1155. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 11 February 1806

1155. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 11 February 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

If it had pleased God to send William Pitt to the Devil in the year 1790 – but better late than never. [1]  And so the wise people of England are going to record their own infatuation upon marble – as if paper & printers-ink would not sufficiently preserve the memory of it to posterity!

It seems to x me that the Grenvilles get into power just as they could wish, but that it is otherwise with Fox & Grey. [2]  They are pledged to parliamentary reform, & in this their colleagues will not support them. It will be put off at first with sufficient plausibility under the plea of existing circumstances – but my good old friend Major Cartwright [3]  (who is as noble an old Englishman as ever was made of extra-best superfine flesh & blood) will find that existing circumstances have no end. – the xxx xxxx xxx so there must come a time when it will appear that if the question be not honestly brought forward it has been given up as the price of their admission to power. & in that case Fox had better for himself have died instead of the other ministers who had nothing to lose in the opinion of wise men. – So that I am not sure that Foxs friends ought to rejoice at his success.

But quoad [4]  Robert Southey things are different. I have a chance of getting an appointment at Lisbon (this course is said to yourself only) either the Secretaryship of Legation – or the Consulship. [5]  whichever falls vacant first has been asked for me, & Lord Holland has promised to back the application. Blessed however is he that putteth not his trust in man! I shall follow my own plans, relying upon nobody but myself, & still go to Lisbon in the autumn, if fortune finds me there so much the better, but she shall never catch me on the wild goose chace after her. – I have some hope for Tom, if Sir S. Hood [6]  be in the Admiralty, – & indeed it is possible that I have means of interest with Grey –

I want Tom to be an Admiral, that when he is fourscore he may be killed in a great victory & get a monument in St Pauls – for this reason. I have some sort of notion that one day or other I may have one there myself, & it would be rather awkward to get among so many sea captains unless one had a friend among them to introduce me to the mess-room. – It is ridiculous giving the Captains this honour – a Colonel in the army has the same claim. better build a pyramid at once of marble, & insert their names as they fall, in this marble gazette.

On Monday the 24th (barring accidents) my reviewing will be finished now & for evermore, Amen. This will be a great emancipation, & is on my part rather a bold one, as I proceed upon the assumption that I can raise the xxx deficit by worthier labour in the same time. I am old enough to calculate upon the chances of life, & knowing myself to have consumption in contingency – even if it should not prove to be in strict entail – will not leave till tomorrow what should be done today. As soon as I come back from Lisbon I begin to publish – if I stay there I get the copy ready & care not how long it remain in manuscript, – in either case the work will be done. [7] 

Tuesday 25th – I return to Espriella, [8]  to work uninterruptedly at it for one month & then I shall emerge from my den, come to London, & get myself a new outside. Our fathers which are in the Row [9]  x will be glad enough to see me make my appearance & put an end to all future intercourse between them & Grosvenor Bedford. [10]  – I shall be gloryfied glorified shortly in the weekly-annual  [11]  – would there were any way of discovering who the gentleman is who menstruates upon me in the Monthly [12]  – by the blessing of God I would not be long in his debt – a little revenge is very amusing, & good for the bile.

I will trouble you to ship off for me per waggon an old trunk in your possession – full of all sort of womaniana. it is a round-topt trunk, which I believe once was a hair one, & will keep need a strong cord having no lock.

If Don Manuel be not sent to Miss Barker it may as well not be sent, [13]  – for my route to London must be a different one. – Wynn also is an Emperor now. [13]  – I had almost forgotten to say that two proof sheets will be sent to you for the sign manual – which is to save me thirteen pence upon each. It cost me precisely a penny postage to correct Madoc – & a penny more to the booksellers.

God bless you


Feby. 11. 1806.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 11 Feb. 1806
MS: Huntington Library, RS 85. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 23–25 [in part]. BACK

[1] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. He died on 23 January 1806. BACK

[2] The ‘Ministry of all the Talents’, established in February 1806, included William Wyndham Grenville, Baron Grenville as Prime Minister 1806–1807, Charles James Fox and Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; DNB), Prime Minister 1830–1834 and leading Whig; he became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1806’. BACK

[3] John Cartwright (1740–1824; DNB), political reformer. BACK

[4] Meaning ‘with respect to’. BACK

[5] Southey expected to benefit from the change in office as his friend and patron Charles Watkin Williams Wynn was appointed Under Secretary of State in the Home Office of the new ministry under his uncle, Lord Grenville. BACK

[6] Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet (1762–1814; DNB), was in command of the fleet in which Thomas Southey served, but had retired from the Admiralty in 1800. BACK

[7] Southey’s plans to return to Portugal to finish his ‘History of Portugal’ did not materialise and his work remained unfinished. BACK

[8] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[9] A jokey reference to Southey’s publisher Thomas Norton Longman, who had premises in Paternoster Row (‘Paternoster’ meaning ‘Our father’) in London. BACK

[10] Southey and Gosvenor Charles Bedford were jointly editing an anthology for Longman entitled Specimens of the Later English Poets, published in 1807. BACK

[11] William Taylor reviewed Madoc in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 604–613. BACK

[12] John Ferriar (1761–1815; DNB), had written a hostile review of Southey’s poem, Madoc (1805), in the Monthly Review, 48 (October 1805), 113–122. BACK

[13] Rickman used the powers he had as secretary for the Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Abbott, to frank mail on Southey’s behalf. BACK

[13] Rickman had recently been appointed Under Secretary of State in the Home Office and so had the power to frank mail; see Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 8 February 1806, Letter 1153. BACK

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)