1327. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 27 May 1807

1327. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 27 May 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

The pleasantest season in the country for one who lives in it is undoubtedly this month of blossoms & of beauty, when we have not only immediate enjoyment, but summer before us. The best season for seeing a country, & especially this country, is during the turn of the leaf. September & October are our best months, we have usually long & delightful autumns, extending farther into winter than they do in the south of England. Our harvests such as they are – are sometimes not in till the end of October, Every thing with us being proportionately late. If the Tantara-raras [1]  release you, as for their own sake they will before the campaign opens against the partridges, you will be in good time for the Lakes, tho not for the Highlands. – & it is not amiss that the Highlands should be left for another year, when, if you want a companion I will certainly accompany you. [2] 

Mrs Rickman has seen all that water colours can do for our Lakes, in seeing them as delineated by Glover, [3]  who is of all our artists the truest to nature. But I will show her sights beyond all reach of human colouring, – such work as nature <herself> makes with xxxxxxxxxx travelling clouds, & columns of misty light <sunshine>, falling as if from an eye of light in Heaven, – like that upon Guy Faux in his prayer book. Every point of sight is beautiful & Derwentwater can only be guessed at <judged>. by a panorama, such as you will have from our boat, which the painter is at this very time decorating. Do not wait for another year, for the sake of including your Scotch journey – God knows what another year may produce, either of good or evil, to both of us. there is always so much chance of being summoned off on the grand tour of the universe, that a man ought not without good reason, to postpone any little trip he may wish to take first upon our xxxxx microcosm.

Thank you for forwarding the chest &c – on this day week I shall look for their arrival, with much pleasurable impatience.

What you say of breeding up a boy to understand the Keltic language has often been in my mind. Have you seen a good book in reply to Malthus by Dr Jarrold? [4]  – this disjointed question comes in, because he shows how animals that are the most highly finished are most apt – like large looking glasses – to break in the making & I have always the fear of too much sensorial power in my children, before so before my eyes, as not never willingly to shape any plans about them, which might xxx up <occasion> more cause for disappointment. – How easy would it be for the London Institution, or any Society, to look out promising lads, xx & breed up them up for specific literary purposes. Should Herbert live I should more incline (as more connected with my own pursuits) to let him pass two or three years in Biscay, & xxx so procure all that is thus to be gained of Cantabrian [5]  antiquity, – a distinct stock I believe <learn> from the Keltic, but I xxxxxxx think <believe> that one wave of our population came from those shores, of which the prevalence of black dark hair & rank complection is to xx me physical proof. Nothing can be so little calculated to advance our stock of knowledge as our inveterate modes of education, whereby we all spend so many years in learning so little. I was from the age of 6 till that of 20 learning Greek & Latin, or to speak more truly learning nothing else, – the little Greek I ever had sleepeth, if it be not dead, & can hardly wake without a miracle, & my Latin, tho abundantly enough for all useful purposes, would be held in great contempt by those people who regard the classics as the Scriptures of taste.

Acuña [6]  will perhaps turn up among the books from Biddlecombe, & the other book may possibly be at Bristol. The sum of Acuña seems to be given in his own words in the Marañon of Amazonas. [7]  which came in your last cargo. I have however the history of many years to write before his voyage occurs.

I have promised Artaxerxes [8]  to review Sharons new edition, [9]  – not foreseeing when the promise was made that he would leave any metaphors to stick in the throat of my conscience. However I will spare him, by making my attack upon modern style in general —

We have a dirty & deranged house – the masons have ejected me out of my study, & it will be probably a full fortnight before I am reinstated – meantime I have the discomfort of having my books in a heap. & of course, am sure ten times in the course of the day to want some book which proves to be in the least accessible part of it. These last two days have been given to prefacing Palmerin, [10]  [MS torn] said preface is, in great part thereof, very bibliographical & dull. It will however establish the point that T. de Moraes [11]  was the author of the book, & also show that there was the same sort of book manufactory carried on in Elizabeths days as in our x own, & that Anthony Monday [12]  made the same sort of use of his name as Dr Mavor [13]  does. This will be finished tonight.

I find privies at Valencia eight hundred years ago. The proofs of the Cid [14]  must pass thro your hands that you may find out in them what has escaped me.

Just at this time I am greatly in want of Thevet, [15]  – & have no chance of meeting with it till I get to London, unless peradventure it should be in the convoy from Lisbon, by which supplies are promised me. I have found out the titles of several French books relating to my side (not Ld Gs [16] ) of S. America; – by & by my best way will be to some <put> the list into some booksellers hands & let him send to Paris for them

Your stories of Biddlecombe are truly Irish. he told these himself with no very material alteration, – only laying fault in the first instance on Bingley. [17]  In about a fortnight, if I do not hear from him that the books are dispatched according to his promise I shall jog his memory with a letter.

You call Perceval a generous man. I dislike him for two reasons. first because I cannot like any body who has ever been connected with that wretch Pitt; [18]  & secondly because I abominate the way in which he took up the Catholick question, – xxxxx the greedy manner in which he would have snavelled the sinecure & the impudence of his accepting a post for which he is so utterly unfit. The Duke of Portland [19]  can only be locum tenens for M. Wellesley [20]  or for Ld Melville, [21]  – if they can dare set up the latter, – or risque the impeachment of the former, for his cursed conduct in India. What a pity it is that the proper appl use of hemp should be so little understood in this country!

God bless you. Remember me to Mrs R. & make your preparation to start as soon as the session closes.


May. 27. 1807.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr./ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Endorsement: RS./ 27 May 1807.
Stamped [partial]: CK
Postmark [partial]: MAY 30/ 1807
MS: Huntington Library, RS 113. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 94–96 [in part]. BACK

[1] 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

[2] Southey had hoped to accompany Rickman if he travelled to Scotland on government business; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 30 January 1807, Letter 1268. BACK

[3] John Glover (1767–1849; DNB), the watercolour painter who owned Blowick Farm in Patterdale, on Ullswater. BACK

[4] Thomas Jarrold (1770–1853; DNB), Dissertations on Man, Philosophical, Physiological, and Political; In Answer to Mr. Malthus’s ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ (1806). BACK

[5] The people of the region of Cantabria, on the south, Spanish, coast of the Bay of Biscay. BACK

[6] Southey eventually possessed both the English and French versions of the voyage narrative of Cristóbal Diatristán de Acuña (1597-c.1676), Voyages and Discoveries in South America (1698), Relation de la Riviere des Amazones (1682). Southey had previously asked Rickman to look for this; see Southey to John Rickman, 13 February 1807, Letter 1274. BACK

[7] Manuel Rodriguez (1633–1701), El Marañon y Amazonas Historia de los Descubrimientos, Entradas y Reduccion de Naciones (1684). BACK

[8] Southey’s nickname for Longman, after the Persian emperor Artaxerxes I (also named Longimanus) who reigned 465–424 BC. BACK

[9] A second edition of Turner’s History of the Anglo Saxons was published by Longmans in 1807. BACK

[10] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[11] Francisco de Moraes Cabral (1500?-1572), author of Libro del Muy esforzado caballero Palmerin de Inglaterra (1547). BACK

[12] Anthony Munday (1560?-1633; DNB), a miscellaneous writer for booksellers’ commissions, who translated de Moraes as The [First-] Seconde Part, of the ... Historie, of the ... Princes Palmerin of England, and Florian du Desart his brother ... Translated out of French, by A. M. (1596). BACK

[13] Dr William Fordyce Mavor (1758–1837; DNB), a miscellaneous writer who gave his name to a number of educational publications, including Mavor’s English Spelling Book (many editions from 1801). BACK

[14] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[15] André Thevet (1516?–1592), Singularitez de la France antarctique (1557). BACK

[16] William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville (1759–1834; DNB), Prime Minister from 1806 to 1807. Grenville had informed Southey that the government did not wish him to prepare a briefing report about Brazil, but had encouraged him to publish on the subject for the benefit of the public. BACK

[17] The Rev. William Bingley (1774–1823; DNB), the naturalist, traveller and local historian, was a neighbour of Biddlecombe’s as a curate of Christchurch Priory, Hampshire, from 1802 to 1816. BACK

[18] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. BACK

[19] The new Prime Minister was William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738–1809; DNB). BACK

[20] Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley (1760–1842; DNB): Anglo-Irish politician and bellicose Governor-General of the British colonies in India between 1798 and 1805. Wellesley did not become head of the new ministry, and declined a cabinet position while his conduct as Governor-General was under investigation. BACK

[21] Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742–1811; DNB), Secretary of State for War 1794–1801 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1804. From 1802–1805 Melville’s use of public monies when Treasurer of the Admiralty (1782–1800), was investigated by a Royal Commission on suspicion that he had allowed the diversion of government funds to his personal accounts. On 9 April 1805 Melville was censured in the House of Commons for the misuse of public funds. He resigned and impeachment proceedings were commenced against him, but he was cleared of nearly all the charges in June 1806. BACK

Places mentioned

Ullswater (mentioned 1 time)