1398. Robert Southey to John May, 16 December 1807

1398. Robert Southey to John May, 16 December 1807 ⁠* 

My dear friend,

Inclosed is a draft on Longman for fifty pounds. It is superfluous to accompany it with expressions of thankfulness which never can be satisfactorily expressed; – & it will be better to proceed with a brief statement of my affairs in the Row, – where all my property, such as it is is vested.

The system of foregoing immediate profit in expectation of greater ultimate advantage, will I trust soon begin to operate well. It obliged me however (chiefly on account of the ill sale of Madoc, by which I gained only 25 £ –) to have money in advance of Longman. 100 £ when I was last in town, 200 £ this year. To set against this there is the current edition of Espriella, [1]  almost sold, which I estimate at 160 – writing done in the Athenæum [2]  – about 30 –& what the sale of the small edition of Madoc [3]  may have produced. I calculate that a second edition of Espriella (the sale of which is not to be almost certain will turn the balance in my favour, & shall then have to look on to the profits of Palmerin [4]  (on the Specimens [5]  I reckon nothing Bedford & the Printer between them having utterly ruined the book) – of the Cid, [6]  of about 60 £ in the next Annual [7]  & half as much in the Athenæum, as ways & means for the ensuing year. Espriella promises so well, that it seems at present more than likely to float me into fair water.

It appears therefore that the other works which I have to bring forth in the ensuing year may so far be considered as supererogatory, that I have good reason to think their whole profits may be left untouched; that is, that they may be applied to les towards liquidating my debt with you. The first volume of the Brazilian History [8]  will nearly do this, if I print the volume on my own account, & thereby secure the whole profits to myself as I think of doing. 500 copies will produce 300 £. & if I can follow the example of my friend Clarkson, & dispose of any considerable number of copies myself, I shall save upon them the 27½ per cent which the booksellers take away themselves. Upon this I shall consult Clarkson, who is as willing as he is able to xxx befriend me in this matter.

Another work which I have in contemplation will be equally profitable, & its sale equally certain, – that of my travels in Portugal. [9]  Upon this I wish to talk with my uncle. I have materials enough for a quarto volume, – to which I think of adding prints. Some drawings he has, my fellow-traveller Miss Seton has many. This book will cost me little labour. The expence of engraving will stand in the way of my publishing it myself, – but this also is matter of consideration & consultation, & at any rate this may be calculated upon for 150 £, supposing the booksellers share with me.

You may have seen my intention of editing Mort Arthur announced. [10]  What this may produce I cannot tell, – at any rate, it costs me only little time, & that employed in such a way as to be pure relaxation & amusement.

Last of my plans are two additional volumes of Espriella – who comes to England again for this purpose. [11]  These will compleat my original design, – & all these I expect to accomplish in the course of the ensuing year – that is to get all of them into the press, & some of them out of it. I am therefore in better circumstances by far than has ever before been the case, – for excepting what reviewing I have to do before my journey to London – (about six weeks hence) & what I have to do there towards compleating the notes & introduction to the Cid, my ways & means for the ensuing year are provided.

I am very anxious to hear how you have fared in this general wreck at Lisbon; – & have some hope that as British property was not seized your loss may have been lighter than you apprehended. I must look to you also for news of my Lisbon friends; – from my Uncle I have only had one hurried letter – & Harry has not written a word to me since his return.

As soon as Edith’s confinement takes place, we look for it towards the end of January, I move for London. [12]  Tom will set off for Bristol at the same time, to put himself under a surgeon there. He labours under the very distressing complaint of a prolapsus ani, [13]  brought on by hæmorrhoids, – which were themselves produced by bad-living and unusual fatigue. [14] 

Young Edith thrives. Herbert is not so stout as we could wish him, he has however, no complaint – & seems to promise well. – This is a letter of business – I shall hear from you on its receipt, & will then write to you more in the way of leisure about all my literary projects &c –

Remember me to Mrs May.

yrs very affectionately

R. Southey.

Wednesday. 16. Dec. 1807.


* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ John May Esqr/ Richmond/ Surry John May/ Richmond/ Surrey
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ DEC19/ 1807; 10o’Clo[MS torn]/ DE[MS torn]/ 1807
Endorsement : No. 131 1807/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 16th Decemr./ recd. 20th do/ ansd. 21st do; [in another hand] London/ December nineteenth – 1807; [in another hand] XXC/ 14
MS: Beinecke Library, Yale University, Gen MSS 298 Series 1, Folder 17. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 42–44. BACK

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

[2] The Athenæum, A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information, to which Southey contributed several short pieces in 1807. BACK

[3] The second, duodecimo edition of Madoc (1807). BACK

[4] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[5] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), co-edited with Grosvenor Charles Bedford, and published, to Southey’s dismay, with numerous errors. The printer was S. Hollingsworth (first name and dates unknown), Crane Court, Fleet Street. BACK

[6] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[7] The Annual Review. BACK

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

[9] Southey did not produce this projected book; his 1797 Letters Written D a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal were, however, reprinted in an expanded form in 1808. BACK

[10] Southey’s edition The Byrth, Lyf and Acts of King Arthur was published in 1817. BACK

[11] These volumes did not appear. BACK

[12] Emma, Southey’s third daughter, was born on 9 February 1808. BACK

[13] A prolapsed rectum. BACK

[14] See Southey to John May, 12 August 1807, Letter 1352. BACK

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)