734. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 21 November 1802

734. Robert Southey to William Taylor, 21 November 1802 ⁠* 

You asked me the English phrase for Le beau Ténébreux – (a good bold beginning instead of a confession & supplication for forgiveness of sins –) the Fair Forlorn is the name used in the English Amadis, [1]  but I who, with all proper anonymousness, am printing an abridged Amadis from the Spanish, use the original name Beltenabros, with a “being interpreted” where it first occurs. [2] 

Now then for egotism. you know or ought to know, that I am no longer Secretary to the Irish Chancellor, losing a foolish office & a good salary. the salary I might have kept if I would have accepted a more troublesome situation. that of Tutor to his son. [3]  all this was transacted with ministerial secresy & hints, but with civility respectful civility. so much for that. Moreover you know that I have an additional reason for ceasing to be a Wanderer upon the face of the Earth, having now a nursery as well as a Library to remove. I am in treaty for a house in Glamorganshire, eight miles from Neath, in the vale of Neath, between high mountains, a beautiful spot, almost the most beautiful that I have seen in this Island. this treaty will in all probability end to my wishes & in the spring I shall probably be R. S. of Maes Gwyn. to live in the country is my choice, & for climate & oeconomy & loca advantage of situation as to carriage & supplies I could not be better situated. there I mean to remain & work steadily at my history, till it be necessary to go to Portugal to correct what I shall have done, & hunt out new materials. [4]  this will be two years hence – if the place answer my wishes I shall not forsake it then, but return there to as to a permanent residence. One of the motives for fixing there is the facility afforded of acquiring the Welsh language.

Since we parted in London I have done nothing but read Spanish & Portugueze history & compile from it. I did expect to have had the first volume in a fair & readable form by Christmas, but sickness & sore eyes have thrown me back. for the last three weeks the least reading & writing in which I have indulged has been an imprudence. sickness I have got rid off. but my eyes continually miserably weak. the lower lids are inflamed – & I am obliged usually to pass my evenings in darkness. this is a heavy loss of time.

George Burnett has thought proper to drop all intercourse with me in a very strange way. when we were in town together I saw him almost daily, & <we> were as confidentially familiar as ever, notwithstanding the good advice which I always was free enough & friendly enough to volunteer. he past thro Bristol in June, & supped with me on his way. on his return last month he did not call. my friend Danvers xxx met him, & askd him if he had seen me. no. why did not he call? I should think it unkind – George answered that Southey was not the sort of society he liked &c – & went on in his usual foolish style to talk about a pistol if everything else failed him. poor fellow! he is too vain to know that the feeling which has been rankling in him is envy, & it is now ripening into hatred! – he is now in London waiting for a situation, characteristic in character, & George Dyer, in character also, is looking out for one for him. a tutorship here, & that a very desirable one was offered him, but he refused it as beneath him. I am vexed & provoked whenever I think of his unhappy folly, that a man should be at once so very proud & so utterly helpless. so ignorant proud of what he will be, & so ignorant of what he is. as to his quarrel with me I shall not notice it, but whenever we meet accost him as usual, & trust that the fit is past.

As to poetry I have long abstained therefrom. old chronicles please me better – & in the merits of all my industry, there is a principle of idleness at the bottom, to read & to compile are occupations of no effort – they are things <works> of amusement, & never make the face burn or the brain throb. sometimes I think what I will do, & build up a huge fairy castle in the air – but when it comes to brick & mortar – alas for the stately rhyme! You saw one book in London of the Curse of Kehama. [5]  I have corrected that & added half a book more, & this is every verse that I have written, except now & then an ejaculation of some thought concerning Beelzebub, [6]  which I shall perhaps one day collect under the title of Horæ Diabolicæ. meantime however my other labours have amounted to a respectable quantity. the Amadis [7]  is about half done, & it will make three thick little volumes. if you know the original book you know it is a very fine work. I only dislike it because it is a business of necessity that takes time from more important occupations. Yesterday I had a very valuable arrival from Portugal – an up unpublished Chronicle by Fernam Lopes [8]  their oldest chronicler, the MSS. itself about from 250 to 300 years old. the writing good, but not easy enough for my eyes at present to decypher.

Harry asked me in his last letter who it was whom you promised to give some scarce book in London. his address is Richard Heber Esq. to the care of Messrs Leigh & Sotheby. Booksellers. York Street – Covent Garden.

Now forgive me for a long silence. in truth this letter ought to go for half a score by the effort of eyesight it has cost me. tell Harry we are all going on well – that Tom is still with me – that young Margaret has the cow pox & that his Aunt has fallen down & broken her nose – which doubtless he will think a great pity for the same reason that I did.

God bless you.

Yours very truly

R Southey.

Kingsdown. Bristol.

Nov. 21. 1802.


* Address: To/ Mr Wm Taylor Junr/ Surry Street/ Norwich./ Single
Postmarks: BRISTOL/ NOV 22 1802; [partial] B/ NOV 2/ 180
Endorsement: Ansd 30 Nov
MS: Huntington Library, HM 4835. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: J. W. Robberds (ed.), A Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late William Taylor of Norwich, 2 vols (London, 1843), I, pp. 426-430 [in part]. BACK

[1] Anthony Munday (c. 1560-1633; DNB), Amadis of Gaule (1589-1619). The ‘Fair Forlorn’ was the name given to Amadis when he was grief-stricken after being rejected by his lover, Oriana. BACK

[2] See Amadis of Gaul, 3 vols (London, 1803), I, p. 136. BACK

[3] William Corry (c. 1786-1853). BACK

[4] For Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[5] The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. Southey had begun to draft Book 2 on 4 June 1802. BACK

[6] One of these poems was probably ‘A True Ballad Of A Pope’, Morning Post, 4 February 1803. BACK

[7] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[8] Fernao Lopes (c. 1385-after 1459), Cronica de el Rei Dom Fernando O Noveno Rei de Portugal, no. 3829 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

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