671. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 18 April [1802]

671. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, 18 April [1802] ⁠* 

My dear Danvers

I write because Horace Bedford is going to Bath & can so far frank the letter. Kings did not go by Losh as you imagined but by Mrs Keenan [1]  who I thought would have made Bristol in her way to Exeter. Tell Rex to make his vignette [2]  just what size he thinks best proportioned to an octavo title page. I should object to the youth & scroll because that seems to admit that the papers were found there, which assuredly they were not. a visitor may be put there – he himself if he likes it making the drawing. I have this morning seen his friend M. Voullaire [3]  & as far as half an hours conversation can justify, admire him much. I am going in spite of half a hundred other occupations to acquire by his help a grammatical command of French. On Tuesday evening he commences his visits – & if I do not profit by them – in conscience it will be the fault of the scholar.

Burnett is here. it was a mistake of Jibletts [4]  that he was going to Bristol. Lord Stanhope [5]  has not yet given him the salary – but he will I suppose receive it as soon as they meet. George feels a little too comfortable upon the certainty of a years funds. however I hope that I have found him a job from Longman & Rees – to translate a French book, which will at least keep him two months, & perhaps introduce him to more work till he find a steadier & better employ. – In my last letter to King I mentioned that preliminaries were going on between me & the booksellers. I have undertaken to reduce Amadis de Gaule into three duodecimo volumes for them, anonymously. [6]  not like Tressan in his french abridgement has too much modernised the language & Frenchified the feeling of the book. [7]  I take the old English translation, [8]  & compress it, as nearly as may be into the <same> language – which x is by no means obsolete – not more so than the Bible, & this best suits the character of the book. I prefix an Essay on Romance. for this they offered me, with my name to the Essay only, 100 £. It would have been imprudent to let my name appear – because the notion that I am of a man of business may help me on in the world. they then offered 60 £ when the book was done, & when 750 were sold the remaining 40. £. I have bargained for 30 £ more if a second 750 sell. the definitive answer is not yet come – but I have no doubt they will accede to the terms. Rees said so, & only the formality remains of Longmans assent. Now as my name is not to be publickly known, neither should it privately. I am trying to persuade them to have vignettes, which if I can effect I would beg King to design, & take the fair price for them which the booksellers usually pay. & so sure am I that with the subjects which I should chuse, a print in the title page would encrease the sale of the book, that if they will not otherwise accede, I will propose to them to risque a ten pounds of my own certain profit. There is a farther view in this job. if the book sells which is highly probable from its name & excellence, they will go thro the whole army of Romances in the same manner – indeed this is meant as an experiment with that in view. [9]  Now I believe that Edith can help me at this work, & Mrs Lovell also – whom, if the book sells & the plan proceed I could thus enable comfortably & respectably to maintain herself. you see another reason for anonymousness.

I have talked more with Carlisle about the probability of your brother Johns [10]  setting up in London. he thinks there would be little chance of success. that the trade here is overstocked, & that to succeed many & xxx friends are necessary, & money enough to be able to wait for practise.

Poor Thomas had no partner. he managed all my Uncles church affairs, granting leases &c – which must now be put into the hands of a stranger, instead of a friend. the money which he had in his hands will of course be paid by his Executors – but God knows when – nor can I draw for it upon them.

Elmsley is just called to walk with me to Brixton – where this must go to the Postman. so perforce I conclude. We shall see you in a month – & I hope we sha may find Mrs D. well. I think she will be amused & interested with the progress of Amadis which is truly a delightful book.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

Sunday April 18.


* Address: To/ Mr Danvers/ Kingsdown/ Bristol./ Single
Stamped: BATH
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Mrs Keenan, née MacKinnon, wife of John Keenan (fl. c. 1780-1819), Irish portrait painter, whom Southey had met in Exeter in 1799. Keenan painted two portraits of Southey. BACK

[2] The subject of the ‘vignettte’ was the muniment room in St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, where Thomas Chatterton had supposedly discovered manuscripts by the monk Thomas Rowley (c. 1400-1470). John King’s drawing was used for the engraving opposite the title page of The Works of Thomas Chatterton, 3 vols (London, 1803), II, unpaginated. It was entitled ‘Interior of the Room in Redcliff Church where Rowleys Manuscripts were Said to have been Deposited’. The youth, the scroll and King himself were all omitted from the final version. BACK

[3] He could be connected to the J.A. Voullaire (first name and dates unknown), whose French translation of The Vicar of Wakefield was published in 1811. BACK

[4] Unidentified. BACK

[5] Burnett’s erstwhile employer, Charles (‘Citizen’) Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753-1816; DNB), eventually paid him £200, a year’s salary. BACK

[6] Southey’s translation of the romance Amadis of Gaul appeared in four volumes in 1803. BACK

[7] Louis Elizabeth de la Vergne de Broussin, Comte de Tressan (1705-1783), Traduction Libre d’Amadis de Gaule (1780). BACK

[8] Anthony Munday (c. 1560-1633; DNB), The Ancient, Famous and Honourable History of Amadis de Gaule (1589-1619). BACK

[9] Sales were good enough for Longman and Rees to commission and publish Southey’s translations of Palmerin of England (1807) and the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[10] Probably the surgeon and apothecary, John Danvers (d. 1812), then of Woolwich, London, declared bankrupt in The National Register (3 July 1808), 426. BACK

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