1598. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 13 March 1809

1598. Robert Southey to Richard Heber, 13 March 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

I know nothing of the Valencian Mariana. [1]  They edite their old historians incomparably well in Spain, but they are apt to promise more than they perform, & to announce notes, dissertations & appendices which never make their appearance. This is sometimes the authors fault for dying sooner than he ought, but I am afraid it is more frequently the fault of the public. It is melancholy to observe the many excellent & important historical works of which we have only the first part, – the second remaining unprinted, because the first did not remunerate the publisher.

Thank you for your brothers poem. [2]  His Palestine [3]  was vigorously written & I expect much pleasure from this new performance.

My first volume of Brazil will be published early in the summer. [4]  For the second I am in quest of the Literæ Annuæ Provincæ Paraguariæ. [5]  Are any of these volumes among your stores? And have you the Latin original of Techos hist. of Paraguay, [6]  of which there is a mutilated translation in Churchill? [7]  For the latter later history of this country I am rich in materials.

I am vexed that Longman witholds Mort Arthur [8]  from the press, because it is making me act like the dog in the manger towards Scott, & so I shall tell the booksellers. If they do not think it would answer at present, the Ballantynes will most likely think otherwise, & I shall willingly resign it into Scotts hands, who will perform the task quite as well, & with a far better chance of obtaining a sale for the book. Meantime your Round Table books have afforded me great delight. I have read verbatim thro Gyron, Meliadus & Tristan, [9]  – & am now in Lancelot. [10]  They are all greatly inferior to Amadis, [11]  & even to Palmerin [12]  – still, & in spite of their sameness & their bulk I should gladly go thro the whole Round Table Library.

You will have heard that I have nearly compleated a long poem which was begun eight years ago. [13]  In all likelihood it never would have been compleated had I not fallen in, in the course of my last years journey with Savage Landor. He stung me to the resolution of executing those plans which I had long laid aside. I publish this poem as xx a last experiment; – if it produce me as much ‘sweet remuneration’ [14]  as the same portion of time would have earned if employed upon the lowest species of literary trade, I will then devote more time to poetry & publish what I write. If on the contrary, & as I fully & entirely expect, it merely pays the expence of publication for the first two or three years, I shall then, as I am doing now, give only the early morning hours to this occupation, execute as many of my intended poems as that time will allow me to do, – & reserve them for posthumous publication. By converting them into post-obits they will at least enable me to evade the unjust laws of copy-right, which will take from my family all property in my works published works just when they begin to be worth any thing.

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

[MS torn] swick . March 13. 1809.


* Address: To/ Richard Heber Esqr/ Elliotts Brewery/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR 16/ 1809
Watermark: J BUDGEN/ 1805
MS: Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Eng. Lett. d. 215. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: R. H. Cholmondeley (ed.), Heber Letters (1950), 222–223. BACK

[1] Historia General de España que Escribió el P. Juan de Mariana, Ilustrada en esta Nueva Impresion de Tablas Cronologicas, Notas y Observaciones Criticas, con la Vida del Autor, a nine-volume edition, published in Valencia between 1783–1796, of the work by Juan de Mariana (1536–1624). BACK

[2] Reginald Heber’s Europe: Lines on the Present War (1809). BACK

[3] Palestine, a Prize-poem, Recited in the Theatre, Oxford, June 15, 1803 (1803). BACK

[4] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[5] The Cartas Ánuas de la Provincia del Paraguay (or Annual Letters from the Province of Paraguay), reports of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay (1607–1767). BACK

[6] Nicolás del Techo (dates unknown), Historia de la Provincia del Paraguay de la Compania de Jesus (1673). BACK

[7] Awnsham Churchill (1658–1728; DNB), A Collection of Voyages and Travels (1744–1745). BACK

[8] A delayed project: The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur ... With an introduction and notes by Robert Southey. (Printed from Caxton’s edition, 1485) was published in two volumes by Longman in 1817. BACK

[9] Medieval round table romances from Heber’s collection: Gyron le courtois, Meliadus de Leonmoys (both attributed to Rustichello da Pisa (fl. late 13th century) but repeatedly translated and published throught Europe); Tristan by Thomas of Britain (fl. 12th century) or its abbreviated retelling in Middle English Sir Tristrem (13th century). BACK

[10] The medieval romance Lancelot du Lac, on which Scott drew in Marmion (1808) and The Bridal of Triermain (1813). BACK

[11] Southey published a translation of Amadis of Gaul in 1803. BACK

[12] Southey published an English translation of Palmerin of England, by Francisco Moraes in 4 volumes in 1807. BACK

[13] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[14] Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 3, scene 1, lines 170–171 (adapted). BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)