1797. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 1 August 1810

1797. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 1 August 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Aug 1. 1810.

My dear Rickman

The thought of how long it is since I have written to you lies like a sin upon my conscience. It is six weeks since you sent me the Portugueze book from John May, [1]  – the Tantararas have dispersed since that time, & as I know not where this may find you, I shall inclose it as usual in the franking season, & trust it to find <make> its way by help of the Grand Parleur. [2] 

Shall we see you this season in Cumberland? there are yet three months of it to come, & for a man who cannot visit the Lakes in May, September is the best month he can chuse. I was sorry to hear of your loss, [3]  of which Mrs Rickmans note conveyed to me the first intimation. Is there any hope of our seeing Mrs R. here? – it would be a very great gratification both to Edith & myself – & I would even bargain for letting you go on to look after your roads & bridges, [4]  provided you would convoy her thus far on the way, & return hither after your survey was accomplished.

I am in daily – hourly – expectation of son or daughter, – & have been so for this week past. – Grosvenor Bedford is here, sent by his physicians to breathe mountain air, & doing credit to this judgement. He is very much better since he has been here, & I have good hope that he may receive permanent & effectual benefit. Coleridge who has been quartered here since the beginning of May, talks of a journey to London! God help him! – He has been in better health than usual, & excellent spirits, – reading very hard, & to no purpose, – for nothing comes of it, except an accumulation of knowledge equal to that of any man living & a body of sound philosophy superior to what any man either of this or any former age has possessed, – all which will perish with him. I do not know any other motive that he has for going to London, than that he becomes daily more & more uneasy at having done nothing for so long, & therefore flies away to avoid the sight of persons, who he knows must be grieved by his misconduct, tho they refrain from all remonstrances.

I have been somewhat indolent myself for the last six weeks, partly because of my wicked annual cold, – & partly from sheer idleness, liking the mountains or the lake better than the desk. No day has past without me doing something, – but it has not been regular steady work. However I feel my appetite for it returning, & am usually the better for such seasons of fallowing when they occur. In My second volume [5]  has advanced some way. I cannot tell what French voyages there are which have escaped me, according to the Capitaneus, unless there be any matter in Thevets Collection, which that scoundrel did not insert in his France Antarctique. [6]  The only books which I am conscious of having wanted were two Portugueze works. Murray the Quarterly Bookseller has borrowed for me a very curious volume, composed of pieces cut out from a series of Almanacks printed at Lima from the year 1760 to about 12 years later. [7]  They contained descriptions of most of the Spanish provinces in South America, with more information concerning their then state than I have ever seen elsewhere, – infinitely more than could be gleaned from the Mercurio Peruano. [8]  I have not yet got thro half the volume, & my gleanings from it are very copious & highly xxxxxxx valuable. A friend [9]  of Pooles, who went to Spain with Jacob, the M. P. [10]  bought a few books for me there, & has also offered me his own journal & all the information which he possesses, – from the opportunities which he enjoyed this is likely to be considerable. It will be of use to me in my history of 1809 for the Register – which I have just begun.

Lord Holland was here last week. I put to him the home question, whether he did not think the Edinburgh Review had held very base & mischievous language respecting Spain, – & he answered yes.

My advertisement for books [11]  has procured me one vol. of Jesuit letters [12]  bought by Wynn for me, & the Valeroso Lucideno [13]  to be lent by Stuart, our Envoy at Lisbon. [14]  Murray sends a list to Paris for me. xx I long to show you your old inmates in their present resting place, – my library is one of the gayest you ever saw.

Remember me to Mrs R.

Yrs very truly



* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: Fr./ RS./ 1 Augt. 1810
MS: Huntington Library, RS 149. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 537–538. BACK

[1] Observador Portuguez (1809), reviewed in Quarterly Review, 4 (August 1810), 1–24, and no. 3556 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[2] ‘The Great Speaker’, i.e. Rickman’s employer, Charles Abbot, The Speaker 1802–1817. BACK

[3] The Rickmans’ daughter Martha died in 1810. BACK

[4] Rickman was Secretary to the Commission on the Caledonian Canal and Highland roads and bridges 1803–1819. BACK

[5] The second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil, published in 1817. BACK

[6] André Thevet (1502–1590), whose Les Singularitez de la France Antarctique (1557) purported to be a first-hand account of a French expedition to Brazil. The ‘Collection’ could be his Cosmographie Universelle (1575). Southey owned editions of both works, nos 2852 and 2677 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] ‘Descripcion de las Provincias Pertenecientes al Arzobispado di Lima’; no. 3645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, inscribed in his hand: ‘This book of which perhaps a duplicate is nowhere to be found, was given me by Mr Murray; it contains the fullest account which has yet been published on the old Vice-royalty of Peru, province by province. The information was obtained from the respective Corregidores, and printed for many successive years in the Lima Almanack, from whence some curioso cut out the whole collection, and formed them into this most valuable volume’. BACK

[8] Mercurio Peruano (1790–1795), the first newspaper published in Peru. BACK

[9] George Ridout (1788–1871), later Lecturer and Vicar of Newland, Gloucestershire. He was the son of John Gibbs Ridout (1758–1823), London apothecary, who had provided Coleridge with medical advice. BACK

[10] William Jacob (1761/2–1851; DNB), MP for Rye 1808–1812. He made a 6-month visit to Spain in 1809–1810 and published Travels in the South of Spain the following year. BACK

[11] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, p. vi. BACK

[12] Southey had advertised for ‘volumes of the Jesuits’ Annual Letters or Relations’; see History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, p. vi. The volume procured by Wynn is unidentified. BACK

[13] Manuel Calado (1584–1654), Valeroso Lucideno e o Triunfo da Liberdade (1648), a first-hand account of Brazil during the period of Dutch rule. BACK

[14] Charles Stuart, Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779–1845; DNB), envoy at Lisbon 1810–1814. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)