7 March 1807

Robert Southey, Keswick, Cumberland, to Mary Hays, 3 Park Street, 7 March 1807.1 

 

My Dear Madam

      You attribute more weight among the Booksellers to my recommendation than it possesses. It might be of some avail if they referred a manuscript to me, <> but it is of none in introducing a book to them, for this reason – that they regard subject as the main thing, & consider themselves as the best judges of that, which probably they are. If the subject be likely to succeed among other winter fashions, then they think about the execution, & refer it to some professor of criticism, which in contradiction to cobbling, may be called the ungentle craft.

      I should conceive your subject as a good one, but that the booksellers would object to the proposed extent of the work, & that you would be far more likely to obtain a purchaser for three volumes than for six.

      I will peruse your MSS with great pleasure, & will return it with such remarks as may occur to me on perusal. Messrs Longman & Co are the only publishers with whom I am acquainted; – to them I will mention the book – if you still think such a mention might be of use; – but the truth is that they find my own books so little successful in point of sale, that tho my opinion might induce them to think well of a published work, it is by no means likely to induce them to publish one.

      The history of our manners from the accession of the Stuarts is I fear only to be collected from scattered sources. Just as that point you will find a very interesting document at the end of Stowes Chronicle,2 containing all his recollections of the changes which had taken place. A continuation of Wartons History of Poetry3 is announced which will probably give you all the light you want respecting the literature. But for morals, fashion and domestic habits, till the days of Addison, there are I believe no better documents to be found than what can be gathered with picked out of the dunghill of our comic writers. For this reason the latter part of your work will be the most laborious.

      Messrs Longman are about to send off a parcel to me, in which your papers may be enclosed. I am sorry you shoud have labourd at Olivier in vain.4 With the name of Cazotte, & the praise of Gibbon, I should have thought any bookseller woud willingly have purchased the translation.

                                    Yrs very truly & respectfully

                                                Robert Southey.

 

Keswick Cumberland.

March 7: 1807.

 

Address: To Miss Hays | 3 Park Street | Islington | London

Postmark: 10 March 1807



1 Misc. Ms. 2214, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 343-44; Wedd, Love Letters 245-46; also The Collected Letters of Robert Southey (Romantic Circles edition), gen ed. Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford, and Ian Packer.

2 John Stow, Chronicles of England (1580).

3 Thomas Warton, History of English Poetry from the Close of the Eleventh to the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century (3 vols, 1774-81).

4 Jacques Cazotte (1719-92), Le Diable amoureux (1772; English edition in 1793), mentioned previously as a possible work for translation by Hays in Southey’s letter to her above, dated 23 May 1803.