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British conquistadors and Aztec priests: the horror of Southey's Madoc.

To European imaginations in the early nineteenth century, the world was larger than ever before. What Raymond Schwab described as an Oriental Renaissance, an eager European exploration of world cultures in the late eighteenth century, continued the Renaissance of earlier centuries by making the world appear more immense, complex, and ancient than ever before. Translations of Persian love songs and Hindu hymns gave European readers a sense of sympathetic connection with cultures outside the domain of Biblical and Classical traditions, and helped to create a popular taste for scenes of India and the Far East on stage and in poetry. Not only did such Oriental scholars as Sir William Jones publish popular translations, but they also investigated relations between Classical Greek, Arabic, and Indian mythic symbols and concepts of divinity. Contributing to the syncretic idealism of Orient scholarship, Jacob Bryant's A New System; or, an Analysis of Antient Mythology (1774-76) conjectured enthusiastically about specific correspondences between Eastern and Western literary traditions, as well as the origins of the Celts and the Saxons before the Roman conquest of Britain. (1) Eighteenth-century Oriental scholarship reflects not only a determination to find commonalities between world civilizations, but also an interest in proving the eminence of Europeans over a hierarchy of more or less advanced cultures. Growing up during the heyday of this movement, scholar-poets such as Robert Southey considered the wide range of world religions, pondering what they saw as a combination of profound truth and poisonous superstition in the universal development of spiritual belief systems.

Often these scholarly interests in finding commonality, on the one hand, and in proving eminence, on the other, produced an imbalance in early nineteenth-century travel narratives, histories, fiction, and poetry addressing cultural confrontation. That imbalance is worthy of serious study today, as we experience continued confusion over the impact of "first world" upon "third world" cultures. Perhaps nowhere is that imbalance more striking than in Southey's epic poetry, which continues to disturb his twentieth and twenty-first century readers as much as it once did his contemporaries. However thoroughly researched Southey's epics may be, they focus distressingly on the violence and ritual bloodshed of New and Old World cultures, and certainly Madoc, like the later Tale of Paraguay, seems overtly to justify British imperialism. We are understandably troubled by narratives caricaturing non-Western cultures and apparently valorizing conquest, since as Marlow shrewdly observes in Heart of Darkness, "the conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much." (2) Nevertheless I contend that the disturbing aspects of conquest in Southey's poems are well worth "looking into."

Southey's Madoc, his early epic which engages most directly with European imperialism, deserves careful consideration for what I will call its "hybrid horror." My assessment of this poem's hybrid horror builds upon Homi Bhabha's explanation of hybridity as an alienated response to the grounds of imperial authority, a response which reproduces the voice of imperial justification in a way that estranges it, placing it in a new cultural framework that destabilizes its initial significance. Bhabha describes hybridization as an unexpected outcome of imperialists' and missionaries' attempts to differentiate cultures. Instead of accepting their differences as defined by imperial authorities, native subjects invent new identities as hybrids, becoming an "in-between" that features characteristics of each group, characteristics that cannot be reconciled with a transcendent unity envisioned by any one party involved in a struggle for dominance. (3) It is certainly unusual to locate the emergence of hybrid constructions in early-nineteenth-century British poetry, but Bhabha's concept is particularly helpful in understanding and unfolding the aspects of horror in Madoc, the poem in which Southey attempted to rewrite the Spanish conquest of Mexico in British terms. In this poem, Southey attempted to model a complex cultural confrontation of medieval Welsh immigrants with the Aztec empire and its subject peoples. Hybrid horror emerges from the poem's effort to build upon yet supersede the imperial authority of Spanish Catholic history. In the process of merging yet distinguishing Madoc from his historical counterpart, Hernando Cortez, Southey's hero took on hybridized dimensions that perceptibly alienated the grounds of his moral authority over the natives of Mexico. I hope to reveal how Southey's efforts to create a distinctly British attack on the foundations of the Spanish empire spectacularly backfired, and how his immersion in Spanish histories of Mexico resulted in a hybrid redefinition of the grounds of imperial authority, a redefinition that has horrified and alienated his readers since the time of Madoc's publication. Yet I would also suggest that Southey's failure is much less important than the processes of imperial construction and destruction that Madoc illuminates. The poem's investigation of world cultures presents a provocative model of colliding worldviews and the hybridizing results of their impact.

Upon looking closely into Southey's reproduction and filtration of historical accounts, we may find that Madoc is worth study precisely because the poem exceeds a coherent, totalizing narrative of one people's triumphant conquest of another. Madoc is troubled and imbalanced in ways that reflect a more complex engagement with problems of imperialism and cultural conflict than we have yet connected with Southey's thinking. Precisely because the poem does not achieve the balance it projects, precisely where it fails to achieve a classical and Miltonic cohesion, it becomes interesting as a studious experiment in depicting a war of signs and symbols associated with a collision of foreign worldviews. To appreciate Southey's narrative experimentation with cultural conflict, some background on his education in "empire studies" may be necessary.


In the 1780s, Sir William Jones had made a name for himself as the European world's foremost expert on Persian and Sanskrit languages and culture. His investigations of Hindu mythology had begun as a function of his youthful learning of Persian; he came to know India through the study of its most recent Islamic principalities overlaid onto a Hindu foundation. (4) Similarly, for Robert Southey, Spain and Portugal provided an organizing principle for his global investigations of history and world cultures. As his uncle Herbert Hill maintained a position as Anglican rector to a British factory in Lisbon, Southey's immense knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese literature and historical records was a cultural foundation established through family connection, and his extensive and unusual knowledge supplied the exotic and detailed panoramic settings of his epic poems and histories of Arabia, India, and Central and South America. During a transitional phase of his life after the failure of the Pantisocracy scheme, he made three extended trips to Portugal and Spain, the first one in 1796 with his uncle, determined to change his nephew's radical course of life and launch him into a responsible career in the church. Although his uncle failed to win over his recalcitrant nephew, Southey nevertheless did find something of his literary calling on this trip, and he returned twice, in 1800 and 1801, to continue his studies of Spanish and Portuguese literature and history. His first trip led him to accept England decisively as a bastion of freedom compared with these Catholic countries, which struck him as rife with mental enslavement, poverty, immorality, and, in particular, confinement and degradation of women. (5)

It is perhaps ironic that a writer who so enthusiastically immersed himself in the history and literature of Spain and Portugal could so consistently condemn the state religion of those nations. Yet Southey's explicit intolerance of Catholic institutions is consistent in his published writings from the very beginning, and was only heightened by his experiences in the Peninsula. Anti-Catholicism is central to Wat Tyler and Joan of Arc, which represent a corrupt Catholic hierarchy dominating the medieval governments of England and France. Visiting Spain and Portugal determined Southey's course of revealing the errors of their empires. His antagonism toward "the superstitions of Popery" invests his bulky epics and histories with a missioned enthusiasm--a dedication to investigate world cultures in order to present them to the English reading public, to teach them the errors of history, and to recognize the budding of revolutionary genius even in the heart of an immense darkness that he saw as haunting the entire world until the Reformation. Much like Joseph Conrad, Southey was especially interested in what he perceived to be "dark" places in the world, "dark" in the imposed sense of the blindfold, where people have been systematically deprived of the ability to see and think for themselves, and are consequently incapable of seeing beyond the boundaries of their cultures. (6) Thus, in his "Essay on the Poetry of Spain and Portugal," published in 1797 with his account of his travels in those countries, Southey marveled at how the genius of Cervantes and Villegas survived the Spanish Inquisitions, and commented,

This evil however might have been as transient in Spain as it has been in the rest of Europe; but there the human mind has been fettered by their accursed government and their accursed hierarchy. Despotism imprisoned Quevedo, and Luis de Leon was seized by the Inquisition; tho no man could be more blameless than the one, or more orthodox than the other.

Nor is it merely by the dread of its power that Despotism checks the progress of genius. Instances for persecution for literary temerity are rare, not because the Governors would be slow to punish, but because circumstances and education have left few men enlightened or virtuous enough to deserve punishment. At seven years of age the absolute authority of the Confessor begins. Superstition is presented in all its splendor and in all its terrors, discussion is prohibited, and enquiry rendered almost impossible, by the wise precaution of submitting all books to the Inquisition before they may be printed or circulated in these kingdoms. The effect of these systems on the mind is like that of those poisons on the body that produce death by a slow but certain operation. (7)

Despotism thus encroaches upon the young mind at a critical age, stilting the development of critical thinking and any capacity for resistance. Tyranny for Southey, as for Blake, involved a cementing of the mind into rote forms, a routinized deadening of thought and feeling. Coming from such an oppressive background, the brilliance of Cervantes, Villegas, and other Spanish writers is "rather to be wondered at that they have done so much, than that they have not accomplished more." (8) This perspective of Spain as a land of brilliant, defiant individuals succeeding in spite of the greed and superstitious tyranny of its governing powers helped to define Southey's professional dedication to introducing the history and literature of Spain and Portugal to England. Southey's essay may have served as a backhanded, Miltonic comment on the British government's increasing intolerance of radical publications in the 1790s--as it suggests a comparison of the censorship and imprisonment of Southey's contemporaries in England with the' despotic situation of life under the Inquisition. (9) More directly, however, his simultaneously horrified and impressed response to Spanish history dramatically colors Southey's global vision of epic heroism in conflict with imperial systems. At the same time it aptly reflects Southey's epic treatment of heroism in such poems as Joan of Arc, Madoc, and The Curse of Kehama, each of which feature defiant visionary characters at odds with the dominant values of their time and place.

Southey's antipathy toward Spanish Catholicism extends more broadly to his protests against tyrannical regimes and social institutions, ranging from his outcry against ritualized violence in his sonnets on the slave trade, to his legends of religious despotism ranging from India to Mexico. As Christopher J. P. Smith has observed, Southey's international perspective of tyranny by the mid-1790's owes much to Constantin Francois Volney's Les Ruines, ou, meditation sur les revolutions des empires (1791), which represented the world's enormous, ornate ruins of cities, cathedrals, and tombs as the answer to despots, extortionists, purveyors of superstition, and inventors of idols. (10) Such universalizing idealism undergirds Johann Gottfried Herder's contemporary publication of Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784-91), as both Volney and Herder linked history with prehistory by establishing an authoritative foundation for understanding the past and the present, equally applicable to literate and pre-literate societies. Tyrants of any age erect enormous monuments to memory, but the ruins of their empires level the great and the small to a common mortality. (11) Reflecting prevalent anxieties of empire, and informed like Volney by Orientalist globalism, Herder proposed organic, natural origins of distinct national genius, and criticized imperial expansion as a sign of disease, operating against the natural balance of the social organism in nature, or the "Volk."

While criticizing imperial superstitions, these naturalizing universal theories of the 1790s promoted revolutionary ideals of representative government, distinctly connected with Reformation values. Volney's Genius comments that only a few places in Europe have achieved liberty and envisions a Western-style legislator as the only figure who could harmonize the world's countless religious factions. (12) Such perspectives justified Enlightenment concepts of national and racial supremacy, as well as the impoverishment and enslavement of particular groups for the betterment of humankind, always imagined with Europe as the end result and head of the mythical world organism. At the same time the syncretic perspective could be invoked as an argument for missionary conversion, to place all on an equal, universal footing, an argument taken up by Evangelicals throughout the nineteenth century. (13) Javed Majeed observes signs of this syncretism based on a sense of common affective experience persisting throughout Southey's professional career, as he notes that The Colloquies of Sir Thomas More (1829) closes with a Kantian definition of history--in Southey's words, "a steady and continuous, though slow development of certain great predispositions in human nature." (14) As Southey saw it, Catholicism consistently opposed this general maturation of human nature, as it violently closed off independent thinking, intolerant of any objections. The religious system systematically counteracted the development of a mature, educated syncretism--a way of thinking to be valued and cultivated in the Protestantism of the Church of England. (15)

Southey's attitude toward Spanish and Portuguese culture is quite distinct from the perspective of Hindu mythology that Sir William Jones had aimed to introduce to British readers. Jones had published distilled versions of Persian and Hindu literature--presenting its erotic mysticism in the familiar terms of the British culture of sensibility, with the goal of conveying an impression of Oriental civilizations as equally enlightened as the Greeks, and worthy of study and emulation by the British. Both Jones and Southey strove to introduce fresh "springs" of imagery from other cultures to British poetry, importing exotic motifs with an eye to creating and profiting from a market for Oriental fashion and materials. Yet the plane of spiritual love is distinctly less sensuous and more Platonic in Southey's epics, as sexuality appears associated with a dangerous contagion of the physical, and relates to a very current anxiety regarding Eastern influence over the West. Caroline Franklin echoes Thomas Babington Macaulay in disparaging Southey's treatment of love relations in his epics. As Macaulay complained, "No man out of a cloister ever wrote about love, for example, so coldly and at the same time so grossly.... Almost all his heroes make love either like seraphim or like cattle." (16) Franklin aptly observes, "sexuality is a snare in Southey's poetry, and is always associated with violence, evil, and subversion of the kingdom." (17)

Southey and many of his contemporaries considered that the British Protestant way of thinking might be endangered by contact with non-Christian cultures. The long-familiar perspective of disease epidemics resulting from the European contact with native Americans had changed its grounds in late eighteenthcentury Britain, for since the 1770s the British had come to see themselves as potential victims of morally and physically corrupting contact with the East. (18) The fall of Revolutionary France was widely attributed to perversion of its ideals, a perversion stemming at least in part from French contact with Asian cultures and climates, the combination of which was seen to encourage irrationality and violence. Many evangelical Christians, including the famous abolitionist William Wilberforce, feared that if Britain too were to fall, it would be due to the corruption, immorality, and associated diseases introduced by East India Company merchant-imperialists or "nabobs" who had gone native and turned fanatic or tyrant due to prolonged, uncritical acceptance of Oriental ways. Tim Fulford relates how such fears qualified and tempered Southey's position on world cultures, as he tried to distance himself from the mad radicalism of Nathaniel Halhed, a former East India Company official, Orientalist scholar-poet, and member of Parliament who had suddenly in 1795 aligned himself with Richard Brothers' ministry, predicting the downfall of European monarchies as the result of Britain's war with revolutionary France. In the voice of a Spaniard visiting Britain in Letters from England, Southey says of Halhed that his bizarre conversion to Christian fanaticism had been the result of his overly eager search for parallels in the Christian and Hindu religions. (19) Even more directly embodying an association of fanatic Jacobinism with the unhinged practice of power in India was the terrifying figure of Tipu, Sultan of Mysore, a Muslim warlord vigorously defiant toward the British, and known as "the tiger prince" for his menagerie of tigers as well as for the famous roaring mechanical tiger he had created--a tiger which attacked the figure of a British soldier. Tipu became "citizen Tipu" after the French Revolution, enthusiastically supporting Robespierre and Napoleon, and rallied Muslim princes against the British presence in India, in the name of the rights of man. (20) His death in the 1799 battle for his capital city, Seringapatam, did little to remove the dread of violent Oriental radicalism that he had come to represent, and the figure of the anti-British tiger warrior prince would take a memorable Mexican form in Tlalala, Madoc's fierce opponent.

With alarming evidence of the forces of fanaticism and violent oppression prevailing around the world, Southey developed a Miltonic strategy for countering it, based on the idea that to confront evil, one must know and understand it. Tim Fulford thus aptly describes Southey's epic mission as a strategy of "inoculating" British readers around the world against dangerous ideas and desires, so that reading his poems might save people everywhere from tyranny. (21) His consistent perspective of himself as fighting despotism through his writing continues and amends Milton's Reformation project, and certainly Southey was seen by his contemporaries as vying (whether justifiably or not) with Milton's eminence. (22) He wanted, as would Shelley a decade later, to reform the world to protect it from its own degraded impulses.

A missioned enthusiasm to oppose the conquest of superstition served Southey in place of the classical pantheon's direction of human events, and in place of Milton's heavenly battles of good and evil. Seeing the classical tradition of epic as mostly a product of superstitious imperialists, Southey worked to alter epic's traditional constructions of cosmic machinery, so that perhaps their most innovative quality is the scholarly attention devoted to demonstrating how such machinery could be fabricated to enforce loyalty to imperial governments. Throughout his epic poems, Southey ascribed the intolerant evils of Catholicism to his spectacularly described pagan religions, which model the operations of mysticism and priestcraft to build an empire of enslaved minds. Particularly inhumane religious practices are described with great attention to scholarly detail and annotation, emphasizing authenticity and accuracy, effectively and authoritatively conveying a Gothic horror of the empires he describes in such masterful detail. Given this perspective it is not surprising that Madoc was the epic Southey hoped would be seen as his lasting monument. (23) Not only is it the only one of his epics to address a specifically British encounter with an exotic realm, but it contains perhaps Southey's most intricate model of the cyclical rise and fall of empires.


His consistent antagonism to Catholic forms of intolerance likely fueled Southey's interest in the Madoc myth, for that myth was fundamentally involved in the conflict between Catholic and Protestant world power in the 1500s, as Elizabethan England deployed the Madoc story to assert a claim to the New World prior to Spain's. If Prince Madoc arrived in Mexico in 1170, and established a colony of British Christians there to escape the Saxon attacks on the Cymry, the Tudor dynasty's Welsh ancestors had certainly left their mark of Christian possession on the New World, and perhaps the descendants of Madoc still existed, living among the Indians of the Spanish territories. In particular, the Madoc myth assumes religious dimensions as it asserts the claims of a native British church, frequently represented from Elizabethan times as the pre-Norman Conquest foundation of the Church of England. Thus, Henry VIII championed his ancient British birthright to drive foreigners from England in rejecting the tyranny of a Papal overlord.

As Gwyn Williams points out, the Madoc legend had been used to assert Queen Elizabeth's imperial claims to the New World, but by the eighteenth century, and in particular by the 1790s, the legend took on a new currency among radical Welsh antiquarians and intellectuals. The stonemason, poet, and Celtic revivalist Edward Williams, self-styled as Iolo Morganwg, attempted to rally Welsh interest in a dream of resurgent glory for the long-oppressed Cymry, if they could find Madoc's Welsh-speaking descendants, who almost certainly were to be found living as the Mandan Indians on the banks of the Missouri River. (24) Southey was likely immersed in such sentiments throughout the decade-long period of Madoc's drafting and redrafting, between 1794 and 1805, as the Madoc legend was abuzz in places frequented by Southey, including his native Bristol, the London taverns where the Welsh societies of antiquaries and radicals met, and the places he visited on his Welsh tours in 1801 and 1802. Offering a possibility that the Welsh might be united with their long-lost heroic ancestry in the New World, the Madoc legend fueled Morganwg's efforts to revive--and, indeed, invent--"ancient" Welsh bardic practices, and to rally his people in the 1790s to migrate to America, the land where the Welsh could finally build a new nation in full freedom from English tyranny. Such enthusiastic, visionary applications of the old Madoc legend as Morganwg's provided Southey excellent material for the fulfillment of his epic vision, an opportunity to set free-thinking, British, proto-Protestant heroism amidst the barbarous superstitions of the Aztecs. Indeed Southey commented in a letter to his friend C. W. Williams Wynn that a British national poem "of sufficient popular interest" must be Welsh, or "no national string could be touched." (25) Connected with this Celtic-British national interest in the Madoc legend was the opportunity for him to deploy Spanish histories of the conquest of Mexico to serve British purposes, to weave Spanish accounts of the mighty Aztecs into a British myth--a myth of dissent directed explicitly against empires built upon priestcraft.

In character with the high rhetoric of radical Welsh bardism, Southey in his Preface refused his magnum opus "the degraded title of Epic." (26) Indeed, of all his poems, he identified Madoc consistently as the work he hoped would stand the test of time, and his refusal to dub it an "epic" appears as an authentic British bard's refusal to submit to poetic conventions which had degraded into slavish forms of imitation. He follows the Preface with a quotation from the Triads of Bardism, a list of rules for Welsh bards recovered by William Owen Pughe, known to Southey and Blake as the author of the influential encyclopedia of Welsh historic and legendary figures, The Cambrian Biography (1803). Pughe's Triads, as quoted by Southey, emphasize adherence to natural simplicity in diction and invention, truth, erudition, and spiritedness, qualities of an authentic bardic lay that presumably supersede those of the "degraded Epic." Yet, as Lynda Pratt has observed, Southey's refusal of the epic genre is ironic given his application of classic epic conventions to the poem. (27) Southey's lay in blank verse attempts none of the demanding metrical and rhyming intricacies achieved by the Welsh bards performing in the ancient eisteddfod contests, nor did Southey attempt anything like the Arabesque metrical variations in Thalaba, as indeed, he held to unrhymed iambic pentameter as "the noblest measure, in my judgment, of which our admirable language is capable." (28) Evoking the great potential of the English language, this position on iambic pentameter implicitly elevates Southey as a poet with an educated syncretic perspective of the world. Like Milton before him, Southey could survey the past from a morally eminent position, revealing the operations of good and evil in the records of history and myth. In effect, his use of iambic pentameter in Madoc distinguishes the voice of the poem's bard from the cultures he describes, so that Madoc is quite different from Thalaba, in which Southey attempted to transpose the patterns of another culture into English. Even while Madoc apparently celebrates Celtic heroism, the narrative voice of the poem does not, finally, speak from within either the Welsh or the Aztec traditions.

In keeping with what Javed Majeed observes as Southey's predilection comparatively to juxtapose different cultures, Madoc is divided into two parts, "Madoc in Wales," and "Madoc in Aztlan," giving Southey room to set divisive Welsh kingdoms at the last moment of their freedom against a counterpoint of the cohesive and mighty Aztec empire, dominating numerous tributary nations in Central America. (29) As Southey privately commented in 1803, however, he felt the division to be somewhat unequal: "I wish I could find such mines of Welsh anecdote as my Spanish books open of Indian costume. There I am very rich, and on the other hand my head is full of Welsh scenery, not American. I did not see enough of Wales, but not a single thing I did see is lost. I can call up the whole succession of rocks and streams and lakes and mountains with life-vividness." (30) Indeed, many of Southey's descriptions of Wales participate in the Welsh revival's romanticizing of the Cambrian landscape, as places like Bardsey take on a sacred significance as the hideaway of the future Llewellyn the Great, who at the time of the action, is a fugitive. Sacred significance associated with landscape, perhaps, did not sit well with Southey's primary epic task of exposing the machinery of imperial mysticism in this poem.

Notwithstanding the disparities between the medieval Welsh and Aztec realms, the first part of Southey's poem parallels the two cultures as victims of tyrannical forces, corrupting a primeval innocence. The better to illuminate this parallel, Southey began in medias res with Madoc returning from the New World to bear the news of his discovery to his warring kindred in Wales. He returns to find that his brother David, "the headstrong slave / Of passions unsubdued," has unjustly seized power, has imprisoned many of his brothers, and, to Madoc's horror, has actually married a Saxon princess in order to solidify his rule against any threats from his upstart kindred (I.i.168-69). At a feast given by his brother, Madoc narrates an inspirational account to the tarnished Welsh court, speaking of the transatlantic voyage he made with a small group of loyal followers, of his experiences with strange new peoples, the Aztecs and their suffering tribute people, the Hoamen, and of his establishment of a colony across the seas. He wishes to return there, and bring others, including his imprisoned brothers, to populate the colony, but jealous David will hear none of such talk, fearing that Madoc and his brothers will rise in league against him to dislodge his rule. Madoc continually urges David to abandon this stubborn opposition, and repeatedly appeals to family feeling, but eventually he realizes he must recruit his colony in secret. As he travels about Wales, Madoc notes signs of its degradation, its disunity--how much it has changed in his absence from the proud kingdom his father Owen once ruled and defended against the Saxons. Significantly he stumbles into new Saxon monasteries, and manages to excommunicate himself by refusing an order to go on Crusade--refusing to add to a corrupt Christian empire, and adhering to his iconoclastic, proto-Protestant vision of a free state in the New World. He visits each district, finding numerous discontents, people harmed by his brother's, or indeed his father's paranoid rule. Many are willing to journey with him to his new land, although others, like the young Llewellyn, are determined to remain to dislodge David from power and the Saxons from their influence over the fallen but not utterly lost Cymry.

In the first half of the poem, Madoc is represented as a liberator both in Wales and in Aztec Mexico, and while the cultures are worlds apart, Southey's choice of source materials emphasizes his syncretic perspective. Madoc liberates in both worlds by virtue of his dedication to a Christianity uncorrupted by Saxon priests with their majestic, delusory forms of mysterious power. Those forms abound in his confrontations with Saxon bishops, but are much more ornate and terrifying in the Aztec realm. Producing an impressive culture shock for his medieval Welsh colonists, Southey draws largely upon Charles Cullen's 1787 English translation of the Abbe Francesco Clavigero's History of Mexico. An eighteenth-century Mexican-born liberal Jesuit, whose order in Mexico advocated for education of the natives as Spanish subjects, Clavigero expressed a marked sympathy for the Aztecs, whose horrible blood-rituals he saw as having done much less damage than the warfare practiced in the name of Christ by Cortez and his followers. In adapting Clavigero to his own uses, Southey rewrites the account of Cortez by putting the 1790s Welsh revival version of a proto-Protestant Madoc in place of the Spanish Conquistador. Indeed, many of Madoc's early views of the Aztec court closely parallel Cortez's initial experiences, as both are amazed at the splendor of the Aztec city. As Madoc recounts:
                                        I beheld
   The imperial city, her far-circling walls,
   Her garden groves and stately palaces,
   Her temple's mountain-size, her thousand roofs;
   And when I saw her might and majesty
   My mind misgave me then.

                          We reach'd the shore:
   A floating islet waited for me there,
   The beautiful work of man. I set my feet
   Upon green-growing herbs and flowers, and sate
   Embower'd in odorous shrubs: four long light boats
   Yoked to the garden, with accordant song,
   And dip and dash of oar in harmony,
   Bore me across the lake.

                                   Then in a car
   Aloft by human bearers was I borne;
   And through the city gate, and through long lines
   Of marshall'd multitudes who throng'd the way,
   We reach'd the palace court. Four priests were there;
   Each held a burning censer in his hand,
   And strew'd the precious gum as I drew nigh,
   And held the steaming fragrance forth to me,
   Honouring me like a god.


Like Cortez in his initial approach to the Mexican capital, Madoc is treated with enormous respect and religious ceremony, until he and his men provoke Aztec wrath. Moreover, as with the Spaniards, Madoc's people unknowingly introduce a smallpox contagion which infects the Aztec emperor. And again, like Cortez, in the second part of Southey's poem, Madoc returns to Mexico to discover Aztec treacheries committed against his colony, and must wage a gruesome war to protect his people. Yet Southey's British conquistador improves on the historical Cortez, in that he only wages war against the Aztecs on behalf of the women and children of the Welsh and Hoamen villages. Madoc rises in arms when the Aztecs kidnap Welsh or Hoamen children for ritual sacrifice--when his small agrarian community of equals is threatened.

Madoc's purposes in settling this New World colony most certainly resurrect Southey's and Coleridge's failed Pantisocracy plans to establish a peaceful agrarian commune on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, and Southey's Welsh-revivalist adaptation of Madoc consistently advocates for rustic simplicity and the interests of peaceful domestic life. (31) Such late eighteenth-century idealism is merged with an Evangelical spirit of universal feeling in the poem's Christian conversion scenes, as for example, when Madoc has proven his people's and his God's power in battle, and an old blind Welshman, with all the appearance of an ancient prophet, temporarily convinces the Aztec priests to set aside their practices of ritual sacrifice, to stop ripping the beating hearts from victims and drinking the steaming blood of their tribute peoples, and to accept a single, universal God. He does so using the language of eighteenth-century Methodism, to syncretic effect: "I tell ye not, / O Aztecas! Of things unknown before; / I do but waken up a living sense / That sleeps within ye!" (1.8.177-80). Significantly, in his footnote to this stanza, Southey cites the venerable Bede's account of the conversion of aboriginal Celts in Britain alongside John Wesley's account of introducing Christianity to Chickasaw Indians, reinforcing antiquarian associations of primeval Britain with contemporary Protestant movements.

In Southey's Volneyan anti-epic, what Madoc fights, when he fights, is not so much alien superstition as common human passions of jealous hostility and greed, which he represents as the prime motivators of priestcraft. This point is emphasized in the second part of the poem, "Madoc in Aztlan," in which Madoc must defend his colony and his Hoamen allies from Aztec treachery, largely meditated by Aztec warrior-priests, who increasingly agitate to practice their native religion again, and who, like all of the neighboring peoples, have consistently refused to worship in Madoc's rustic church. Much of the main action of "Madoc in Aztlan" centers around the Aztec priests' betrayal of their promise to live in peaceful coexistence with Madoc, demanding no blood tribute of the neighboring peoples. They work to undermine the alliance of the Welsh with the Hoamen people, by turning the young men of the tribe against their Queen, Erillyab. The Aztecs tempt her son, Amahlata, with visions of the power he might have as an Aztec warrior-priest, and urge him to assist in a plot to overthrow his mother and assert a blood-devouring Aztec snake-god over the Hoamen ancestral spirits. Queen Erillyab calls for her old ally Madoc's help, and after a prolonged battle resembling legends of St. George and the dragon, he slays the mighty snake, which has apparently grown to enormous proportions glutted on human blood daily fed to it by Aztec priests.

A universal language of sensibility assists Southey's battle of iconography, and associates the possibility for ideological change with the passionate speech of the Hoamen Queen. Upon their first meeting, Erillyab's Hoamen people had encouraged Madoc's resolution to intervene against the Aztec practice of taking two children from their village each year for ritual sacrifice. Madoc's bonding with the Hoamen children inspires Erillyab to a heroic speech, narrated by Madoc to his audience in Wales as a mime of high passion:
                        now she rose and to the Priest
   Address'd her speech. Low was her voice and calm,
   As one who spake with effort to subdue
   Sorrow that struggled still; but while she spake
   Her features kindled to more majesty,
   Her eye became more animate, her voice
   Rose to the height of feeling; on her son
   She call'd, and from her husband's monument
   His battle-axe she took; and I could see,
   That when she gave the boy his father's arms,
   She call'd his father's spirit to look on
   And bless them to his vengeance.


Deploying sensibility here as an international language, Madoc presumes to understand Erillyab's sovereign majesty, and conveys it to his listeners in the Welsh court as grounds for sympathetic identification. The transformation of facial expressions here communicates Erillyab's capacity to govern her passions as an apparently universal sign of feminine refinement, as well as the trait of a sovereign woman's native "majesty."

Such queenly mothers appear throughout Southey's epics, pointing their heroic or wrong-headed sons to the path of virtue, as for example, in Roderick's vision of his dead mother breaking fetters that bind her and bursting forth in arms to point the way to battle for Spain. In Madoc, however, Southey pits Amahlata's impatient youth against his mother's governing wisdom, so that he is easily subverted by Aztec priests to lead a revolt against his mother during the Hoamen Festival of the Dead. In an elaborately staged clash of ceremonies, the Hoamen people are led to believe that their ancestral spirits have abandoned them, and a treacherous Hoamen priest summons an Aztec serpent to take their place. As her people begin to panic, Erillyab rhetorically evokes Hoamen traditions and her own sovereignty against her treasonous son and the subversion of their festival. Ultimately, Madoc must be summoned to slay the Aztec serpent god, but in the meantime, Erillyab begins to criticize the Aztec subversion of their religious ceremony as a fabrication:
                                 Think not, Boy,
   To palter with me thus! A fire may tremble
   Within the sockets of a skull, and groans
   May issue from a dead man's fleshless jaws,
   And images may fall, and yet no God
   Be there!


Paving the way toward Madoc's triumphal bearing of Christianity, Erillyab deconstructs the terrorizing display of images meant to unseat her from power.

Amalahta, like Madoc's brother David the slave of unsubdued passions, threatens not only his mother but also Madoc's sister, Goervyl, and in the latter portion of "Madoc in Aztlan," he nearly fulfills his always dangerous potential to sieze power over both, a masculine menace to sovereign femininity. The gendered invasion/defense theme develops a parallel between the Hoamen and the Welsh, as Goervyl not only heroically fends off the lustful advances of Amalahta, but also emerges as an able military commander, rallying the Welsh women to her aid in fighting off Amalahta's band of warriors. As Caroline Franklin comments, the attempted rape of Goervyl appears a prominent sign of the threat of miscegenation associated with imperial expansion. (32) However, Southey balances this scene with Madoc's vision of a mixed race community at the end of his poem, as he promises Goervyl in marriage to Malinal, an Aztec deserter who had helped Goervyl fight off Amalahta and his cohort. Her ultimately militant heroism, like that of Erillyab and later of Kailyal in The Curse of Kehama, defies incursions upon the Welsh settlement when Madoc is away, and establishes alliances for the good of her nation. Fiercely guarded feminine sovereignty also appears as a form of peacefully assertive empathy in Southey's feminist passages, by means of which Goervyl establishes bonds of sisterhood with native women that help to solidify the peace of natives with Britons.

This portion of the poem, combining the overthrow of a mother by a son with an attempt by the Aztecs to destroy the foundations of Hoamen ancestor-worship, may well reflect Southey's increasing interest in missionary projects to purge the current British ascendancy in India. Like his author, Madoc here, relatively late in the poem's drafting phases, realizes the need to convert the tribute peoples to Christianity in order to protect them from the creative machinations of the Aztecs, and ultimately to protect the Christian colony he and his followers have established. (33) Just as the British East India Company could intervene on behalf of the Hindus against their Muslim overlords either with military force or with the establishment of churches and the circulation of bibles, so Madoc stands as a Southeyan exemplar of responsible pro-feminist imperialism, supporting the traditional sovereignty of a native queen. No longer will the Welsh colonists live in peaceful coexistence with practitioners of native ancestor worship, as Southey finally decides to baptize Queen Erillyab and her Hoamen people, and marks the moment as honoring a long line of legendary Welsh "Martyrs and Saints" who "saw / This triumph of the Cymry and the Cross, / And struck your golden harps to hymns of joy" (2.8.139-41).

Nevertheless, Southey's most striking, Gothic imagery focuses on the violent rituals and sublime splendor of Aztec religious practices, and in such places the epic takes on an anthropological cast, testing the limits of syncretic notions of primal, affective unity. Suppressing an outsider's horror, the response to be expected of the British reader, sections of "Madoc in Aztlan" are devoted to conveying an insider's experience of Central American religious practices. Is it possible to sympathize with an Aztec warrior during a ritual blood-letting ceremony in the temple of Tlaloc or Mexitli, when he is about to descend upon and subdue a tribe resisting Aztec authority? Such passages attempt to reproduce the practices of an alien culture by stealing, as it were, a seat at a show not meant for British eyes. In so doing, as Emily Haddad comments on Southey's scholarly detail, these passages inadvertently distort Horatian models of poetry to entertain and instruct, and inevitably yet spectacularly fail at the referential mimesis they attempt. (34) Southey's notes ground details of the ceremony in contemporary Spanish accounts and Jesuit histories, still vital to our current anthropological studies of the Aztecs. (35) An aside in the notes serves to distance the reader by commenting on the general practice of "priestcraft" as a combination of "folly," "madness," and "knavery" (Poetical Works, 5: 425). But such an aside removes nothing from the sublime and terrible force of religious belief in the ritual bloodletting ceremony Southey conveys:
                                    They their bare arms
   Stretched forth, and stabbed them with the aloe-point.
   Then in a golden vase, Tezozomoc
   Received the mingled streams, and held it up
   Toward the giant Idol, and exclaim'd,
   Terrible God! Protector of our realm!
   Receive thine incense! Let the steam of blood
   Ascend to thee, delightful! So mayest thou
   Still to thy chosen people lend thine aid;
   And these blaspheming strangers from the earth
   Be swept away.


In almost the same breath, Southey characterizes the determined warriors present at this ceremony, including Tlalala, "young Tyger of the War," as brave, loyal Aztec patriots--foils to Madoc's Christian heroism, so that the sublime feeling associated with this ceremony serves to characterize a "noble savage" adversary, by virtue of that adversary's faithful practice of these bloody rites (2.9.156). Perhaps inspired by the fierce "citizen Tipu," India's famous tiger prince, Tlalala's absolute hostility to Madoc's imposition of Christianity reflects his innocent unswerving devotion to his faith, with absolutely no notion that his priests have invented and nurtured the terrible manifestations of Aztec gods. Upon the Welsh defeat of the Aztecs in the closing line of the poem, Southey's "Tyger" warrior entrusts his wife and child to Madoc, but refuses himself to join Madoc's colony, or to retreat with the Aztecs.

In Southey's account the Aztecs are spurred on by their high priests, and appear as noble warriors fighting valiantly even to the point of rout from their capital and ultimately to the dispersal of their people as they determine to migrate away from the reach of the ever-victorious Britons. While the Aztecs surrender the weakest among them to the Christian mercy of the Welsh settlers, these Aztecs, like Madoc's own legendary Welsh people, proudly refuse to live as vanquished, and sadly leave behind the ruined temples of their fallen gods. Southey's Madoc, now the ruler of Aztlan, is ready to be a Christian friend and brother to such people, who do not know how to respond to such generosity except as humiliation--spurring many, like Tlalala, to acts of ritual suicide. Rather than create an empire, then, Madoc and his people literally displace one:
                             So in the land
   Madoc was left sole Lord; and far away
   Yuhidthiton led forth the Aztecas,
   To spread in other lands Mexitli's name,
   And rear a mightier empire, and set up
   Again their foul idolatry; till Heaven,
   Making blind Zeal and bloody Avarice
   Its ministers of vengeance, sent among them
   The heroic Spaniard's unrelenting sword.


Southey abruptly ends his poem here, anticipating the arrival of the Spaniards as instruments of the divine will. The future of Madoc's people remains a mystery, yet in arranging for Madoc's sister to marry the Aztec expatriate Malinal, Southey's conclusion implies that the Welsh will gradually intermingle with the native Americans. Such a conclusion might suit Celtic Revival accounts of the Welsh Indians residing on the banks of the Missouri River, apparently bearing traces of their European ancestry in appearance and spoken language.

Southey had once planned to end the poem with Madoc traveling to Peru to become Mango Capac, the founder of the Incan empire, renowned in the 1790s for its enlightened rule and equal distribution of wealth. In rejecting this ending, Southey has been criticized as weakening the appeal of his hero. (36) Yet Southey rejected this ending on the grounds that he lacked convincing evidence to connect Mango Capac with Madoc, and indeed, for Madoc to found a non-Christian New World empire would be a significant departure from Southey's anti-idolatrous vision of the progress of history. In the end, Southey's monumental adaptation of the Madoc legend succeeds in converting Welsh radicalism into a form of protest against the sublime heights of Oriental and Occidental despotism on his imaginary global map. Southey's ambiguous ending, then, remains focused on the goal of his epic project, so that, in the poem he regarded as his most important life's work, he countered the hierarchical complexity of European and New World civilizations with a humble Pantisocratic vision, a utopian mixed-race community of pastoral Britons and Mexicans, the tenuous possibility of whose existence translates a Welsh nationalist myth into a vision of an isolated Protestant state, fending off, at least for one brief, glorious moment, the foul idolatry of conquering ideologies.


As Madoc makes evident, Southey studied other empires and appropriated them within his own epic framework, supporting an early nineteenth-century ideal of a counter-imperial empire operating at the level of beliefs, and signified by women's deliverance from oppression to sovereign power. The reformed British church stands most explicitly and authoritatively in Southey's Madoc as a liberating power, while in Thalaba and The Curse of Kehama deliverance comes from those who fight against the perversion inherent in tyrannical systems--a sort of Protestant reformation narrative grafted onto what Southey portrays as the superstitious worldview of another culture. In all three poems, heroic action delivers women characters from oppression, and in so doing changes the relationship between divine and human realms, rewriting a culture's cosmology so as to establish a sympathetic bridge between East and West. Southey may have reproduced the concept of the feminine connector of realms from Milton's Paradise Lost, in which Sin helps to pave the bridge from Hell to Earth, completing an axis mundi linking the infernal with the divine. Perhaps applying this concept to Hindu mythology in The Curse of Kehama, Southey replaces the sinister form of Sin with the heroic missioned maid, Kailyal. Accompanied by her Job-like suffering father and her divine lover, Kailyal moves from the earth through the Hindu's divine swerga and into the underworld to overthrow Kehama, the human tyrant who would be omnipotent god. While women characters are not so central to the plot of Madoc, nevertheless, in this poem too, a non-Christian sovereign queen redraws her people's cosmic map as a means of prevailing against tyranny. Under pressure from the Aztecs and the Welsh, Queen Erillyab of the Hoamen observes the passing of her people's deities, and accepts a version of Christianity as best suited to retaining sovereignty.

Southey seems to address the Evangelicals' problem with the contagion of ideologies and unrestrained sensibilities in colonial realms, by providing curative heroic visions in terms consistent with the "superstition" of exotic cultures. The problem was that the dosage of "superstition" in Southey's work was too high for most of his readers, and this served as the foremost criticism of his work, which was seen as too much infested with "the other." Ironically, his reviewers were not far off the mark: Southey's work is conflicted, for all of his decisive Miltonic overturning of Milton himself in quest for true reform and freedom from "cosmic machinery" of superstition. Southey's work demonstrates hybridization in spite of itself, to the horror of his readers. As Homi Bhabha describes it, "hybridity is a problematic of colonial representation and individuation that reverses the effects of the colonialist disavowal, so that other 'denied' knowledges enter upon the dominant discourse and estrange the basis of its authority--its rules of recognition." (37) Southey's epic project to estrange the basis of imperial ideologies was perhaps too effective, to the extent that he undermined the basis of his own Christian project. Madoc is compelled at the end of his poem to Christianize the heathen Hoamen people for their own protection against what has been manifestly revealed throughout as Aztec priestcraft, a religion thoroughly dependent upon tools of empire. In the end, to protect the Hoamen, Madoc counters Aztec ceremony--and Aztec perversions of Hoamen ceremony--with a new ceremonial practice. After having shown readers how the Aztec priests have fed a snake on the flesh and blood of human sacrifices so that the snake has grown to sublime proportions as the sign of a deity, Southey presents Madoc killing the snake-god, echoing St. George's slaying of the dragon. For Southey's readers, this act should have terminated the superstitious foundation of Hoamen faith, but to the Hoamen, this is a sign that Madoc's God is stronger than the Aztecs' and their own deities, which (at the bottom of the religious food-chain, as it were) had been devoured by the Aztec gods. As Southey's reviewers sensed, the Hoamen were evidently still operating within a system of superstition after Madoc's epic battle. In effect, Madoc appears after this point among the Hoamen as if he were a Jesuit priest during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, holding up the holy book as a relic of power, and displaying icons as themselves signs of divine favor, a Catholic use of religious symbols many considered counter to reformed British practice.

In a poem that had encouraged readers to deconstruct religious tools of empire, Madoc's mode of conversion set alongside Aztec blood-letting rituals and snake gods was too much a contradiction in terms for Southey's critics then and today. Horror was, and still is, the operative term for responses to what Southey considered his most monumental achievement. As the Eclectic Review commented in December 1805, "At so much snake-worship; so much human sacrifice; at such diabolical painting of savages; and such deification of a marauder, possibly almost as savage as the Indians themselves; at such eulogia on human nature in one case, and such libels on it in the other, we turn away disgusted,--with an incredulus odi!" (38) Dorothy Wordsworth complained, "I had one painful feeling throughout, that I did not care as much about Madoc as the Author wished me to do." She further commented on Southey's poetic diction: "The language occasionally, nay frequently gave me pain... I have not the Book here or I would take down a few of those expressions which I complain of. They are a sort of barbarisms which appear to belong to Southey himself." (39) These responses each demonstrate an estrangement from Southey's construction of heroism, and in this sense of producing horror, his work alienates readers from what he has so effectively deconstructed as the ideological tools of imperial "priestcraft." Where the poem would formally celebrate a moral victory, it defeats itself. As Bhabha comments, "What is irremediably estranging in the presence of the hybrid--in the revaluation of the symbol of national authority as the sign of colonial difference--is that the difference of cultures can no longer be identified or evaluated as objects of epistemological or moral contemplation: cultural differences are not simply there to be seen or appropriated." (40) Southey avoided any comment on Madoc's Spanish Catholic qualities, eliding their inconsistency with the British church, but his hybrid construction of superstition and Christianity was all too apparent, and indeed a sign of the very infection Evangelical reformers like Wilberforce so much feared. Southey's immersion in "superstitious" cultures had barbarized his imagination and threatened to savage the great tradition of British poetry.

But if Southey's monumental epic project alienates its hero as a horrific conquistador, the figure of Madoc and the cultures Southey connected with him remain consistent with the poet's reading of history and mythology. Southey managed to produce a complex panoramic vision of dueling imperial ideologies, one whose complications may well justify the evident failure of its liberating vision. Certainly Madoc and his author aimed to create an evangelical vision of freedom and liberation, but in the end the epic narrative takes on far more interesting dimensions. Madoc must create the terms of his people's New World existence from the pre-existing forms of the Hoamen and the Mexitli. And indeed, what escape could there be from the building blocks of the conquistador histories that created him? Ultimately, when Madoc is forgotten, empire itself is triumphant, as the Aztecs rebuild their temples, the Spaniards invade, and the evidence of history overwhelms the constructions of a visionary imagination.

University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg


(1) Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europe's Rediscovery of India and the East, 1680-1880, trans. Gene Patterson-Black and Victor Reinking (Columbia U. Press, 1984), 1-20.

(2) Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, ed. Robert Kimbrough (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988), 10.

(3) Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 13.

(4) S. N. Mukherjee, Sir William Jones: A Study in Eighteenth-Century British Attitudes to India (Cambridge U. Press, 1968), 35-48.

(5) For an illuminating account of Southey's visits to Spain and Portugal as a watershed moment in settling his political outlook after his radical years, see William Haller, The Early Life of Robert Southey, 1774-1803 (Columbia U. Press, 1917), 173-80. See also Mark Storey, Robert Southey: A Life (Oxford U. Press, 1997), 85. On Southey's comparative perspective as a distinctive feature of his writing, see Javed Majeed, Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill's The History of British India and Orientalism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 47-86.

(6) On parallels between Southey's Madoc and Conrad's Heart of Darkness, see Christopher J. E Smith, A Quest for Home: Reading Robert Southey (Liverpool U. Press, 1997), 319-20. Smith comments that Madoc and Heart of Darkness confront similar horrors regarding human sacrifice as well as imperial ideology.

(7) Southey, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol: Joseph Cottle, 1797), 127-28.

(8) Southey, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal, 130.

(9) Southey would not have been alone in associating British government activities with the Spanish Inquisition. See James Gillray's 19 March 1793 caricature, entitled The Chancellor of the Inquisition Marking the Incorrigibles, in which Edmund Burke appears in Inquisitor's robes drawing up a Black List to be placed into an anonymous letter box at a London tavern, in Nicholas K. Robinson, Edmund Burke: A Life in Caricature (Yale U. Press, 1996), 167-69. On the early 1790s environment of political repression of radicals and moderate reformists in the Bristol and Somerset of Southey's youth, particularly as it affected Coleridge's friend Thomas Poole and his brother Richard, see Geoffrey Carnall, Robert Southey and His Age: The Development of a Conservative Mind (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), 19-21.

(10) Smith, 181-82.

(11) Herder's Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit was translated into English by T. Churchill as Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (1800).

(12) C. F. Volney, The Ruins; or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires, and the Law of Nature, trans. Peter Eckler (New York: Twentieth Century Publishing, 1890), 50, 54-60.

(13) Alan Richardson provides an insightful, balanced account of Enlightenment syncretism both supporting and opposing emerging biological definitions of race in his "Darkness Visible? Race and Representation in Bristol Abolitionist Poetry, 1770-1810," in Romanticism and Colonialism: Writing and Empire, 1780-1830, ed. Tim Fulford and Peter J. Kitson (Cambridge U. Press, 1998), 129-47.

(14) Robert Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (London: John Murray, 1829), as quoted in Majeed 76. On Southey's syncretic moral perspective, see Edward Meachen, "History and Transcendence in Robert Southey's Epic Poems," SEL 19 (1979): 588-608.

(15) Majeed, 65.

(16) Thomas Babington Macaulay, unsigned review of Robert Southey's Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (Edinburgh Review, January 1830), in Robert Southey: The Critical Heritage, ed. Lionel Madden (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), 345-46.

(17) Caroline Franklin, Byron's Heroines (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 25.

(18) Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998), 45-60.

(19) Tim Fulford, "Pagodas and Pregnant Throes: Orientalism, Millenarianism and Robert Southey," in Romanticism and Millenarianism, ed. Tim Fulford (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 123-27.

(20) James, 67-69. For a detailed account of Tipu's rule of Mysore and particularly his defiance of the British, see Kate Brittlebank, Tipu Sultan's Search for Legitimacy: Islam and Kingship in a Hindu Domain (Oxford U. Press, 1997), 23-32.

(21) Fulford, "Pagodas and Pregnant Throes," 130. See also Fulford's discussion of the opening lines of Southey's Tale of Paraguay (1825), considering the nature of Southey's appreciation of Edward Jenner, the inventor of inoculation with the smallpox vaccine. That vaccine was like an injection alleviating colonial guilt, claims Fulford in "Blessed Bane: Christianity and Colonial Disease in Southey's Tale of Paraguay," Romanticism on the Net 24 (November 2001) paragraphs 28-40, [21 September 2003], <>.

(22) Storey cites Charles Lamb's admiration of Southey's Joan of Arc as demonstrating promise that his work might one day rival Milton's (90), and Southey's friend William Taylor's praise of Madoc as surpassing Paradise Lost (176).

(23) Madoc was the epic over which Southey labored the longest, and which he described as the poem which "must be my monument." Robert Southey to C. W. Williams Wynn, 30 April 1801, in Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 vols. (London: Longman, 1856), 1:147. Hereafter cited as Southey, Selections from the Letters.

(24) Gwyn A. Williams, Madoc: The Making of a Myth (London: Eyre Methuen, 1979), 68-88, 106-17.

(25) Robert Southey to C. W. Williams Wynn, 30 December 1804, in Southey, Selections from the Letters, 1: 295-96.

(26) Robert Southey, 1805 Preface to Madoc, in The Poetical Works of Robert Southey, Collected by Himself, 10 vols. (London: Longman, 1837-38), 5: 21. Hereafter cited as Southey, Poetical Works.

(27) Lynda Pratt, "Revising the National Epic: Coleridge, Southey and Madoc," Romanticism 2 (1996): 149-63.

(28) Robert Southey, 1800 Preface to Thalaba the Destroyer, in Poetical Works, 4: 15.

(29) Majeed, 53.

(30) Robert Southey to C. W. Williams Wynn, 19 April 1803, in New Letters of Robert Southey, ed. Kenneth Curry, 2 vols. (Columbia U. Press, 1965), 1: 312.

(31) See Nicholas Roe, "Pantisocracy and the Myth of the Poet," in Romanticism and Millenarianism, ed. Fulford, 87-102. Roe's essay comments briefly on Paul Muldoon's recent long poem, Madoc: A Mystery (New York: Noonday Press, 1991), which wryly adapts the tide of Southey's monumental epic, and places Southey, Coleridge, and their family and friends in the wilds of Pennsylvania and New York in the 1790s.

(32) Caroline Franklin, 26.

(33) On the changes Southey incorporated in the 1803-1804 draft of Madoc, see Pratt, 151-52.

(34) Emily A. Haddad, Orientalist Poetics: The Islamic Middle East in Nineteenth-Century English and French Poetry (Aldershot, Hants.: Ashgate, 2002) 11-13, 49-53. Because Southey's Orientalist sources cannot provide direct and reliable empirical evidence of the culture he describes, Haddad suggests that Thalaba the Destroyer's "consistent unwillingness to separate natural from supernatural, or fact from fantasy, distorts the supposed reality in which this representation is grounded. Because the 'reality' that it imitates is unreliable, the resulting imitation appears unreliable as well, however solidly referential it might still be" (49).

(35) As a case in point see Ross Hassig, Time, History, and Belief in Aztec and Colonial Mexico (U. of Texas Press, 2001) 1-27. Hassig's study of the Aztecs perspective of historical time relies upon a combination of archaeological evidence regarding the Aztec calendar and the accounts of Spanish eyewitnesses during the conquest of Mexico.

(36) Pratt, 149-63, 160.

(37) Bhabha, 114.

(38) Quoted in Robert Southey: The Critical Heritage, ed. Madden, 106.

(39) Dorothy Wordsworth to Lady Beaumont, 11 June 1805, quoted in Robert Southey: The Critical Heritage, ed. Madden, 101-2.

(40) Bhabha, 114.
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Author:Beshero-Bondar, Elisa E.
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Date:Jan 1, 2003
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