1027. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 26 January 1805

1027. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 26 January 1805 ⁠* 

I am to acknowledge the receipt of a ham who arrived well on Wednesday last, & is at present the great ornament of our kitchen.

Sir Edward may well excuse me for not recognizing Udal ap Rhys [1]  by the name of Price – the gentleman put his Welsh name in the titlepage – & I all along concluded that you meant the present man, never recollecting that Uvedale Price is the English of what had appeared to me very uncouth for a title page not above fifty years old. I have seen the book, & cursorily looked it thro, only cursorily because it is my intention to buy it whenever it falls in my way, – as a part of my collection. You asked if it was the work of a plagiarist – It is one of those books which does not pretend to much originality – like many old travels being chiefly an account of what such & such towns had been, what had happened there &c – things which must be compiled from other authors. It is a part of my plan to give an account of all the books which have been written concerning Portugal – & of their respective authors, & as this gentleman seems to have been a very odd fellow I pray you remember for me all the odd things you may hear of him, & give me a list of his other works & an account of them.

I see the stupid advertisement about which I most expressly cautioned Longman & Rees has taken you in. When we talked about the republication & settled it I bade them be sure & advertise it as such [2]  – it made me swear bitterly when I saw that they had neglected this, & I wrote immediately to desire it might be altered for the future, that people in the country might not be deceived. It was stupid in you – as if you would not have known if I had been publishing any thing new. As for Madoc you & I may both whistle for it. It is a very common thing Senhora, for authors to be out in their reckoning. the Scotch presbyterian printers have got as drunk at Xmas as if they were becoming right orthodox churchmen. [3]  there are still six or seven sheets of notes unprinted, of which I have been expecting one or two every day for this week.

Can you bring with you the Welshmans book about the fairies? [4]  – I am going to make a book for the lucre of gain in which you can help me – Letters from England by a Spaniard [5]  – which I mean to pass off as a translation – so mind you keep the secret – for my name is not to appear. In this all that I know of England is to appear, & such a collection of stories & odd things it will be, as will very likely be a profitable – certainly a very amusing & curious book Now you have some odd things which will help me – some Welsh anecdotes, – also about Joanna Southcote  [6]  – the county Rovers [7]  &c all which we will talk over when we meet. I want to give a compleat picture of the actual state of England such as it would appear to a foreigner, indefatigable in looking about him, who had keen eyes of his own, & intelligent friends to aid his curiosity. When this stupid reviewing is over, & the last book but one is now in hand I shall begin this – as the Ways & Means extraordinary for the year.

Mrs Barebalds Essay [8]  (so Coleridge always calls her – saying the name is a pleonasm of nakedness,) is abominable for manifold reasons. so ignorant & so conceited, that one might swear the authoress was not only a school mistress, but a presbyterian school mistress. She ventures to talk about the history of romances of which she knows no more than the living John  [9]  or the dead Peter, [10]  & she speaks of Sir Philip Sidney [11]  in a manner which shows that she hath neither eye to see, or heart to feel, nor understanding to comprehend what is beautiful in invention or exquisite in language. When you come down you shall read the Arcadia – it is the one book in our language which has most of Shakespere in its manner. The life & death of that man were equally lovely. I do not think that there ever existed a more perfect human being. The remarks of Mrs Barbauld upon the works of such a man can be compared to nothing but the blasphemies of a Jew dealer in old cloaths, or the criticisms of a French barber upon Shakespere.

Edith is quite recovered. We go on as usual – one day like another – & the happiest lives are those which have the least variety. My daughter tries to walk & talk. she is too forward, but thank God all seems well as yet, she has rare stout legs of her own & is very strong. Of her beauty the less we say the better – but she is the best tempered little creature in the world –

God bless you


Saturday 26 Jany. 1805.


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Congreve/ Penkridge/ Staffordshire
Postmark: [partial] KESWICK/ 2
MS: MS untraced; text from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 144–147
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 313–315. BACK

[1] Udal ap Rhys, An Account of the Most Remarkable Places and Curiosities in Spain and Portugal (1749). When Littleton, via Barker’s letters, had previously sought information about ‘Price’s book on Spain’ Southey had forgotten that Price is an anglicised form of ap Rhys, and had mistaken the author, looking for a work on Spain by his contemporary Uvedale Price (1747–1829; DNB), author of an Essay on the Picturesque (1796), rather than one by Price’s grandfather Udal ap Rhys/Uvedale Tomkyns Price (1685–1764). Thus, writing to Barker on 1 May 1804 (see letter 931, of this edition) he declared that he did not know Price had written such a work. On 10 December 1804 (see letter 1010), Southey again declared his ignorance of the book. According to Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, (‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 144–147), Littleton then wrote on the blank third page of Southey’s letter, confusingly: ‘Uvedale Price Esq. of Foxly wrote an account of Spain said to be a Plagiarism from some Spanish writer; a Pamphlet in ridicule of Whister; Fine Lady’s Catechism Conversation between 2 Lap Dogs, Scipio & Braganza’. Because Littleton still failed to distinguish between grandfather and grandson, Southey continued to mistake the author in his letter to Barker of 29 December 1804 (letter 1010). BACK

[2] Southey’s Metrical Tales and Other Poems (1805) contained his contributions to the Annual Anthology (1799–1800). BACK

[3] Madoc was printed at Edinburgh by the firm of James Ballantyne for Longman. BACK

[4] Edmund Jones’s (1702–1793) A Relation of Ghosts and Apparitions which Commonly Appear in the Principality of Wales (1767). Barker cites this work, saying ‘See the Rev. ____ Jones’s invaluable account of the Welsh Fairies, lately published’ in A Welsh Story, 3 vols (London, 1798), I, p. 53n. BACK

[5] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[6] An account of the prophet Joanna Southcott is given in Letters from England, Letter 70. BACK

[7] Letter 44 of Southey’s Letters from England describes Scotch drovers and their lawless ancestors, the border reivers. BACK

[8] Anna Letitia Barbauld’s essay ‘On Romances’ appeared in Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose, ed. J. and A. L. Aikin (1773). BACK

[9] Mary Barker has written ‘his Ass’ above the line in pencil and signed her initials ‘MS’ (Mary Slade). BACK

[10] Mary Barker has written ‘my pig’ above the line in pencil and signed her initials ‘MS’ (Mary Slade). BACK

[11] Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB): courtier, soldier, diplomat, poet and author of the romance The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1580, pub. 1590). BACK