1213. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 20 August 1806

1213. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 20 August 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

Will you have the goodness when you send the Palmendos [1]  to Longmans, to lend me with it your Esplandian & your Spanish Amadis of Greece.  [2] 

The Printer is charged to keep the copy of Palmerin as clean as possible; [3]  when it comes into your hands again you will perceive how much I have found it expedient to do. A. Mundays version is very nearly, if not quite, as long again as the Portugueze, [4]  – & as this extension is merely in words, not produced by any alteration of story of introduction of adventure, it is always for the worse. Old Antony himself, & probably the Frenchman whom he followed as well, had never read the preceding Romances of the series when he translated this, & has therefore very frequently misunderstood the allusions to them & introduced nonsense. The costume is rather omitted than altered, & the dialogue (which is what Cervantes particularly praised [5]  – or indeed it is what best xxdeserved his praise) lengthened out in such a manner that its character is compleatly changed. I have restored the true sense, costume, & character with no little patience.

If this edition should sell I shall willingly reprint Primaleon, [6]  which is in some respects a better romance than Palmerin. The Palmerin de Oliva [7]  is exceedingly bad – so bad that I wonder it ever could have been popular. I wish much to see Primaleon in the original, & Platir, [8]  which is the original continuation, having been written before Palmerin of England. [9]  The question concerning the author of this last it will not be easy to resolve. [10]  There are certainly French & Italian translations fourteen years older than the oldest known edition in Portugueze [11]  – but there exists at Lisbon a printed copy (without title page or any other clue) apparently not printed in Portugal, & in types neither Roman nor black letter, but between both. I have written to my Uncle to examine this, & to inspect the water–marks. [12]  There are some continuations of Palmerin which I am making enquiry for, wishing to give if I can the critical bibliology of this family of Romances compleat. If any of these books should fall in your way you will I know have the goodness to remember me.

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

Keswick. Aug 20. 1806.


* Address: [insertion in another hand] To/ Richard Heber Esqr/ <Stag Brewhouse/ Westminster>
Postmark: 4o’Clock/ SP 1/ 1806 EV
Watermark: G TAYLOR
Seal: Red wax; ‘S’ with motto
MS: Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Eng. Lett. d. 215. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Heber’s collection of romances about the deeds and desires of Palmerin d’Oliva, emperor of Constantinople, and his descendants comprised eight books, dating from the early sixteenth century. Palmendos was one of these. It was translated as The Honorable, Pleasant and Rare Conceited Historie of Palmendos. Sonne to the famous and fortunate Prince Palmerin d’Oliva by Anthony Munday (bap. 1560–1633; DNB). BACK

[2] Southey is referring to the series of novels on Spanish chivalry named Amadís de Gaula (Amadis of Gaul). Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (c.1450–1504), arranged the first three books in the series, which were written by an unknown fourteenth-century writer. Montalvo added a fourth book written by himself, as well as a sequel to it, Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Exploits of Esplandián), the fifth book in the series (1510) in which he gives an account of the life of Amadis’s son. The saga was continued in further books by other authors, several of which were written by Feliciano de Silva (1491–1554), including Amadis de Grecia (Amadis of Greece), published in 1530. BACK

[3] Southey was preparing for the press an English translation of Palmerin of England, by Francisco Moraes, published in 4 volumes in 1807. BACK

[4] The Portuguese version of this text was written by Francisco de Moraes Cabral (1500–1572) and entitled Libro del muy Esforzado Cabellero Palmerín de Inglaterra, or Book of the Very Valiant Knight Palmerin of England (1547). Anthony Munday (bap. 1560–1633; DNB), playwright and translator, published an English version of the Portuguese text, entitled The First and Second Parts, of the No Lesse Rare, Historie of Palmerin of England (1596), with a third part appearing in 1602. BACK

[5] In Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote, trans. Tobias Smollett (1721–1771; DNB), 6 vols (London, 1792), a priest praises the stylistic clarity of Palmerin of England, describing it as a unique work that is to be esteemed for two reasons ‘first, because, it is in itself excellent; and secondly, because it is said to have been composed by an ingenious king of Portugal’ (I, p. 46). BACK

[6] Primaleon, the second book in the romance series, was written by an anonymous Spanish author (probably Francisco Vázquez) and published in 1516. It was translated from the French by Munday, between 1595 and 1619. Its popularity can be established from the fact that ten Spanish editions were published between 1512 and 1588. BACK

[7] The first book in the romance cycle was entitled Palmerin de Oliva (1511) and was probably written by Francisco Vázquez (fl. Early 16th century). BACK

[8] The third book, Platir (1533), is attributed to Francisco de Enciso de Zárate (d. 1570). BACK

[9] The fourth book is Palmerin de Inglaterra by Francisco de Moraes Cabral (1500–1572), published 1547. BACK

[10] It is credited to Francisco de Moraes Cabral (1500–1572). A Spanish translation was made by Luis Hurtado in 1547, preceding the actual publication of the Portuguese text in 1567. BACK

[11] A French translation was published at Lyons in 1553, and an Italian one at Venice in 1555. BACK

[12] This letter has not survived. BACK

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