2686. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 December 1815

2686. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 December 1815 ⁠* 

My dear R.

For the last week I have been shut up in the house by snow, – no evil for one like myself who am as little addicted to dispensible exercise as tho I were a Turk. Meantime I have been making good progress in prose & in rhyme.

I was exceedingly pleased to find that Herbert had gone on during my absence, with his German testament [1]  as regularly & well as possible. The great difficulty in this language seems to be the vocabulary, as in the Dutch, – & as yet I do not find that the one affords much assistance in the other. I have subscribed to the Saxon Chronicle, & do not think myself too old for studying my mother tongue in its oldest form, when it shall arrive; for which purpose I shall read it with Herbert, who bids fair, if he lives, to have more knowledge than his father, & to be as well disposed to make use of it. [2] 

Part of my foreign purchases have reached London, & I am told the Acta Sanctorum [3]  among them. The result of my memorial [4]  I do not know, – but enormous as the duty is (it is scandalous that such a duty should exist) I would rather pay it threefold than be without this invaluable collection. It would be a worthy task (were there any chance of its answering in sale) to do what was begun in xx Belgium before the Revolution, – extract from this work the xx parts lines which relate to this country, add to them such Irish materials as can be found, with annotations &c, & publish them apart in chronological series, – as essential materials for British history. It is for such things as this that we want an Academy like ours in Spain; [5]  & if ever Canning should be in power I will urgently endeavour to persuade him to have the credit of promoting one

God bless you


Keswick. 22 Dec. 1815


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Endorsement: RS/ 22 Decr. 1815
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 25 DE 25/ 1815
MS: Huntington Library, RS 261. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A German translation of the New Testament. BACK

[2] A copy of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ so that Southey and Herbert could study Old English. In 1815 ‘A new edition of the Saxon Chronicle, with an English translation and notes’, edited by James Ingram (1774–1850; DNB), Rawlinsonian Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford 1803–1808, was advertised as ‘In the press’, The Tradesman, 14 (January 1815), 55. However, it did not appear until 1823. Southey had two copies, nos 2593 and 2594 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] Southey acquired an abridged 6 volume series (1783–1794), no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library; not as he hoped a complete 53 volume set (1643–1794), no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library (he bought the latter in 1818). BACK

[4] Southey’s memorial protesting about the import duty on books, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 8 December 1815, Letter 2678. BACK

[5] Real Academia Espanola, founded 1713. It regulated the use of the Spanish language and had elected Southey an honorary Member in 1814. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 2 times)
Canning, George (1770–1827) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)