2716. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 16 February 1816

2716. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 16 February 1816⁠* 

My dear R.

I never like my own lucubrations so well as when they first come to me in good legible typography. I suspect however that by the world in general there is a sort of pleasure attached to seeing things in manuscript somewhat like that derived from eating bread in secret; – so I send the <inclosed> open in its way, that if there be any gratification of this kind, Mrs R. may enjoy it.  [1]  When she has done with it, transmit it to my Factotum Bedford, who gratifies himself while he is doing any business for me, & who has not so much business of his own but that I may without scruple create a little for him.

God bless you


More tomorrow. I fear we shall have to wait for the engravers. [2] 

16 Feby. 1816.

Can you tell me whether this Prince [3]  who is to be Cock-Simorg [4]  here, has been in any of the great battles? My last years work is likely to turn to account, – but I lose a Belgic Lion, [5]  who was worth as much to me as a real one would have been to Polito! [6] 


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 19 FE 19/ 1816
Endorsement: 16. Febry 1816
MS: Huntington Library, RS 266. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The manuscript of part of Southey’s poem The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[2] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816) featured engravings made from seven sketches drawn on the spot by Southey’s friend Edward Nash, and one by Charles Bell (1774–1842; DNB). BACK

[3] Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865). Southey had written fifty stanzas of an epithalamion, The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale, in March–June 1814, when Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, was engaged to William, Hereditary Prince of Orange (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849). He had to abandon the poem when the engagement was broken off, but he was able to reuse most of it when the engagement of Charlotte to Leopold was announced. Leopold had served in the Russian Army during the wars against France and distinguished himself at the Battle of Kulm (1813). BACK

[4] The simurgh is a fabulous bird in Iranian mythology. It appeared prominently in Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). Prince Leopold was a ‘Cock-Simorg’ because, like the bird, he was expected to bestow fertility on the land – in his case by providing Princess Charlotte with an heir to the throne. BACK

[5] The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanzas 19–21. Comparison with the earlier draft of the poem in Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, Box B/414, reveals Southey simply changed the description of the lion from ‘Belgic’, representing Prince William, to ‘Saxon’, representing Prince Leopold, as both the royal houses of the Netherlands and Saxe-Coburg featured lions as supporters on their coats of arms. BACK

[6] Stephen Polito (1763/4–1814) was the owner of a menagerie and exhibited beasts at Bartholomew Fair and Exeter Change in London. BACK

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