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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to C. W. W. Wynne, 5 July 1805

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“July 5. 1805.
“Dear Wynn,

Fox has written me a very civil letter of thanks; saying, however, that he had not yet had time to read the poem, so his praise can of course only have been of detached parts.

“They tell me the duty upon foreign works is not worth collecting, and that it might be repealed if any member thought it worth his while to take up the matter. If this be the case, I pray you take into consideration the case of your petitioner; there is now a roomful of books lying for me at Lisbon, all of use to me, and yet literally and truly such the major part, that were they to be sold in England, they would not yield the expense of the duty. I cannot smuggle them all in, to my sorrow, being obliged to get over only a box at a time, of such a smuggleable size that a man can easily carry it, and this I cannot do at London, where I wish to have them. What my uncle has sent over, and fairly paid for, has cost about a hundred pounds freight and duty—the freight far the smaller part. Now, if this barbarous tax can be repealed, whoever effects its repeal certainly deserves to be esteemed a benefactor to literature, and it may also be taken into the account that you would save me from the sin of
Ætat. 30. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 333
smuggling, which else, assuredly, I have not virtue enough to resist. Seriously, if the thing could be done, it would be some pride to me, as well as some profit, that you should be the man to do it. . . . . I have just received a good and valuable book from Lisbon, the
Barbarorum Leges Antiquæ, well and laboriously edited by a monk at Venice, in five folios, the last published in 1792. An excellent work it appears to me, upon the slight inspection I have yet given it,—one that by its painful and patient labour reminds one of old times; such a book as monasteries do sometimes produce, but universities never. My books here are few but weighty, and every day I meet with something or other so interesting to me, that a wish arises for some friend to drop in, to whom and with whom I could talk over the facts which have appeared, and the speculations growing out of them. What profit the History may ultimately produce. Heaven knows; but I would not for anything that rank or fortune could give, forego the pleasure of the pursuit.

“The story of Pelayo, the restorer of the Gothic or founder of the Spanish monarchy, has been for some time in my thoughts as good for a poem. I would rather it were a Portuguese than a Spanish story; that, however, cannot be helped. The historical facts are few and striking, just what they should be; and I could fitly give to the main character, the strong feelings and passions which give life and soul to poetry, and in which I feel that Madoc is deficient. There is yet half an hour’s daylight, enough to show you what my ideas are upon the
subject, in their crude state. Pelayo revolted because his sister was made by force the concubine of a Moorish governor, or by consent; and because his own life was attempted by that governor, in fear of his resentment, he retreated to the mountains, where a cavern was his stronghold; and from that cavern miraculously defeated an army of unbelievers: the end is that he won the city or castle of Gijon, and was chosen king. There are for characters, Pelayo himself; the young Alphonso, who married his daughter, and succeeded to his throne; Orpas, the renegade archbishop, killed in the battle of the Cave; Count Julian; his daughter Florinda, the innocent cause of all the evil, who killed herself in consequence; and, lastly. King Rodrigo himself, who certainly escaped from the battle, and lived as a hermit for the remainder of his days. If I venture upon machinery, of all subjects here is the most tempting one. What a scene would the famous Cave of Toledo furnish, and what might not be done with the ruined monasteries, with the relics and images which the fugitives were hiding in the woods and mountains! I forgot to mention among the historical characters the wife of Rodrigo, who married one of the Moorish governors. Monks and nuns (the latter not yet cloistered in communities), persecuted Arians, and Jews, and slaves, would furnish fictitious and incidental characters in abundance. You see the raw materials; if English history could supply me as good a subject, it would on every account be better, but I can find none. That of
Edmund Ironside is the best, which William Taylor
Ætat. 30. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 335
threw out to me as a lure in the
Annual Review; but when an historical story is taken, the issue ought to be of permanent importance.

“I have never thought so long at one time about Pelayo as while thus talking to you about him; but Madoc does not fully satisfy me, and I should like to produce something better—something pitched in a higher key. A Spanish subject has one advantage, that it will cost me no additional labour of research; only, indeed, were I to chuse Pelayo, I would see his cave, which is fitted up as a chapel, has a stream gliding from it, and must be one of the finest things in Spain. God bless you!

R. S.”