839. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 12 September 1803

839. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 12 September 1803 ⁠* 

Dear Rickman

Your letter to Danvers has been forwarded to me. I thought I had apprized you that by Toms procurement Edward was gone to the Suffisante Brig. this took place just when we were in the very worst point of our distress – & you will excuse me for the neglect.

Here we are – in a country which I could fancy God had made after my own heart if it had been placed in a better latitude. poor Edith is very unwell – her spirits are deadlily depressed – indeed she seems almost heart broken – I myself am ashamed that so common a calamity should have wounded me so deeply. However like George the Second I shall be compelled to work – to drudge at Reviewing & to manufacture rhymes for the Morning Post, God knows with how little heart, for the thoughts which are uppermost shall have no vent. I shall take this task work like physic, with this happy difference, that in the account I shall be on the creditor side the bill.

Your theory [1]  of the original use of the estrado is helped by this circumstance – estrada is a road, a xxxxx road made by art – elevated above the mire. estrado must have a reference to this & be derived from it.

Do not forget Malthouses [2]  rascally metaphysics. break him on the wheel. I will see the sentence registered. you ought to set your foot upon such a mischievous reptile & crush him. I wish with all my soul you would draw up the whole article & anatomize him alive. – I have the Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Seas & at the among the Hottentots to review. [3]  a book with some odd matter, & which will give me a good opportunity to fall upon the Vital Xtians, a set of vermin who increase rapidly, proceed systematically, & may perhaps one day set up a Calvinistic persecution. – If you have not seen the first volume of this huge Review [4]  look at the political department which is mostly executed by Wm Taylor. it has all his mannerism, his incurable mannerism, but withall that omnifarious knowledge & original oddity of conception which fixes attention & leaves a durable impression. that ill natured attack upon John Woodville [5]  is Mrs Barbauld’s doing. that play has been abominably used. as a drama it could not be censured too severely, but Mrs B & the brimstone-fingered oatmeal-eaters have both omitted to notice its peculiar xx beauties, for which it would be difficult to find terms of adequate praise. I am the more angry with Mrs Barbauld because she sneers at the conclusion without even appearing to feel its force. now that particular part impressed me beyond any thing in the play – even in the act & agony of prayer &c.

In Clarkes miserable Maritime History [7]  he refers to a book which it is of some consequence to me to be better acquainted with. ‘Alcaforado’s Accounts of the discovery of Madeira’ [8]  – the author he says was xxxxx Prince Henrys Squire. [9]  he gives the title in English – the date something about 1680. now I suspect that there exists no original, & that there never did exist one. the name uncouth as it looks does occur at that period – but not one Portugueze historian ever mentions such a man as in the service of the Infante, or such a document as existing. George Dyer would perhaps see if it be in the Museum when he is Cantabrigianizing [10]  there, & let me know what account the Preface gives of it. Henrique certainly had an account of his discoveries written, which he sent to the King of Naples. this MSS. was seen at Valencia among the wreck of the Duke of Calabrias [11]  effects about some there between 1580 & 1600, he being the last descendant of that line. If this be the book I shall have hit upon a treasure which the Portugueze themselves have no knowledge of. but the internal ev[MS obscured] must be very strong to convince me of its authenticity.

Our ministry I see go on as they have begun. after the experience of the last twelve years how would it benefit the nation if his Majesty would graciously please to ballot for Ministers as he does for Militia men. those vile ‘Invasion’ papers [12]  were not Coleridges, thank God!

God bless you.

R Southey.

Monday. Sept 12. 1803.

Greeta Hall. Keswick. Cumberland.

tell me when I may frank again.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr / St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Postmark: E/ SEP 16/ 1803
Endorsement: Sep. 12./ 1803
MS: Huntington Library, RS 43. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 326-328. BACK

[1] Rickman had suggested the Estrado, a raised area in Portuguese houses, was ‘the first attempt at Flooring’; John Rickman to Southey, 1 August 1803, Huntington Library, Rickman MSS. BACK

[2] Thomas Malthus (1766-1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population (1803). He argued that God had created the tendency of all populations to outgrow available resources in order to teach virtuous behaviour. BACK

[3] London Missionary Society, Transactions of the Missionary Society (1803), reviewed by Southey in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 189-201. BACK

[4] Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803). BACK

[5] Charles Lamb’s John Woodvil: a Tragedy (1802), reviewed in the Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 688-692. BACK

[7] James Stanier Clarke (1766-1834; DNB), The Progress of Maritime Discovery (1803), reviewed by Southey in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 12-20. BACK

[8] ‘Francisco Alcoforado’, An Historical Relation of the First Discovery of the Isle of Madeira. Written Originally in Portugueze. Translated into French, and Now Made English (1675). BACK

[9] ‘Francisco Alcoforado’ was allegedly squire on a ship sent by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) to explore the western Atlantic in 1419-1420. The voyage established Portugal’s claim to Madeira. BACK

[10] Dyer may have been researching his History of the University and Colleges of Cambridge (1814) in the British Museum. BACK

[11] Ferdinand of Aragon, Duke of Calabria (1488-1550), Viceroy of Valencia 1537-1550. He was the last male heir of the House of Trastamara, Kings of Naples 1442-1501. BACK

[12] A series of unsigned papers on the threat of a French invasion which began appearing in the Morning Post in July 1803. In late summer 1803, the Morning Post had begun to adopt an increasingly pro-ministerial and bellicose stance. For Coleridge’s concern that ‘Many articles in the M.P. not mine are attributed to me’, see his letter to Thomas Poole, 14 October 1803, E.L. Griggs (ed.), Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956-1971), II, 1016. BACK

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)