1579. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 9 February 1809

1579. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 9 February 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Landor,

You have a bill coming before Parliament. [1]  – The Speakers Secretary happens to be one of my very intimate friends, & one of the men in the world for whom I have the highest respect. It may be some convenience to you upon this occasion to know him, because he can give you every necessary information respecting Parliamentary business, & thus perhaps spare you some needless troubles, – & there needs no other introduction than knocking at his door & sending up your name, with which he is well acquainted. Rickman is his name, & you will find it over his door, in St Stephens Court, New Palace Yard, – next door to the Speakers. I will tell you what kind of man he is. His outside has so little polish about it, that once having gone from Christ-Church to Pool in his own boat, he was taken by the press-gang, – his robust figure, hard-working hands, & hoarse voice all tending to deceive them. A little of this is worn off. He is the strongest & clearest headed man that I have ever known, – pondere, numero & mensura is his motto, [2]  – but to all things he carries the same reasoning & investigating intellect as to mathematical science, & will find out in Homer & the Bible facts necessarily to be inferred from the text, & which yet have as little been supposed to be there intimated, as the existence of metal was suspected in potash before Davy detected it there. [3]  I have often said that I learnt how to see for the purposes of poetry from Gebir, [4]  – how to read for the purposes of history from Rickman. – His manners are stoical, they are like the husk of the cocoa-nut, & his inner nature is like the milk within its kernel. When I go to London I am always his guest, – he gives me but half his hand when he welcomes me at the door, – but I have his whole heart; – & there is not that thing in the world which he thinks would serve or gratify me that he does not do for me, – unless it be something which he thinks I can as well do myself. The subject which he best understands is political economy. Were there but half a dozen such men in the House of Commons, there would be courage, virtue & wisdom enough there to save this country from that revolution to which it is so certainly approaching.

I should not have written just now had it not been to mention Rickman, thinking that you may find it useful to know him. For I wished when writing to tell you of Kehama, [5] & a good many interruptions have occurred to delay my progress, indispositions of my own, or of the childrens, this latter the only things concerning which I am anxious over much. At present my wife is seriously ill, – & when I shall be sufficiently at rest to do any thing God knows. Another heat will finish the poem

I hope you will not return to Spain. What is to be done in that country must be behind stone-walls, not in the open field. Moore [6]  should have dispersed the army among the strong frontier towns from the Minho to the Guadiana, & then have worn out the patience of the French, while we fitted out a greater army to relieve him. I do not abate a jot of heart or hope, as to the ultimate issue of the struggle. Nay I am, & ever have been fully persuaded that if we landed 100,000 men near Bilbao, seized the passes, shut the French in Spain, & landed 50,000 more to fight them there we should then have a campaign to which the world has never seen xxx a parallel since the Battle of Platæa. [7]  But we are palsied at home. There is not one statesman among us who has either wisdom or virtue.

Coleridge’s essay is expected to start in March. [8] 

My Uncle Mr Hill, is settled at his parsonage at Staunton-upon-Wye, [9]  – in that part of the world to which your cedar plantation will give new beauty, – & your name new interest when those cedars shall have given place to their offspring, – it is possible that you have no other neighbour so well informed within the same distance. [10]  Next year, God willing, I shall travel to the south, & halt with him, – it is likely that I may then find you out either at Llantony, or somewhere in the course of a wide circuit. Meantime I will still hope that some fair breeze of inclination may send you xxx here to talk about Spain, to plan a great poem, & to cruise with me about Derwentwater.

God bless you

R Southey.

Feby 9. 1809. Keswick.


* Address: To/ Walter Savage Landor Esqr/ 9 South Parade./ Bath
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Seal: [partial] S
MS: Victoria and Albert Museum, National Art Library Manuscripts, MS Forster 48 D.32 MS 4. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 215–217; John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 125–128. BACK

[1] Landor required an Act of Parliament to be allowed to demolish buildings and build a house at his newly-purchased estate, the former priory at Llanthony, near Abergavenny, Wales. The Act was passed later in 1809. BACK

[2] Meaning ‘weigh, number and measure’. BACK

[3] In 1807 Davy caused a sensation by using the Voltaic pile to separate an unknown metal, potassium, from potash. He also isolated sodium from common salt. BACK

[4] Landor’s poem Gebir (1798). BACK

[5] Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[6] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), Scottish General with a long and varied military career. He was also MP for Lanark Burghs 1784–1790. After the controversial Convention of Cintra (1808), Moore was given the command of the British troops in the Iberian peninsula. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna on 16 January 1809. BACK

[7] The Battle of Plataea in Boeotia (479 BC), was a decisive victory for the Greeks against a previously successful invading Persian army, after which the Greeks went on the offensive. BACK

[8] The first number of Coleridge’s new periodical, The Friend, was published on 1 June 1809. BACK

[9] In 1807 Hill returned from Portugal to his living in Herefordshire. BACK

[10] On his return from Spain in 1809, Landor lived at Llanthony Priory, near Abergavenny in Wales, about 20 miles from Staunton. Some of the cedars he planted there still survive. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Staunton on Wye (mentioned 1 time)
Llanthony (mentioned 1 time)