early history of the hero of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. BACK

[9] The battle of Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees in 778 was a minor affair, in which part of the rearguard of Charlemagne’s (742-814; King of the Franks 768-814, Holy Roman Emperor 800-814) army was defeated by local Basque forces. In legend it became the site of the last stand of the hero Roland, and the paladins of Charlemagne (of whom Orlando was one). There is an alternative Spanish tradition in which Roland was defeated by the legendary hero Bernardo del Carpio, whose deeds were most famously commemorated in Bernardo de Balbuena (1561-1627), El Bernardo (1624). BACK

[10] Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840; DNB), publisher and proprietor of the Monthly Magazine. BACK

[11] The project to produce a successor to the Annual Anthology (1799) and (1800). James Webbe Tobin was one of the proposed editors. BACK

[12] William Taylor (under the signature ‘RYALTO’), ‘The Show, an English Eclogue’, Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), pp. 200-210. If Southey is referring to reviews he was mistaken, as Taylor’s poem was not singled out for particular attention. He could, however, be reporting things said to him in conversation. BACK

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August 2011