2701. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 19 January 1816

2701. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 19 January 1816⁠* 

My dear R.

I thank you very sincerely for your letter. Bedford attaches more importance to my intent, & more meaning also than belonged to it. But I have no wish to affect singularity, & no disposition to run counter to friendly admonition. The title therefore shall be A Pilgrimage to Waterloo. [1]  What I have been doing is not a New Years Ode, [2]  – tho it certainly grew out of this piece of task work; – but a descriptive poem of some length in six lined stanzas, with a proem & Envoy de meipso [3]  in that strain of egotism wherein poets are licensed to indulge, – I have yet to write a moral & political part, & a Song of Thanksgiving, – if these should be executed as much to my liking as the other parts, I shall be well content. [4] 

I have read Ali Bey, the Spaniards, travels. [5]  It seems to me that he has been circumcised to very little purpose, – it was not worth while to pay that price for admission into a few mosques, & permission to sweep the temple at Mecca. He writes in his assumed character for the sake of indulging in grave irony upon Catholic subjects. I can easily conceive the pleasure a Spaniard must feel in thus defying the Holy Office. [6]  – But his travels have been misdirected after such a preparation, & they add nothing of importance to our stock of knowledge.

Remember me to Mrs R

God bless you


19 Jany. 1816

I was passing the evening out for the only time since our return, when your letter arrived. Otherwise I should have xxxx answered it by return of post.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: 19 Janry 1816
MS: Huntington Library, RS 264. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] In his letter to Southey of 15 January 1816, Rickman had counselled Southey to call the battlefield on which the French were finally defeated on 18 June 1815 ‘Waterloo’, rather than ‘Belle Alliance’, in the title of his forthcoming poem on the subject. See Orlo Williams, Lamb’s Friend the Census–Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), pp. 176–177. BACK

[2] As Poet Laureate, Southey was required to write an annual New Year’s Ode. Southey hoped that his ‘New Year’s Ode’ for 1816 might form part of the projected ‘Hymn of Victory’ with which he hoped to conclude The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). The published poem ultimately omitted the ‘Hymn of Victory’ and concluded with the ‘Hopes of Man’. BACK

[3] ‘About myself’. The ‘Proem’ was placed at the start of the The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) as planned, but the ‘Envoy’ was not written. BACK

[4] The ‘moral & political part’ became Part Two of the poem; the ‘Song of Thanksgiving’ was not written. BACK

[5] In Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 299–345, Southey reviewed the narrative of ‘Ali Bey’, Domingo Badia y Leblich (1766–1818), who had disguised himself as a Muslim in order to visit Islamic countries: Travels of Ali Bey in Morocco, Tripoli, Cyprus, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, and Turkey, Between the Years 1803 and 1807 (1816). BACK

[6] The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, founded in 1542 to defend Catholic doctrine. BACK

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