1403. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 22 December 1807

1403. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 22 December 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

You have I trust ere this received your books, – the two copies (Spanish & French) of Palmerin de Oliva, Amadis de Grecia, Esplandian, Primaleon, Polendos, Palmerin of England, Linschoten, Pere Tomich, & the Hist. del Reg D Jayme. [1]  Except the Dutchman, they have all undergone a more thorough perusal than they have probably had for the last hundred years.

Let me now tell you what I purpose doing to the Mort Arthur, [2]  what I wish the booksellers to do, & what materials I have. – My preliminary matter will take in a wide range. I shall examine the old question of the origin of romance, with the hope of saying something new about it; – & I shall prove that it was in no instance intended to outrage probability, till it got into the hands of the Italian poets. With respect to its effects on society a good many facts have fallen in my way, which my predecessors have not met with, my reading lying in a track which has been little beaten. – The proceeding to the Round Table. I shall as far as materials can be procured, give the critical bibliology of the subject; & in the notes indicate the source of every chapter in the Mort Arthur. [3] 

Walter Scotts plan was to print in small 4to, & give wooden cuts of costume. To this I wish to persuade the publishers; – it is not likely that they will object, – but your opinion will have weight with them. No man knows the public taste better than Scott. I shall be able to make out the materials of costume, as it is a part of my plan to enter with some minuteness into the subject of armour, & all its varieties. To make the work really handsome there should be a half title with a vignette to every book. Engraving on copper is better than on wood, & has the great advantage that it is more easily procurable, there being more artists.

My Round Table Library is scanty. Of old books it contains nothing but the English Geoffrey of Monmouth, & the two long poems of Luigi Alemanni. [4]  I have read all the translated tales of the Mabinogion, [5]  & can procure all the requisite Welsh materials from Turner, Owen & Williams. [6]  Mr Goldsmid [7]  has sent me the catalogue of his romances, which I think is likely to supply me with most of the books which you may not happen to possess; & a Mr Lang [8]  has made me something like a similar offer. At your leisure let me beg you to have the goodness to look me out a cargo from your never-failing stores, – as soon as it reaches me I will apply to them for the deficiencies.

The <old> printed copy of Palmerin [9]  was I hope delivered to you according to your desire & my directions. It will show you that I am not an idle editor, whatever those unhappy Specimens may have induced you to think. [10]  Should the Palmerin sell, I would willingly follow it with the third part, if the original could be procured, – Mr Lang proffers me the translation. [11]  The only chance of meeting with one would be in the Kings Library, [12]  <who> has some of the rarest Portugueze books but there of course it would be as useless to me as if it were in Portugal. – You will have seen in the preface to Moraes that I have tracked Shakespere Sidney & Spenser to Amadis de Grecia. [13]  I am reading an imperfect copy of Florisel de Niquea, which comes next in the series, & there I find the mock execution of Pamēla & Philoclea, & Amoret with her bleeding wound. [14] 

I have many things in hand, – the Chronicle of the Cid [15]  will be likely to please you, – it is the most curious piece of chivalrous history in existence, & I have rendered it to my own satisfaction. Next will come the History of Brazil. [16] 

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

Keswick. Dec. 22. 1807.


* Address: To/ Richard Heber Esqr./ Elliots Brewery/ Westminster
Watermark: shield/ T BOTFIELD
MS: Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Eng. Lett. d. 215. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: H. Cholmondeley (ed.), The Heber Letters 1783–1832 (London, 1950), pp. 217–218. BACK

[1] Southey’s borrowings cannot be identified with certainty but he refers elsewhere to to following editions: The [First-] Seconde Part, of the ... Historie, of the ... Princes Palmerin of England, and Florian du Desart his brother ... Translated out of French, by A. M. [Anthony Munday (bap. 1560–1633; DNB)] (1596); Palmerin d’Oliva. Translated by A. M. [Anthony Munday] (1588); 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); Las Sergas de Esplandián, (1510) one of a series of Spanish chivalric romances by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (1450–1504) of which Amadis of Gaul, which Southey translated in 1803, is the first; The First Booke of Primaleon of Greece (1595); The Famous History of Palmendos, Son to the Most Renowned Palmerin d’Oliva, Emperour of Constantinople, and the Heroic Queen of Tharsus (1589) [both translated by Munday]; Francisco de Moraes Cabral (1500?-1572), Libro del Muy Esforzado Caballero Palmerin de Inglaterra (1547); Jan Huyghen van Linschoten (1563–1611), the Dutch explorer and cartographer, who published in 1595 Reys-Gheschrift Vande Navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten and in 1597 Beschryvinghe van de Gantsche Custe van Guinea, Manicongo, Angola Ende Tegen over de Cabo de S. Augustijn in Brasilien, de Eyghenschappen des Gheheelen Oceanische Zees. The Latin edition, with plates, appeared as Pars Indiae Orientalis, in Qu Johan. Hugonis Lintscotani Navigatio in Orientem, 1599 in the collection of travel narratives published by Johan Theodor and Johann Israel De Bry, Peregrinationes (1598–1613); Pere Tomich (fl. 1431–1438), Histories e Conquestes del Reyalme Darago e Principat de Cathalunya (1438); Bernardino Gómez Miedes (1515–1589), Historia de la Vida de Don Jayme de Aragon, Primero Deste Nombre Ilamado el Conquistador (1584). BACK

[2] Southey was planning an edition of Sir Thomas Malory (1415/18–1471; DNB), Morte d’Arthur about which he had previously written to Heber; see Southey to Richard Heber, 16 November 1807, Letter 1379. BACK

[3] Southey realised his plan, in modified form only, in 1817 with the publication of his edition The Byrth, Lyf and Acts of King Arthur. BACK

[4] The twelfth-century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100–c. 1155; DNB), Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136); Luigi Alamanni (1495–1556), Avarchide (1570), Girono il Cortese (1761 [the edition owned by Southey]). BACK

[5] Southey read a translation by William Owen Pughe of the Welsh romances dating from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, collected in fourteenth-century Welsh manuscripts and known as the Mabinogi. Some of these were published in the journal edited by Pughe, The Cambrian Register (1796, 1799), where they are entitled The Mabinogion, or Juvenile Amusements, being Ancient Welsh Romances. The tales preserving Arthurian lore are Culhwch ac Olwen (Culhwch and Olwen), Peredur Son of Efrawg and Breuddwyd Rhonabwy (The Dream of Rhonabwy). BACK

[6] Edward Williams, or Iolo Morganwg (1747–1826; DNB), scholar and forger of Welsh literature. BACK

[7] John Louis Goldsmid (1789–1835), banker and book collector. BACK

[8] Robert Lang (d.1828), bibliophile collector of editions of chivalric romances. BACK

[9] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[10] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807), co-edited with Grosvenor Charles Bedford, and published, to Southey’s dismay, with numerous errors. BACK

[11] The Third and Last Part of Palmerin of England, Translated into English by Anthony Munday (1602). BACK

[12] The library of over 65,000 volumes assembled by George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). It was given to the nation in 1823. BACK

[13] 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). See Southey’s Preface to Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (London, 1807), pp. xliv-xlv. He finds that Amadis influenced Florizel, in the Winter’s Tale, and also Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene, Book 3, Canto 12; Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB), Arcadia (1593). BACK

[14] Feliciano de Silva (1491–1554), Don Florisel de Niquea (1532), another Amadis spin-off, influenced the mock execution and return to life of the two sisters Pamela and Philoclea in Sidney’s Arcadia and the figure of Amoret in The Faerie Queene, who has a gaping wound in her breast, symbolic of desire and its consummation in married love. BACK

[15] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish was published by Longmans in 1808. It comprised translations from the Crónica Particular del Cid (1593), with additions from the Crónica de España of Alphonso the Wise (1541) and Romancero e Historia del Cid (1632). BACK

[16] Southey’s History of Brazil was published in three volumes from 1810–1819. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)