Robert Southey’s “Harold; or, The Castle of Morford”—The First Robin Hood Novel
In August, thanks to a generous BARS Stephen Copley Research Award, between 12–15 August, I was able to visit to visit the Bodleian Library in Oxford to consult Robert Southey’s ‘Harold; or, The Castle of Morford’ (Bodleian MS Misc. Eng. e. 21), written in 1791 and purchased by the Bodleian Library from the famous Bristol booksellers W. George’s Sons in 1895.
The manuscript’s unassuming title obscures its significance somewhat, for this is, as far as I can ascertain, the first attempt by any author to write a novel featuring the legendary English outlaw, Robin Hood, as it predates Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1819) by 28 years.
Along with a colleague, Dr Mark Truesdale, I am transcribing and publishing Southey’s unpublished text with Routledge as part of its ‘Outlaws in Literature, History, and Culture’ series, and publication is expected in March 2020. The purpose of my visit, then, was to perform final checks of our transcription, such as making sure we had not misread words (young Southey’s handwriting was not the neatest), for the Routledge edition will reproduce, as far …read more