1524. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 October 1808

1524. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 October 1808 ⁠* 

Sunday. Oct 23. 1808.

My dear Grosvenor

This number of Kehama [1]  just gets beyond the part which you formerly saw, & all which is to come will be new ground. After a stagnation occasioned by disturbed nights (for it is only before breakfast that I xxx pursue this work of supererogation) I am once more getting on, & shall soon be in the very heart of the story.

By this time you have had the Cid. [2]  Longman would have printed 750 – I was less sanguine & so 500 only were struck off – It will be hard if such an edition should not sell off at this time, – & yet I hardly expect it. My History of Brazil will be printed precisely in the same manner, & go to press within the next month. [3]  – I should tell you that the edition of Thalaba is gone at last, & that I expect in the course of a week or ten days to receive the first proof of the new one from Ballantyne. It will differ materially in appearance, for the page will have five or six lines more, & the notes be placed at the end of every book.  [4]  One edition in seven years! – slow & sure.

I will never forgive you if you do not admire this Chronicle of Ruy Diaz [5]  with all your heart & all your soul & all your strength. There is an interval of heavy matter between his banishment & the siege of Valencia, but every thing else is uninterruptedly fine. I never know but one historical character which is portrayed with equal vividness of truth, – & that is the Ras Michael of Bruce. [6]  The gushes of indignant feeling which break out in his whole conduct at the Cortes are such as prove the reality of the scene; – xxx no man but Shakespear ever could have xxx imagined them.

The Chronicles of Fernan Lopez [7]  are the only books of their kind superior to this; – & tho they want that charm of unity, which biographical narrative possesses – I think they are superior. There is this difference – in the Cid you feel that the Chronicler is a faithful writer – in this other, that he is a man of deep feeling & <a> powerful poetical mind. Of one of his works I have a M.S. about 300 years old, [8]  which has never been published; – the whole would fill three such volumes as the Cid, – & if the world would pay me no better price than it pays for paragraph writing I could translate them with hearty good will.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr
MS: Bodleian Library, Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

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

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

[4] The second edition of Thalaba the Destroyer was published in 1809. For the alterations that were made to the poem in this edition see volume three of Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004). BACK

[5] Southey’s edition of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (c. 1043–1099), Chronica de la Famoso Cavallero Cid Ruy Diez Campeador (1593). BACK

[6] Ras Michael was the adviser to the King of Ethiopia, and the country’s de facto ruler, portrayed in James Bruce (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73 (1790). Southey had reviewed the second, 1804–5, edition of this work in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 2–16. BACK

[7] Fernao Lopes (c. 1385–after 1459), chronicler of Portugal, wrote Crónica del-rei D. Pedro (1735); Chronica del Rey D. Ioam I de Boa Memoria, e dos Reys de Portugal o Decimo, Primeira Parte, em Que se contem A Defensam do Reyno até ser eleito Rey & Segunda Parte, em que se continuam as guerras com Castella, desde o Principio de seu reinado ate as pazes (1644). BACK

[8] The manuscript ‘Cronica del Rei Dom Fernando o Noveno Rei de Portugal’, which was listed as no. 3829 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library after his death. BACK

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