1402. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 21 December [1807]

1402. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 21 December [1807] ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

I have a strong suspicion that the disappearance of Prince Arthur [1]  is owing to a personage whose laziness is always doing mischief either to himself, or to other people. Did not Burnett borrow it for his specimens, [2]  & did he ever return it?

A little delay is of little consequence, & the loss of the book not of much, it being so imperfect. Walter Scott who meditated the same publication urges me to follow his plan of printing it in small quarto – & giving vignettes of costume – I have transmitted this advice to the Long-men of the Row, [3]  proffering on my part additional research & preliminaries in proportion to their increased expense. This will tally well with your advice, for which I heartily thank you.

It has long been one of my greatest desires to read through the Byzantine Historians, & I have long said that the possession of that great collection would be the only thing which could make me recover my Greek. I have here Zonoras [4]  – but in such woeful plight that he must go to London to get bound: – I have eight volumes of French translations of these writers, – & you have in London a huge Chalcondylus. [5]  In these it will be pleasant enough to hunt out matter, & refer to the original when any is found.

Armour was disused for a reason which I found in one of Fullers sermons – ‘the rags of a broken corselet making a worse wound than the bullet.’ [6]  – We will talk over these things – did you not xxx make out a suit from Amadis? [7]  – I have seen aprons of chain-mail to protect the face, – & will hunt out everything of the kind.

Take no trouble with the books till I come. I had one cargo package from London by water, & 27 from Bristol without any trouble that I have heard of about duty [8] 

150 copies of Espriella remain, & they go to press again immediately. [9]  I am requested to omit the history of the Newbury Renegado, because it hurts his friends. This fellow whose name is Baily [10]  was in England about two years ago, – saw this same story told in my reviewal of Wittmans Travels, [11]  & called upon A. Aikin in his Turkish dress & with his seymetar to take vengeance upon him. Luckily Xxxx King Arthur was out of the way, – or there had been a loss to the Round Table! – Here’s a Turk for you! he thinks no more of cutting off a man head than he did of being circumcised! –

A merry Xmas.

God bless you

in haste


Dec 21.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 21 Decr. 1807; [in another hand] W. Danvers/ Messr. Hunter & Richards/ Charlotte Row/ Mansion House
MS: Huntington Library, RS 122. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 39–40 [in part].
Dating note: year from JR’s endorsement. BACK

[1] Southey was gathering materials towards his edition The Byrth, Lyf and Acts of King Arthur (1817). Perhaps he refers here to Sir Richard Blackmore (1654–1729; DNB), Prince Arthur (1695). A copy of this work was listed in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[2] George Burnett, Specimens of English Prose Writers, from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century (1807). BACK

[3] This letter has not been traced. BACK

[4] Ioannes Zonaras (fl.12th century), a Byzantine historian whose Extracts of History (Ἐπιτομὴ Ἱστοριῶν /Epitome Historiarum) chronicled the Roman empire in the East. BACK

[5] Laonicus Chalcondyles (c. 1423–1490), a Byzantine Greek scholar from Athens who published a history of the last hundred and fifty years of Byzantium, including its fall to the Turks: Proofs of Histories (Ἀποδείξεις Ἱστοριῶν). BACK

[6] Thomas Fuller (1607/8–1661; DNB), makes this observation in a sermon entitled ‘The First Reconciler’ in A Triple Reconciler; Stating the Controversies, Whether Ministers have an Exclusive Power of Communicants from the Sacrament: Any Persons Unordained may LawFully Preach: The Lord’s Prayer Ought not to be Used by All Christians (1654), p. 18. BACK

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

[8] Having decided to stay at Greta Hall, Southey was arranging for his books and other belongings which he had left with friends in London and the West Country to be sent to him. BACK

[9] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). A second edition was published in 1808. BACK

[10] Letter 74 of Letters from England details the man of Newbury who, despairing of making success in business, left his wife and became a Turk in Constantinople, acquiring three wives there. The story was omitted from the second edition. BACK

[11] Southey reviewed William Wittman (fl. 1799–1804), Travels in Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria, and Across the Desert into Egypt During the Years 1799, 1800, and 1801, in Company with the Turkish Army and the British Military Mission (1803) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 66–71. BACK

People mentioned

Aikin, Arthur (1773–1854) (mentioned 2 times)
Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)