1381. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 24 November 1807

1381. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 24 November 1807 ⁠* 

Tuesday. 24 Nov. 1807.

My dear Rickman

Bedford tells me you are arrived in town, & I avail myself of that knowledge to return to him thro you these ill-looking pension papers.

Thank you for what you have done at Burton. It is not a little provoking that Biddlecombe’s delay has been the means of keeping me twelve months from the London division of my books, which but for him, would have been duly arranged here four months ago. [1] 

About my projected journey, – it cannot take place so soon as you wish & as I should wish also & for two or three reasons. My Uncle is in this Lisbon convoy which has been on the seas five weeks struggling with these dreadful winds. Heaven knows what is become of it – I look daily & anxiously for news, & hope it has been able to put into Cork. Something my movements must depend upon his. – You were right in remembering that I had renounced reviewing. Arthur Aikin however chose to forget this, & has loaded down books upon me, which I should have returned, – if it had not unluckily been convenient to retain them for the purpose of making an item on the right side of Longmans ledger. I am about them now, – there is nothing which I do so with so little satisfaction, & therefore xxxxx xxxxxxxx it is of all work the slowest. – These must be done before I can stir, – & then – I must settle pros & cons in my own mind whether it be absolutely necessary that I should take the journey at all. Certain it is that I should collect much matter both for the introduction & notes to my forth-coming quarto, – but the materials already at hand are more than room can be found for; – & I weigh the misery of travelling, the expence, & the loss of time, – & find little to set against them except the pleasure of seeing my friends. By the time the campaign of reviewing is done I shall better be able to determine. xx

My printer Pople gets on excellently well with the Cid [2]  – four & twenty sheets of which are printed, making more than half the body of the work. The removal of my Uncle to England will not be agreable to him, & deprives me of a literary purveyor at Lisbon: it will however facilitate the Hist: of Brazil [3]  & materially improve it. He is better acquainted with the state of that country than any <other> person who has never visited it, & is master of that knowledge which is precisely xxxx what I have least aptness in acquiring, – details respecting the mines & their produce &c. – Whatever turn politics may take with respect to Brazil, it is hardly possible but that much temporary curiosity must be excited concerning that country, by which I may profit.

The expulsion of the English will affect my pursuits in another manner. During my last residence in Portugal I noted down whatever fell under came either to eye or the ear, both senses being habitually upon the alert. I have materials enough for a saleable volume; – & now no longer any notion for witholding them. [4]  These therefore will perhaps make a part of my ways & means for the ensuing year. On nothing however can I determine till my Uncle arrives. He & Harry were to sail the 12th of last month, in the Betsey, but he neglected to tell me where she was bound. To Liverpool if they mean to steer their course here, which Harry must needs do, & my Uncle probably will. The convoy did not sail till the 19th – still time enough has elapsed to make me sufficiently uncomfortable, considering what dreadful weather they have had to endure.

How goes on Duppa’s affair? I had a letter from him lately, but he does not hint at it. Wordsworth wrote to Lambeth to help him there, & I applied to Wynn, thinking he might possibly find some access to the Lady Chancellor. [5] 

This rascally Copenhagen business has cost us more men than it would have done to have fought the combined fleets of all the rest of the world & beaten them. [6]  With the best cause in the world, we have contrived to put ourselves in the wrong, & to make ourselves more detested, & even with more xxxxx justice, than Bonaparte. Marquis Wellesley I guess to be the main mover of this atrocious policy – It is in character with his Indian measures. [7] 

I know nothing of the sale of Espriella, – but have heard well of the book in sundry chance directions, & am led to augur well of it. It is very much my wish to compleat the view of England which is there begun, – & which two more volumes would do. [8]  In that case D Manuel would come again to the North & bring letters of introduction to me, from whom he would learn something concerning English literature, – a subject on which he is very little versed at present. – Did you get a copy of Palmerin? [9]  you will not like it, for it is very inferior to Amadis  [10]  & I think you undervalued that. – It will answer better to the booksellers than to me. If these books could in some degree supersede x novels they would do some good, soldier-officers being the main consumers of that precious commodity.

Coleridge lectures now beyond a doubt, – for he has been partly paid in advance. [11]  I cannot tell what his plans of living are, – it is pretty clear that they are changed. – We go on well, my daughter growing at a great rate – Herbert slow at teething, & kept back by it. The unborn will come with the snow drops. My eyes have been weak, & I think the weakness was produced by cold. – at least a velvet cap at evening has removed it, & I now write in the costume of Matthew Prior. [12] 

Remember me to Mrs R. At any rate I shall see her & you in the summer, tho Mahomet should not go to the mountain.

God bless you



* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 24 Novr. 1807
MS: Huntington Library, RS 119. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 460–462. BACK

[1] Having decided to stay at Greta Hall Southey was in the process of gathering together his books and other belongings which had been stored with friends. He had previously complained to Rickman about Biddlecombe’s ‘tedious delays’; see Southey to John Rickman, 22 September 1807, Letter 1362. BACK

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

[3] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[4] Southey published an expanded edition of his Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797; 2nd edn 1798) in 1808 as Letters Written During a Journey in Spain, and a Short Residence in Portugal. BACK

[5] Duppa was seeking preferment to the post at the British Museum vacated by the death of Horace Bedford. Southey helped him by mobilising the influence of Christopher Wordsworth, chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and of John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751–1838; DNB), Lord Chancellor for over twenty years from May 1807 – or rather of Eldon’s wife, Lady Eldon, born Elizabeth Surtees in 1754 and died in 1831. For the letter to Wynn, see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 October [1807], Letter 1372. BACK

[6] In summer 1807 the British, believing that France would gain possession of neutral Denmark and its fleet, amassed ships and troops and on 2 September launched a pre-emptive attack on Copenhagen, causing the deaths of over two thousand townspeople. Although the attack made the Danish sue for terms, the British subsequently lost many ships in storms in the North Sea. BACK

[7] Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley (1760–1842; DNB), former Governor General of Britain’s colonies in India, in which post he adopted a policy of aggressive expansionism. Wellesley was not the prime mover of the Copenhagen attack, having declined a ministerial position in the government formed in spring 1807. BACK

[8] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). Although the book initially sold well, with a second edition required by 1808, a follow up did not appear. BACK

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

[10] Southey’s translation of the Spanish romance Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[11] Coleridge lectured on the Principles of Poetry at the Royal Institution, Albemarle Street, London, from January to June 1808. See S. T. Coleridge, Lectures 1808–1819: On Literature, ed. R. A. Foakes, 2 vols (London and Princeton, 1987), I, pp. 9–149. BACK

[12] (1664–1721; DNB), poet. Prior was depicted in a velvet cap by Thomas Hudson (1701–1779; DNB), in an oil painting of c. 1718. The cap was ‘an old velvet bonnet’ belonging to Edith Southey; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 24 November 1807, Letter 1382. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)