2725. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 24 February 1816]

2725. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 24 February 1816] ⁠* 

My dear R.

I mean to express that Hougoumont was the extreme point of action on our right, – We had troops farther west, but no fighting: Hougoumont & Papelot were the boundaries E & W of the fighting <battle>. My walk from one to the other was at a walking, not a loitering pace, for I had gone over two thirds of the ground before. Moreover with a direct purpose of estimating the distance, we marked our pace. [1] 

Your emendation of Laureate for Laurel is just & good. [2]  I have also felt the inference from the word chariot, – which might & will avoid the word if I can. [3] 

The Herb of Paraguay, or Matté as it is sometimes called, is, as you may remember, a bad substitute for tea, but still a substitute to which an Englishman would habituate himself rather than forego tea-drinking. But if tea from China should fail us, the tea tree is probably hardier than the Caa, [4]  & therefore more easily naturalized in our own colonies. It is indeed indigenous in Brazil & in St Domingo; [5]  & there is some reason to belief that it would grow even in England as well as in China. The Caa perhaps would no more be able to endure the heat of Surinam than the cold winds of the South. I wonder a sample is not brought from the Plata as an adventure, & puffed for its medicinal virtues.



* Endorsement: Dec. 1815.
MS: Huntington Library, RS 270. ALS; 2p.
Dating note: The endorsement is incorrect. The subject matter of the letter makes it clear that it is a reply to John Rickman to Robert Southey, 22 February 1816, Huntington Library. It was probably written c. 24 February 1816. BACK

[1] See Southey to John Rickman, 9 February 1816, Letter 2711: Southey was contesting the extent of the battlefield of Waterloo (18 June 1815), comparing his own experience with a map supplied him by Rickman. Hougoumont and Papelot were farm houses on opposite sides of the battle. BACK

[2] The manuscript draft of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo, Part One, Book 1, stanza 6, line 6 (Houghton Library, Harvard, MS Eng 934), reveals that Southey had originally written ‘Laureate’. In the published version of the poem, he changed ‘Laureate’ to ‘laurel’, thus accepting Rickman’s suggestion. BACK

[3] In The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), ‘Proem’, stanza 5, line 2 ‘chariot wheels’ was replaced with ‘wheels at length’. BACK

[4] The Guarani word for the plant from which maté tea is made: ilex paraguariensis. Southey discussed its production in his History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, pp. 356–360. BACK

[5] Modern Haiti. BACK