2880. Robert Southey to Messrs Longman & Co, 14 December 1816

2880. Robert Southey to Messrs Longman & Co, 14 December 1816⁠* 

Keswick, Dec. 14. 1816.

Dear Sir,

I have sent off the “S. Greaal” [1]  this day by coach, carefully packed in a box, and with it the Italian “Trystans,” the “Life of Merlin,” and the “British Bibliographers,” vol. i. [2]  I shall now be much obliged to Mr. Laing [3]  for the “Perceval,” [4]  which I will not detain so long, but go through it without delay. The “Morte Darthur” draws more largely from the “S. Greaal” than from any other source that I have yet traced; [5]  but upon this subject I purpose writing to Mr. Douce, and will enclose the letter to you, as I know not where to address him. He has great information upon these subjects, and is liberal in communicating it. [6]  There is a book by Davies, the Welch antiquarian, which I believe contains some speculations about Arthur; not his “Celtic Researches,” but a volume which he published afterwards. [7]  Pray let me see it.

The set of the “Acta Sanctorum” has been completed for me, and Verbeest, of Brussels, will draw upon you for the payment – 500 francs. [8]  I do not know in what condition the binding is; but if it should stand in need of repairs or lettering, have the goodness to get them put in order. Mr. Vardon will give them a passage to Newcastle. This is a work without which no historical library can be complete; I shall find it of great importance in completing my “History of Portugal.” . . . [9] 

Yours, &c.

R. S.


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856)
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 49–50. BACK

[1] L’Hystoire du Sainct Greaal (1514). BACK

[2] L’Opere Magnanime dei due Tristani (1555), an Italian romance on the Arthurian knight, Sir Tristan, and his son of the same name; Le Compte de la Vie de Merlin et des ses Faiz, et Compte de ses Prophecies (n.d.); Sir Egerton Brydges, The British Bibliographer, 4 vols (1810–1814). BACK

[3] William Laing (1764–1832), antiquarian bookseller and publisher in Edinburgh, who sometimes published works in collaboration with Longmans. Southey had met him on his stay in Edinburgh in October 1805 and bought books from him on his return to the city in 1819. He was the father of Southey’s correspondent David Laing. BACK

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

[5] The books listed in this paragraph were all required for Southey’s edition of Thomas Malory (c. 1415–1471; DNB), The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur, published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown in 1817. BACK

[6] Southey wrote to Francis Douce on 21 January 1817, Letter 2903. BACK

[7] Edward Davies (1756–1831; DNB), Celtic Researches, on the Origin, Traditions and Language of the Ancient Britons (1804). The volume Southey sought was The Mythology and Rites of the British Druids (1809). These books were nos 796–797 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey described Davies as ‘the most able writer that has yet attempted to explore the dark region of Welsh antiquity’, though he refused to definitely endorse Davies’s speculation that Arthur had been ‘initiated’ into the religion of the Druids, The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur, 2 vols (London, 1817), I, pp. viii–ix. BACK

[8] Southey hoped he had bought the massive 53–volume compendium of hagiographies entitled Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library, through the good offices of Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849), a famous bookseller in Brussels; in fact he had only bought the 6–volume abridgement (1783–1794), no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[9] Southey never finished his long-planned ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

People mentioned

Douce, Francis (1757–1834) (mentioned 1 time)
Vardon, Thomas (dates unknown) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)