1306. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 10 April 1807

1306. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 10 April 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

I will wish you a dissolution [1]  – because the plague is transitory & the profit you know remaineth, – & this being a reason for that wish – I know of none to wish for this assembly of tantara-raras [2]  – rather the next. – One of Lord G’s last acts was to get me a pension of 200 £. Hitherto my sole income (save what comes by the grey goose quill) has been an annuity of 160 £ which Wynn has given me – & which I felt no unwillingness at accepting from one with whom I became intimate before we were either of xx us old enough to think of any disparities of rank & fortune. He however is not a rich man for his situation, – & I am very well pleased that there is no longer a necessity for acceptance. The taxes have the conscience to take 56 (I am told) from this 200, & the Exchequer is slow & irregular in its payments. Well – a few more grey goose quills worn to the stump in the course of the year. will make amends for that – & I think Brazil [3]  may possibly produce me so a large a sum as to lay by as principle, & produce <send in> some little permanent income, – which will be better than eating my way. Upon this principle I have abstained from selling copyrights, & have <a good deal> of such floating property if so it may be called. I get on little by little one year better than another, & best of all – I am contented.

Whatever the Tantara-raras may do I hope they will not prevent you & Mrs R from travelling Northward this summer. You will see many reasons why I should be satisfied with this abiding place, & when the books are gathered together there will be no serious objection to it. I will make a biennial journey to London, & establish a line of acquaintance along the road, as regularly as a Rider – that is to say as a Commercial Traveller according to the improved language of these politer days.

I avail myself of as many of your corrections for Don M. [4]  as I can, – & when I cannot use the amendment, try to remove the fault. Thank you for the Typographical pamphlet: – it is useful, but would be less so if Printers were not so shamefully ignorant, & authors would learn to write xxx more intelligibly. There is however a defect in xx our written alphabet, – x the eter endless blunders which printers make in printing any scrap of xxx xxxxxxxx a language which they do not understand show that they read by guess. Did we write the n & u sufficiently plain, E or d lawyer like, & always use the long s except where it is final much confusion would be avoided. At present many persons contrive to write with only three characters for the whole alphabet – the short stroke – the one <which rises> above the line, & the one with a tail below it. We put these together by guess.

George II has paid for sundry letters of late. He is getting into good odour with Our Fathers which are in the Row, [5]  & is more likely to help himself now than he has ever yet been in his life. I venture to inclose a letter to him [6]  – notwithstanding your salutary prohibition, as he is earning money you will be better pleased to save him postage.

Davie’s Letters from Paraguay [7]  must be a work of home manufactory, produced in all likelihood by some one who was privy to Sir H. Pophams buccaneering schemes, [8]  & wished to prepare the public for them. This I strongly suspect from almost certain blunders in the book. He speaks of Jews at Buenos Ayres. I am almost certain that no Jew can exist in a Spanish colony: & of this Jews daughter in a convent – which is a plain & palpable absurdity. [9]  Besides the country which he says he visited as belonging to Spain, is annexed to Brazil. These I think are fatal flaws. – All the information which the book contains (except what relates to political events) might be collected from the little volumes of Muratori upon the Jesuit Establishments – of which you will find an English Catholick version lying at bookstalls for two shillings. [10]  The political matter rests only upon the authority of the book – & of course is fabulous. This is vexatious, for it would there be valuable. I bought the volume, & am provoked at the trick, & at the reviews for not discovering it. There was a suspicion thrown out by somebody in the Annual, but not upon these grounds.

I hope Biddlecombe will send the stray chattels – my letter was urgent about it – and I should think he will not delay. perhaps a message from you that you are detaining the other things in expectation may quicken him. To him I am in a hurry – to you I am not – what a joy it will be to see all my books together for the first time in my life, & the ‘next good joy’ in the words of the carol, [11]  will be to xxxxx show you your old acquaintances in this delightful room. Remember me to Mrs R



April 10. 1807.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 10 April 1807
MS: Huntington Library, RS 107. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 444–446. BACK

[1] Of Parliament, as the so-called Ministry of All the Talents had fallen apart in March 1807. BACK

[2] Southey’s disparaging term for the noisy MPs in the House of Commons. Tantara-rara, Rogues All was the title of a 1786 play by John O’Keeffe (1747–1833; DNB); see The Dramatic Works of John O’Keeffe Esq., 4 vols (London, 1798), III, pp. 349–90. ‘Tantara-rara, Fools All Fools All’ was also a popular song from Henry Fielding’s (1707–1754; DNB) play The Lottery (1732). BACK

[3] The History of Brazil on which Southey had begun to work appeared in three volumes from 1810 to 1819. BACK

[4] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[5] The firm of Longmans, of Paternoster Row (‘Paternoster’ meaning ‘our father’). BACK

[6] This has not survived. BACK

[7] John Constanse Davie (dates unknown), Letters from Paraguay: Describing the Settlements of Monte Video and Buenos Ayres; the Presidencies of Rioja Minor, Nombre de Dios, St. Mary and St. John ... with the Manners, Customs, Religious Ceremonies, &c. of the Inhabitants (1805). In the New Annual Register for 1805, 26 (1806), 323, the authority of the publication was questioned on the grounds that the letters were not by Davie himself, but an anonymous friend who had spent a very short time in the region. BACK

[8] In June 1806, with Spain, the colonial master of South America, under French sway and Britain’s enemy, a force under Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham (1762–1820; DNB) and William Carr Beresford (1768–1856; DNB), occupied Buenos Aires and held it until December. On 3 February 1807 the attack was renewed when the British took Montevideo from the sea. In July a British attempt to retake Buenos Aires was repulsed with great loss of life. BACK

[9] There were in fact ‘conversos’ or secret Jews in Buenos Aires, who had emigrated there to escape the Inquisition in Spain. BACK

[10] Lodovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750), Il Cristianesimo Felice Nelle Missioni de’ Padri della Compagnia di Gesu nel Paraguai (1752), translated as A Relation of the Missions of Paraguay: Wrote Originally in Italian, by Mr. Muratori (1759). BACK

[11] From the traditional carol ‘The Seven Joys of Mary’. BACK

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)