1317. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 4 May 1807

1317. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 4 May 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

The proof sheet consists of 24 pages & may be cut into as many pieces of needful – tho I formerly understood otherwise, but Taylor [1]  undeceived me. [2]  Place them in the shape which they will retain when xxx put together in a book, double fold them like a note, & chuse that page which has most blank paper for the directing. – but do not let me see any more post marks in red ink till the Tantara-raras [3]  return. [4]  There is a great fitness in your franking my proofs, – none in your paying for them.

Wynn is out of town, – as bad for our purpose as being out of office he writes me from Chester. Being got into the last volume this failure of franks is of less consequence. The fair sheets may very well xxxx wait till a more convenient season, – they are matters of luxury, not of necessity, – rather for my pleasure than my use. If any continuous work it would be otherwise, & in this there is rarely or never occasion for me to refer to what is said before.

In reading Amadis of Greece [5]  (lent me by Heber) I have found Spensers Mask of Cupid, [6]  Sir P. Sidneys Zelmane, [7]  & Shakesperes Florisel. [8]  Was there ever other book honoured by three such borrowers! The father of Tasso [9]  also has borrowed an adventure from it. – Palmerin [10]  will show you the change of manners since the days of Vasco Lobeira [11]  – His Princesses are prudes. The book is worth reading, tho every way inferior to Amadis it has much merit, & that merit quite of a different character. There is this remarkable difference in the impression which the two books leave behind them. – for Lobeira I have a great love, & when I arrive among the worthies of old times, my predecessors, I am inclined to think he will be among the first whom I shall be ambitious of meeting. But for Francisco de Moraes [12]  I have neither respect nor liking; throughout his book there is not a single passage which gives me any love for the author. he knows what virtue is only from what he has been taught, not from what his own heart teaches him, & from represents no character well but such as are marked by some obliquity of mind. And never did I discover in any writer such an ill opinion of womankind, – learnt I presume from the French Court, where he was for many years attendant on an Embassy.

Good news from Portugal. A MSS. has been discovered of Poems, certainly older than the oldest Collection as it had till now been esteemed – that is certainly older than 1480, – & supposed by the best antiquarians there to be nearly two centuries older. I shall endeavour to procure a transcript of it; – & in return part of my business when I next become your guest will be to see to the transcribing of certain Port. MSS. in the Museum, [13]  that I may have the satisfaction & credit of returning them to their own country, where they will be most thankfully received by the learned. Of men learned in their own literature, Portugal & Spain have a greater proportion than England.

Remember me to Mrs R.

God bless you


May 4. 1807.

I direct in implicit obedience to the Speaker, tho suspecting that he ought now to be Abbotized. [14] 


* Address: To/ The Right Honble/ The Speaker/ &c &c &c/ Westminster
Endorsement: RS./ 4 May 1807.
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK/2
Postmark: D/ MAY 7/ 1807
MS: Huntington Library, RS 111. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 4–5 [in part]. BACK

[1] Richard Taylor (1781–1858; DNB), whose firm was printing Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella; Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[2] In order to keep the author’s name a secret, Southey had been forwarding the proofs of his Letters from England via Rickman; see Southey to John Rickman, 29 April [1807], Letter 1312. BACK

[3] Southey’s disparaging term for the noisy MPs in the House of Commons. Tantara-rara, Rogues All was the title of a 1786 play by John O’Keeffe (1747–1833; DNB); see The Dramatic Works of John O’Keeffe Esq., 4 vols (London, 1798), III, pp. 349–90. ‘Tantara-rara, Fools All Fools All’ was also a popular song from Henry Fielding’s (1707–1754; DNB) play The Lottery (1732). BACK

[4] Rickman was unable to frank letters when Parliament was not in session. BACK

[5] Feliciano de Silva (1491–1554), Noveno Libro de Amadís de Gaula, Crónica del Muy Valiente y Esforzado Príncipe y Caballero de la Ardiente Espada Amadís de Grecia, Hijo de Lisuarte de Grecia, Emperador de Constantinopla y de Trapisonda, y Rey de Rodas (1530). BACK

[6] In Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene, Book 3, Canto 12. BACK

[7] In Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB), Arcadia (1593). BACK

[8] Florizel, whom Shakespeare dramatised in the Winter’s Tale, is the subject of de Silva’s Don Florisel de Niquea (1532). BACK

[9] Bernardo Tasso (1493–1569), author of L’Amadigi, an epic inspired by the Amadis narratives and published by his son Torquato under the title Florindante in 1587. BACK

[10] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (London, 1807). Southey noted the borrowings from ‘Amadis of Greece’ referred to here in his ‘Preface’ (pp. xliv–xlv). BACK

[11] Vasco de Lobeira (died 1403), reputed author of the first of the prose romances of Amadis of Gaul. BACK

[12] Francisco de Moraes Cabral (1500?-1572), author of Libro del Muy esforzado caballero Palmerin de Inglaterra (1547). BACK

[13] The British Museum. BACK

[14] On Parliament’s resumption after the election, the Speaker’s chair would be taken by Charles Abbot; Rickman was his secretary. BACK