924. Robert Southey to William Taylor,  April 
924. Robert Southey to William Taylor,  April  *
King Ramiro 
You will see that this story is not of my making – nor indeed have I mended it – but merely tried tricks upon metre in relating it as I found it. It was believed five hundred years ago – & I give it to you from the Nobiliario of xx Conde D. Pedro,  son of K Diniz, & from a Livro das Linhagens – perhaps the oldest book in the P. language.  I have two or three other poems upon such subjects as have struck me, & may perhaps in the process of writing my history make up a little volume of them. Have you seen the Devil & Bishop Athendio?  if not – I will send it.
You speak of Edmund Ironside  in your letter. I wish to write an English Epic could I find a subject – but after beating over all the ground can start no game. by what you say (the Review I have not seen)  I supp infer that you would dignify the story by making it the triumph of Xtianity over the religion of the Edda.  I will examine Turner  & think about it – but my opinion is decidedly against all machinery in such poems. If any thing known to be historically true occurs, it stamps the machinery for falsehood & makes you feel the falsehood. – My dreams of future work are in this order – when Madoc is off my hands  to finish the Curse of Kehama of which 2 ½ books are done.  then to write a Persian Romance built on the Zendavesta,  then a Runic one, & perhaps one upon what Pinkerton calls Schamanism  – & lastly if I can find no better English hero, none to make the Personage of an heroic poem – to write a Romance in honour of Robin Hood.  All this is much, yet if I have ten years of life & such comfort as I have hitherto had, I trust I shall accomplish this, & yet work hard for money meantime & finish a history of more labour than any Englishman has ever yet thought due to history before me.  but I will never again write in blank verse, or in any regular rhymes. hexameters are far better, & Sayers’s metre best of all. Its varieties keep the poet awake as well as the reader. I can improve Thallaba (you shall have the two lls –) but I shall never exceed it.
It disappoints me that you do not go to London. I had reckoned upon it as the pleasantest circumstance of expectation. Rickman too will be disappointed. – this mention of a really great man who thinks & speaks of you as he ought reminds me of that booby Godwin, who told Coleridge, to his great amusement, that there was nothing at all in Wm Taylor. I remembered this in reviewing his Chaucer. 
I have done with Hamilton.  he ceased to send me books just as I should have dropt him – as having better pay from Longman. I shall close my account this journey – but tell him with a sort of civility due to the Review wherein I servd my apprenticeship – that I will at any time review for him any thing Spanish or Portugueze to make a show in his appendix. – Why do you not make up an article for the Iris  from Thelwalls pamphlet against the Scotch Reviewers?  he has done it very badly & yet with great effect. but if the real merits of the case were separated from the dross mixd with it, it would do good, by doing them a mischief. An able man might now crush them, they have laid themselves open by so many absurdities. – poor Turner is sadly hurt by them.  he feels those things, & they dishearten him, which is an evil for he is really a valuable man, & one from whom much is to be expected. I respect him as the man of all others who has xxx made the best use of his Talent.
God bless you!
* Address: To/ Mr
Wm Taylor Junr./ Surry Street/ Norwich/
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: Ansd 20 May
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4845. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Warden Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, pp. 498–501.
Dating note: dated thus in Robberds, with the pencil annotation of ‘Ap. 11 1804’ on fol. 1r. BACK
 ‘King Ramiro’ was published in the Morning Post on 9 September 1803. Southey also caused Taylor to print the poem in the newspaper he edited, The Iris; or, Norwich and Norfolk Weekly Advertiser on 12 May 1804. It later appeared, revised, in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and in Poetical Works (1837–1838); see Southey to William Taylor, 23 November 1804, Letter 992. BACK
 Southey refers to Juan Bautista Lavaña (1550–1624), Nobiliario de D. Pedro Conde de Barcelos Hijo del Rey D. Dionis de Portugal (1640), no. 3571 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK
 Of the three medieval books of Portuguese lineages to survive, the oldest is that compiled circa 1270, the second around 1340, and the third, known as the Livro de Linhagens do Conde D. Pedro de Barcelos, between 1340 and 1344. BACK
 A poem Southey first published in the Morning Post in early February 1803. It was retitled ‘A True Ballad of St Antidius, the Pope, and the Devil’ and revised for Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and Poetical Works (1837–1838). He derived the story from Alfonso X of Castile (1221–1284; King of Castile 1252–1284), Chronica de Espana (Zamora, 1541), ff. 139–. BACK
 Edmund II (d. 1016; DNB): king of the southern part of England from 23 April to 30 November 1016 and known as ‘Edmund Ironside’ because of his defence of Wessex against the Viking invasion from the north. BACK
 In Taylor’s review of the third volume of Sharon Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons (1799–1805), he suggests subjects for an English epic, stating that ‘the frank, the daring, the generous virtues of Edmund Ironside; the nationality and importance of his cause, fit him for a favourite hero’. See Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 220–223, 222. BACK
 The Edda comprises the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, transcribed in thirteenth-century Iceland. The Edda related the deeds of the Norse gods and heroes, some of the poems therein probably dating from the Viking era. BACK
 Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons (1799–1805) deals with Saxon efforts to repel Viking attacks in its fourth book. BACK
 The poem Madoc, which Southey had written in 1797–1799 and since then had been intermittently revising. It was completed in October 1804 and published in 1805. BACK
 Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil Du Perron (1731–1805), the French Orientalist, caused the sacred texts of the Parsis, the Avesta, to be translated into Persian by Brahmins when he resided in India. He then translated this translation into French, publishing it as Zend-Avesta in 1771, and thus introducing Zoroastrianism to Europe for the first time. Southey owned a copy of this book but did not carry out his plan. BACK
 John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB) attributed Shamanism to the ‘Eastern Tartars’ in Asiatic Russia and China, connecting it with Tibetan Buddhism, in Modern Geography, a Description of the Empires, States, and Colonies, with the Oceans, Seas and Islands in all parts of the World, 2 vols (London, 1802), II, chap. 1. BACK
 Southey began a poem on Robin Hood in 1823, as a collaborative effort with his future second wife Caroline Bowles. Unfinished at his death, it was published posthumously in 1847 in a volume entitled Robin Hood: A Fragment by the Late Robert Southey and Caroline Southey, with Other Fragments and Poems. BACK
 Southey reviewed William Godwin’s Chaucer ... Including Memoirs of ... John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; with Sketches of the Manners, Opinions, Arts and Literature of England in the Fourteenth Century (1803) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 462–473. BACK
 The Iris; or, Norwich and Norfolk Weekly Advertiser was the Norwich newspaper edited by Taylor, from 1803–1804. BACK
 In 1804, Thelwall published a Letter to Francis Jeffrey on Certain Calumnies and Misrepresentations in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ accusing Francis Jeffrey of leading an attempt to break up his lecture in Edinburgh, and of misrepresenting his poetry in the Edinburgh Review, 3 (April 1803), 197–202. BACK
 The second part of Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons (1799–1805) was reviewed by Francis Jeffrey as evincing ‘proof of a feeble mind, and a vitiated taste’ in the Edinburgh Review, 3 (1804), 360–374 (372). BACK