2903. Robert Southey to Francis Douce, 21 January 1817

2903. Robert Southey to Francis Douce, 21 January 1817⁠* 

Keswick. 21 Jany. 1817


You are so much accustomed to be consulted concerning literary questions, & so liberal in communicating your knowledge, that I trust you will excuse the liberty I am taking, & allow me to profit by those stores which have been so freely communicated to others.

I am preparing an introduction to the Morte Arthur, - [1]  but I have not been able to obtain all the works from which it is compiled. Four of the most important I have carefully & thoroughly perused, – the Merlin, with the volume of Prophecies, Tristan, Lancelot, & the S Greal. [2]  I am now reading Perceval, & being nearly half thro it, have not as yet traced a single incident to it. [3]  My round-table knowledge (as far as relates to prose romances) extends only to two other works Meliadus & Giron, [4]  – it is some years since I read these, – & one chapter from the latter is I believe all that has been incorporated in the M. Arthur. May I request you to inform me (which I believe no other person can do so well) from what works the remainder of the book is made up, – & to favour me with such an account of those works xxx as you may have leisure & inclination to communicate. Tho’ far from being as well informed as I could wish to be upon this particular subject, – (or as I would have been if the task had been originally my own) upon the general subject of chivalry I have read extensively, & have collected a considerable number of curious notes.

Requesting that you will excuse the liberty of this address I beg leave to subscribe myself


with much respect

yr obedient humble servant

Robert Southey.


* MS: Bodleian Library, MS Douce d. 23. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s edition of Thomas Malory (c. 1415–1471; DNB), The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur was published by Longman in 1817. BACK

[2] Le Compte de la Vie de Merlin et des ses Faiz, et Compte de ses Prophecies (n.d.); Histoire du Tres-Vaillant, Noble et Excellent Chevalier Tristan (n.d), a version of the thirteenth century Prose Tristan; Le Roman du Vaillant Lancelot du Lac, Chevalier de la Table Ronde (1494), a version of the thirteenth century Prose Lancelot; and L’hystoire du Sainct Greaal (1514). BACK

[3] Tresplaisante et Recreative Hystoire du Trespreulx et Vaillant Chevallier Perceval le Galloys (1530). BACK

[4] The heroes of Le Roman de Gyron le Courtois (n.d) and Le Roman de Meliadus de Leonnois (1532) both first appeared in the thirteenth century text, Palamedes, attributed to the (probably fictional) ‘Helie de Boron’. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)