1358. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 12 September 1807

1358. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 12 September 1807 ⁠* 

Dear Sir

I have desired Longman to send you a copy of Palmerin of England, [1] of who & you who love to read & to sing ‘of Knights & gentle Ladies deeds,’ [2]  will not be dismayed at the sight of four volumes more corpulent than volumes are wont to be in these degenerate days. The Romance is not so good as Amadis [3]  but it is a good Romance, & far superior to any other of the Spanish school as far as I am acquainted with them, & according to common opinion in those times when such books were read. I know not whether you will think the Preface satisfactory; – it is so to myself, –& it is somewhat curious that I should twice have to examine such a question, & twice have to fix upon a Portugueze author, – you may believe me when I declare that no lurking wish of finding it so has had the slightest effect upon my judgement. [4] 

When I had the pleasure of seeing Mr Marriott [5]  here in the winter, I paid him half a guinea as the subscription to Hoggs poems. [6]  The copy has never reached me – I have applied to Longman, & it seems as if he could not procure it. Perhaps a word from you to the Edinburgh publisher, [7]  when you happen to see him, may be effectual.

I rejoice to hear that we are to have another Lay, [8]  & hope we may have as many Last Lays of the Minstrel, as our fathers had last words of Mr Baxter. [9]  My own Lays are probably at an end. I like historical pursuits better, & am giving to them that portion of my time which I can spare afford to employ in labouring for fame; – any thing else poetry will not procure me. Jeffrey has made more money by reviewing Madoc [10]  than I have made by writing it. His mildewing breath cannot wither one laurel-leaf of my garland, – but it blasts my harvest of bread. Over those who read books he has little influence, but over those who buy them his influence is ver very extensive, & he exerts it very perniciously for all who are not his friends. If he had any knowledge of poetry & attacked me upon fair grounds it would be well; – but <as> whilst the crab xxxxing Morgante on the heel xxxx – but as it is – it is the crab wounding Morgante in the heel. [11] 

The Chronicle of the Cid [12]  is just gone to the press – their most ancient & most curious piece of chivalrous history in existence – a book after your own heart. It is the prologue to a long series of historical labours, – of which, whenever you will take Keswick in your way to or from London, I shall be very glad to show you some samples. I am settled here, & am getting my books about me; you will find a boat for fine weather, & for a rainy day, a better library than any other man of means so limited as mine has perhaps ever yet possessed –

I beg to be remembered to Mrs Scott.

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

Keswick. Sept 12. 1807.


* Watermark: shield/ 1803/ T BOTFIELD
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 9609. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

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

[2] Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 1, line 5. BACK

[3] The Spanish romance Amadis of Gaul, Southey’s translation of which appeared in 1803. BACK

[4] Scott had not been impressed, in 1803, by Southey’s claims about the authorship of Amadis. For Scott’s review of Southey’s translation, see Edinburgh Review, 5 (October 1803), 109–136. BACK

[5] John Marriott (1780–1825), clergyman, friend of Scott. BACK

[6] James Hogg, The Mountain Bard (1807), a volume of ballads published with Scott’s encouragement. BACK

[7] Archibald Constable (1774–1827; DNB) and Co. BACK

[8] Scott’s poem Marmion (1808), the eagerly awaited follow-up to the Lay of the last Minstrel (1805), was in the process of composition. BACK

[9] According to the Spectator, 445 (31 July 1712), a publication entitled ‘Last Words of Mr Baxter’ was, after the death of Richard Baxter (1615–1691; DNB), so successful that it was followed by another, entitled ‘More Last Words of Mr Baxter’. BACK

[10] Jeffrey’s review of Madoc appeared in the Edinburgh Review, 7 (October 1805), 1–29. BACK

[11] In Morgante (1483), the epic poem by Luigi Pulci (1432–1484), the eponymous giant is killed by a crab bite. BACK

[12] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish was published by Longmans in 1808. It comprised translations from the Crónica particular del Cid (1593), with additions from the Crónica de España of Alphonso the Wise (1541) and Romancero e Historia del Cid (1632). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)