2697. Robert Southey to John Murray, 9 January 1816

2697. Robert Southey to John Murray, 9 January 1816 ⁠* 

Keswick. 9. Jany. 1816

My dear Sir

Mariners information has been put into a very good form for the press, – it is better not to make an expensive book of it, – prints of scenery, costume & natural history in such works justify expence & tempt purchasers, but here you have nothing of that kind. I think you over-estimate the extent of the manuscript. I should not think it contained more than an ordinary octavo volume: – the promised vocabulary which certainly should not be omitted, may be printed in a close type, & cannot occupy many pages. With regard to the composition it is in such a state that I should think the editor has nothing more to do than to prepare a transcript for the press. [1] 

Now to the other points of your letter in order. I do a friendly act in taking the subject of Alfieri, – but I am not making a friendly article in any other sense of the word. The subject is xx good, & the act of friendship consists in thus calling attention to the translation, of which I shall speak as if it were the work of a stranger. I have Alfieris life, & am compressing it to form the first part of the article. [2]  I have also Walkers Memoir upon Italian Tragedy, [3]  & many of the Tragedies which he analyses. But I have not, neither have I ever seen Sismondi, Guenguene or Schlegel, [4] – & the latter will be needed when I write upon the British Drama.

Longman will send me Ali Bey [5]  as early as possible. – I will ask Mr Gifford the question about Persia, – with perfect willingness to resign the subject. Few persons are aware of the labour which I devote to such subjects a reviewal of this work would cost me, entering as it ought to do upon the subjects of the Zendavesta, Manichaeism &c [6]  – . If Reginald Heber will undertake it, I should rather be spared so great an expense of time. [7]  – Wards is a very curious book, – as soon as I can make my extracts I will return it. [8]  – I reviewed the first edition of Ld Hollands book, – but I can very well review an enlarged edition without repeating myself. [9] 

My poem [10]  will still occupy me for a fortnight at least, – perhaps for three weeks longer. This must be done, before the title becomes too stale, the title being temporary, tho I trust the poem will not prove so. I cannot therefore be ready with a great article for this number, [11]  – a great article never costs me less than a month, – I mean to say that it is never less than a month in hand, when it is made my chief occupation. The Ludus Literarius [12]  will probably be my first text for one, – there are two great points to be enforced, – the necessity of general education upon a national basis (without which all that has been done will crumble away) & the certain manner in which education may be facilitated, quickened & improved. Certain I am that nothing but the influence of moral & religious education can save this country from revolution, & that the danger is greater at this time that it xx ever has been. or that

And now I believe I have replied to your letter in all its parts.

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 12 JA 12/ 1816
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1816 Jan 30/ Southey Robt
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey approved for publication a manuscript account of the story of the ship’s boy William Mariner (1791–1853) who lived in the Tonga islands from 1806 to 1810 after the local people attacked his ship and killed his crewmates. The manuscript was published by Murray, after editing by the meteorologist John Martin (1789–1869; DNB), as An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, with an Original Grammar and Vocabulary of their Language (1817). The book was published in two octavo volumes, with ‘A Grammar of the Tonga Language’ at pp. 353–412 of Volume II and ‘A Vocabulary, Tonga and English’ following in unpaginated pages. There was only one illustration. Southey reviewed the book in Quarterly Review, 17 (April 1817), 1–39. BACK

[2] Southey reviewed, in the Quarterly Review, 14 (January 1816), 333–368, Vita di Vittorio Alfieri, &c. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Victor Alfieri, Written by Himself (1815); and The Tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri, Translated by Charles Lloyd (1815). Southey possessed a presentation copy of Lloyd’s book, no. 28 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] Joseph Cooper Walker (1761–1810), Historical Memoir on Italian Tragedy, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time (1799), no. 3097 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi (1773–1842), De La Littérature du Midi de l’Europe (1813), no. 2556 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; Pierre-Louis Ginguené (1748–1815), Histoire Littéraire d’Italie (1811–1835), the first 6 volumes were no. 1103 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767–1845), A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature (1815). BACK

[5] In the Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 299–345, Southey reviewed Domingo Badia y Leblich (1766–1818), Travels of Ali Bey in Morocco, Tripoli, Cyprus, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, and Turkey, Between the Years 1803 and 1807 (1816). BACK

[6] The Zand-i-Avesta are the sacred texts of the Zoroastrian religion. They were translated into French in 1771 by Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (1731–1805), no. 3135 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Manichaeism was a religion that arose in Persia in the third century AD. BACK

[7] Heber reviewed, in Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 236–292, John Malcolm (1769–1833; DNB), The History of Persia, from the most Early Period to the Present Time: containing an Account of the Religion, Government, Usages, and Character of the Inhabitants of that Kingdom (1815). BACK

[8] William Ward (1769–1823; DNB), A View of the History, Literature and Mythology of the Hindoos: Including a Minute Description of Their Manners and Customs, and Translations From Their Principal Works (1815–1817), no. 2979 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] In Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817), 1–46, Southey reviewed Lord Holland, Some Account of the Lives and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, and Guillen de Castro (1817). He had reviewed the first edition of 1806 in the Annual Review for 1806, 5 (1807), 397–411. BACK

[10] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[11] Quarterly Review, 14 (October 1815), published 12 March 1816. This issue did not contain an article by Southey. BACK

[12] Andrew Bell, Elements of Tuition, Part III: Ludus Literarius, the Classical and Grammar School (1815). Southey did not write in the Quarterly Review on this text. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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