2679. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 8 December 1815

2679. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 8 December 1815 ⁠* 

8 Dec. 1815

My dear R.

Thank God I am once more by my own fire side, surrounded indeed with books & papers, & at work once again! – It requires a little time to take up the thread of broken occupations. – I have however been among the tribes of Brazil, & shall tomorrow be as busy among Guaranies & Chanas as if they were the only people in the world. My manuscript for the printer is now in smaller portions, such as may travel under cover of your privilege. [1] 

Before I left town I heard of my books from abroad, tho I know not which division of them. The inclosed letter to Bedford contains a memorial petitioning to be exempted from the duty, which is 15 pence per pound weight! – one of the most absurd & oppressive imposts that ever graced a civilized country. [2]  It is not likely that the applica[MS torn] will succeed, but there can be no harm in making it, especially as Artists are allowed an exemption from the duty upon works of art which they import for their own collections.

I breakfasted with Frere the day before I left town, & dined in company with Mina, [3] . who will give me a sketch of his own history. Both these meals were highly interesting & useful. Frere is a man of singular ability. Of course he has much to information to communicate; – but it was very satisfactory to find that in almost every point my own conclusions were strengthened by the knowledge which he gave me. [4]  He attributes as much to Sir Robert Wilsons movement at the time of Moores retreat as I had done. [5]  Roach [6]  (now a General in the Sp. service) fled from Ciudad Rodrigo before Wilson advanced there, & told Frere that Wilson would never escape from it with his life. Perhaps Sir that was not the first thing of which he thought was Freres reply.

Remember me to Mrs Rickman

God bless you


I find that I have not got the reports upon Mendicants [7]  & Mad Houses [8]  nor upon the Mission in the E Indies. [9] 


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Endorsement: RS./ 8 Decr. 1815
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 11 DE 11/ 1815
MS: Huntington Library, RS 259. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had resumed work on the second and third volumes of the History of Brazil, published in 1817 and 1819. BACK

[2] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 8 December 1815, Letter 2678. Southey was protesting about import duties on the books he had bought in the Netherlands. BACK

[3] Either Francisco Javier de Mina (1789–1817), guerrilla leader in Navarre 1808–1810; or his uncle, General Espoz de Mina (1781–1836). Both had fled Spain after a failed rising in Pamplona on 25–26 September 1814 BACK

[4] Frere had been Minister Plenipotentiary to the Central Junta in 1808–1809 and advised Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB) to advance on Madrid, or, if necessary, to retreat through Galicia rather than Portugal– advice that led to the disastrous retreat to Corunna. Southey had defended Frere in Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 86–108. BACK

[5] General Sir Robert Thomas Wilson (1777–1849; DNB). In January 1809 he had refused to comply with the British retreat, led by Sir John Moore, redeployed his forces and continued to harass the French. For Southey’s commendation of ‘the Excellent Conduct of Sir Robert Wilson’; see Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 498–500. BACK

[6] Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Keating Roche (d. 1829), Irish soldier who in 1815 was in command of a division of Spanish soldiers in British pay. BACK

[7] Minutes of the Evidence Taken Before the Committee Appointed by the House of Commons to Inquire into the State of Mendicity and Vagrancy in the Metropolis and Its Neighbourhood (1815), reviewed (but not by Southey) in Quarterly Review, 14 (October 1815), 120–145. BACK

[8] Report, Together with the Minutes of Evidence, and an Appendix of Papers, from the Committee Appointed to Consider of Provision being made for the Better Regulation of Mad-Houses in England (1815). BACK

[9] Possibly a reference to the reports of Parliamentary select committees on the East India Company, from 1805–1813. They were not reviewed by Southey in the Quarterly. BACK

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