1096. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 24 August 1805

1096. Robert Southey to Richard Duppa, 24 August 1805 ⁠* 

Saturday. August 24. 1805.

Dear Duppa

I am desired by Wordsworth to send you this sonnet, & to add how mortified he is that he has not been able to translate any more. [1]  that the originals are exceedingly difficult you need not be told, but you do not know how difficultly Wordsworth can satisfy himself. This which he has done is in my judgement, a fine poem –

Sonnet X

Ben può talor col mio ardente desio.

Yes. hope may with my strong desire keep pace,
And I be undeluded, unbetray’d;
For, if of our affections none find grace
In sight of Heaven, then wherefore hath God made
The world which we inhabit? Better plea
Love cannot have, than that in loving thee:
Glory to that Eternal Peace is paid,
Who such divinity to thee imparts
As hallows & makes pure all gentle hearts.
His hope is treacherous only whose Love dies
With Beauty which is lessened every hour:
But in chaste hearts uninfluenced by the power
Of outward change, there blooms a deathless flower
That breathes on earth the air of paradise.

Wm Wordsworth


Now to supply the deficit thus occasioned, if you wish it supplied & will send me any prose translations – I will do my best once more. the Epitaph will be better omitted altogether, – for it has little but what is commonplace, & is moreover badly versified. Sonnet V has in it something of Michel Angelos [2]  mind, – that aspiration after the permanent & imperishable which breathes thro his poems: the word heavenly cannot with be substituted for beauteous, because a word is necessary which should imply something mortal & perishable. lovely may be substitute – but this would be alteration without amendment.

My removal towards London is adjourned sine die. [3]  I always calculated upon possible disappointments, – & one has taken place which of all others was the least to be expected or foreseen. To indemnify the Merchants whose property has been confiscated in Spain, Government has thought proper to apply all the Spanish prizes taken before a particular day. my brothers were taken two days too soon – & thus he loses 2000 £. [4]  Do not however suppose that I shall let him sustain this life without making some effort at redress for him. The measure is so unprecedented & would be so unpopular that it is very probable the ministry may give it up, if the thing be taken up well in the newspapers. I am trying to get the Courier open to me, as being ministerial; – & will open as many batteries as I can – if government will have the money. it shall have <pay> its full price of unpopularity. It is in fact robbing the sailors to indemnify the merchants: for the sailors calculated & had a right to calculate upon their gains; & many Officers have received money from the agents in advance which they are utterly unable to repay. [5] 

So much for my plans, which seem always to be thwarted. however disappointment sits very easy upon me – I have a happy faculty of making the best of things: – Keswick is a lovely place – my great study one of a better room than will ever fall to my lot elsewhere. if I want some conveniences & some enjoyments here, there are on the other hand others which I should wish for in vain in th within the atmosphere of London. So I shall beg Rickman to pack up for me another box of books, & remain here contentedly till the wind turns veers about in my favour.

I have been perambulating the whole of the Lake country with Danv[MS torn] walking in the course of five weeks about five hundred miles – you may well suppose this left no time for doing any thing else. We saw the country thoroughly, & I am happy to say I now feel myself able to insult all the Lakers & almost all the inhabitants. What a grand book might be made of this track like the Delices which the French publish of Switzerland &c. [6]  I wish under such a work were undertaken upon a magnificent scale – some 20 or 30 guineas-worth, & should like much to join with Coleridge & Wordsworth in furnishing the letter press.

Roscoes book is on my reviewing shelf. [7]  I have nearly read it thro. It is that sort of sweeping subject in which you have something of everything & not enough of any thing. a little about the French wars in Italy – a little about Italian literature – a little about the Reformation – not the History of either. This is the fault of the subject – not of the author. I suppose m[MS obscured] persons will be disappointed by the book, because they will expect something splendid, & there is nothing splendid, – the splendour of Leo X [8]  evaporates upon paper, like the description of fine music or of a good dinner.

Do not delay sending me any versions to versify – because I do not wish to have your book delayed. A man who is going to put out either money or reputation to interest – loses by delay. – Davy has been here – & Walter Scott with whom we have all been hugely pleased. I expect Elmsley & shall probably go on to Edinburgh with him. Edith  Mrs CMrs L & Harry desire to be remembered. the Edithling walks & talks.

God bless you



* Address: To/ Richard Duppa Esqr/ 51. Marlborough Street/ Oxford Street/ London./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ AUG27/ 1805
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Montagu d.18. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Anon., Bodleian Quarterly Record, 1 (1914–1916), 29–31. BACK

[1] After Duppa’s visit to the Lakes in the summer of 1804, both Wordsworth and Southey translated poems for Duppa’s Life and Works of Michel Angelo Buonarroti, with his Poetry and Letters, which was published in 1806. Wordsworth translated one sonnet; Southey three sonnets and a madrigal. A further poem, ‘And sweet it is to see in summer time’, was a joint effort, the first four stanzas by Wordsworth, the following five by Southey. See Kenneth Curry, ‘Uncollected Translations of Michelangelo by Wordsworth and Southey’, Review of English Studies, 14 (1938), 193–199. BACK

[2] Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni [Michelangelo] (1475–1564), Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. BACK

[3] Meaning ‘without a date’. BACK

[4] In December 1804, the naval ship HMS Amelia, of which Thomas Southey was a lieutenant, had captured the Spanish brig Isabella and the ship Conception, both laden with wine and brandy, and the ship Commerce, laden with cotton. It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ships and cargo captured in armed conflict, but in this case the prize money was withheld because the ships were captured before war was officially declared. Southey took up his brother’s cause to have his share reinstated. BACK

[5] It was presumably Southey’s influence that caused The Courier to publish a paragraph supporting the sailors’ claim to the prize-money on Saturday 24 August 1805. This was followed by a longer defence of their position in The Courier on 31 August 1805 under the title ‘Indemnification to the Spanish Merchants’. BACK

[6] Travel guides to different regions with the title of ‘Les délices de…’ were published in France from the seventeenth-century onwards. BACK

[7] Southey reviewed William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1805) in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 449–467. BACK

[8] Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici, Pope Leo X (1475–1521), was Pope from 1513 to 1521. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)