2917. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 14 February 1817]

2917. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 14 February 1817]⁠* 

My dear R.

It is quite impossible that I can find time for any additional engagements, at any price whatever which might be held out.

The sins of my youth are risen against me. Some rascal has just published a piece of sedition written in 1794, & peppered like a Turkeys gizzard. – I have written to Wynn to know whether it be better to obtain an injunction, – or let the brimstone burn out; – if he advises the former Sharon Turner will take the necessary steps. The MS. was put into Ridgeways hands 23 years ago. [1] 

My Papal Forte has been converted by the hand of Mr Gifford into a Papal Fraco (flaccus-flaccidus –) He has with more than his wonted skill pruned out every thing of practical application, – every thing original, & every thing that was forci most forcibly expressed, – “in pity as he says, to the terrors of ministers!!! [2] 

I shall see you in April, – & mean God willing to see Switzerland & the Rhine in May & June, & be home the first week in July, – & ready for you in August –

Remember me to Mrs R.

God bless you



* Endorsement: RS./ 2 March 1817
MS: Huntington Library, RS 312. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 62–63 [misdated 2 March 1817].
Dating note: The endorsement on the MS and also the dating in Warter are incorrect; the content suggests a date of c. 14 February, immediately after Southey learned of the publication of Wat Tyler. BACK

[1] Southey’s Jacobin drama Wat Tyler, which he had written in 1794 and sent to James Ridgway (1755–1838), and Henry Symonds (1741–1816), radical booksellers, for publication; see Robert Southey to Edith Fricker, [c. 12 January 1795], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 123. Ridgway and Symonds did not publish it and it remained in manuscript until a pirated publication, designed to embarrass the now anti-Jacobin Southey, appeared in 1817. Having taken advice from Rickman, Wynn and Turner, Southey launched a suit in Chancery so as to gain an injunction suppressing the publication. BACK

[2] A complaint about Gifford’s censorship of passages in Southey’s ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 225–278; it was now, in Southey’s allusive pun, instead of a strong, merely a broken and flaccid, message. In the second volume of his History of Brazil (1810–1819), Southey drew on the work of advice and warning to government written by Antonio Vieira (1608–1697), Papel Forte (1648) – literally ‘strong memorandum’. BACK