1378. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 November 1807

1378. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 November 1807 ⁠* 

Sunday 15. Nov. 1807.

My dear Grosvenor,

I do not know that I should have taken up my pen with the intention of inflicting a letter upon you, if it had not been for a suspicion produced by your last letter that you expect me in London sooner than it is any ways possible for me to be there & that peradventure therefore you may think it is not worth while to look after my pension till I arrive in proper person to receive it. Now Mr Bedford touching this matter there are two things to be said. My going to London seems to me no very certain thing, – it depends something on my Uncle’s movements of whose arrival from Lisbon I daily expect to hear, & of course if I go, my journey must be so timed as to meet him. It depends also something on my finances; & I begin to think I cannot afford the expence of the journey, for I have had extraordinary goings-out this year in settling myself, & no extraordinary comings-in to counterbalance them. The Constable is a leaden-heeled rascal, & if I do not take care will be left confoundedly behind. I must work like a negro the whole winter to set things right, & the nearer the time for my projected journey approaches the less likely is it that I can spare it. My object in going would be to consult certain books for the preliminaries & notes to the Cid: [1]  & these books I should assuredly feel myself bound to consult if it required no other sacrifices than those of time & trouble. But if the necessary expence cannot prudently & justifiably be afforded I must be content to do the best I can, – which will be quite well enough to satisfy every body except myself.

In the second place if you can by any interest get my pension paid I pray you exert it. I foresee that I shall be kept in hot water by it till I am lucky enough to get some little prize in the lottery of life which will enable me to wait without inconvenience for arrears. – At present the only chance for this is in the sale of Espriella, – should that go thro two or three editions, it will set me fairly afloat. [2] 

I thought to have brought up my lea way by doing a specific piece of jobwork, of which I have been rather unhandsomely disappointedxx. The story is simply this: Smirke has projected a splendid edition of D Quixote with Cadell & Davies. They proposed to Longman to take a share in it, & he was authorized by them to ask me to translate it. While I was corresponding with them upon the fitness of revising the first translation in preference, & forming such a plan for preliminaries & annotations as would have made a great body of Spanish learning, – Cadell & Davies unknown to them struck a bargain with a Mr Balfour, – who is no more fit to able to translate D Quixote than he would have been to write it. [3]  This is some disappointment to me, as I should have <been> paid a specific sum for my work, & could have calculated upon it. The Longmen behave as they ought to do in the business. They refuse to take any share in the work in consequence of this unhandsome dealing towards me, – & offer to publish my edition upon our ordinary terms of halving the profits. This however, would not serve my purpose.

My affairs are not in a bad train except for the present. The profits of the current edition of Espriella, & of the unborn one of the Cid are anticipated & gone. Those of the Specimens, of the small edition of Madoc, & of Palmerin are untouched. [4]  But if the three send me in 100 £ at the end of the years sale it will be more than I expect. The first volume of Brazil will be ready for the press next summer [5]  – I think also of publishing my travels in Portugal, for which good materials have long lain by me [6]  – & we are now talking of editing Mort Arthur. [7]  – Reviewing comes among the ordinaries of the year. – In my conscience I do not think any body else does so much & gets so little for it. Have I told you that my whole profits upon Madoc up to Midsummer last amount to xxx 25 £. & the whole it is likely to be, unless the remaining 134 copies be sold as waste paper.

I shall do, yet, – & if there be any thing like a dispirited tone in this letter it is more because my eyes are weak than for any other cause. It is likely that Espriella will bear me out, – I must be more than commonly unlucky if it does not; & if that be the case I will it does not, I will seek more review employment, write in more magazines & scribble verses for the newspaper. As long as I can keep half my time for labour worthy of myself & of posterity, I shall not feel xxxxxx debased by sacrificing the other however unworthily it may be employed. – You will say why do you not write for the stage? – the notion for temptations to it are so strong, & I have made the resolution so often, that not to have done it yet is good proof of xxx a self conviction that it would not be done well. Besides I have not leisure from present urgencies.

Now do not fancy me bent double like the Pilgrim under this load upon my back. I am as bolt upright as ever, & in as wholesome good spirits; & as soon as this letter is folded & sent off, shall go on with reviewing Buchanans Travels, & forget every thing except what I know concerning Malabar. [8] 

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK
Postmark: E/ NOV18/ 1807
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 113–116. BACK

[1] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish was published by Longmans in 1808. It comprised 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). Southey had thought of visiting the library of Spanish books assembled by Henry Richard Vassall-Fox at his seat, Holland House, and the British Museum; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 24 October 1807, Letter 1373. BACK

[2] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). The book went into a second edition in 1808; but a third was not called for until 1814. BACK

[3] The projected edition with plates by Robert Smirke (1752–1845) appeared as Don Quixote de la Mancha. Translated from the Spanish by Mary Smirke, Embellished with Engravings, 4 vols (London: Cadell and Davies, 1818). John Balfour (dates unknown), author of Fables on Subjects connected with Literature; imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas Yriarte (1804) was not the translator. BACK

[4] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), the second, duodecimo edition of Madoc (1807) and Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[5] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[6] Southey published an expanded edition of his Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797; 2nd edn 1798) in 1808 as Letters Written During a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal. BACK

[7] The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur ... With an introduction and notes by Robert Southey. (Printed from Caxton’s edition, 1485) was published in two volumes by Longmans in 1817. BACK

[8] Southey reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 49–61, Francis Buchanan (1762–1829), A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar: Performed under the Orders of the Most Noble the Marquis Wellesley, Governor General of India, for the Express Purpose of Investigating the State of Agriculture, Arts, and Commerce; the Religion, Manners, and Customs; the History Natural and Civil, and Antiquities, in the Dominions of the Rajah of Mysore, and the Countries Acquired by the Honourable East India Company (1807). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Holland House (mentioned 1 time)