3055. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 December 1817

3055. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 December 1817⁠* 

“In the tenth year of Henry 6 –” Henry Beaufort, Cardinal of Winchester was sailed again into England to appease & repress certain divisions & commotions sprang up by mischievous & pernicious persons within the realm, which under the colour of a new sect of religion, conjured together to disquiet & vex the whole quietness of the realm. But after that Wm Maundevile, & Jhon Sharpe were taken & executed by the Governor & the Kings Justices, the remnant yielded & confessed their offences; whereof two articles were these, as some men write that priests should have no possessions, & that all things by the order of charity, amongst Christian people, should be in common.

Hall. [1] 

This you see is earlier than Jack Cade. [2]  Fabyan [3]  says nothing about it, so that I know not to whom Hall refers. It is possible they may have been followers of Sir John Oldcastle. [4] 

I find a newspaper paragraph which corroborates the news from the North-pole. For the last two years there have been no fish at Kamtschatka, [5]  – to the great discomfort of the Bears, who in consequence have made fierce attacks upon the people (a sort of civil war) & have also engaged in cannibal hostilities among themselves. If the ice has been broken up by a volcano the eruption would have this precise effect of killing, or fugitating the fish. And it would work away for a year or two before it cleared away such a continent of ice as appears to have been broken up. The coast of East Greenland is said to be open. [6] 

I have just heard that my books from Milan are safe in London; – a great joy, – there are some treasures among them.

God bless you


22 Dec. 1817.


* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: 22 Decr. 1817
MS: Huntington Library, RS 324. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Hall’s Chronicle, Containing the History of England During the Reign of Henry IV and the Succeeding Monarchs to the End of the Reign of Henry VIII (London, 1809), p. 166. The Sharpe Uprising of 1430 centred on a weaver and bailiff of Abingdon, William Mandeville (d. 1430), who took the name Jack Sharpe. Very little is known about this incident. It occurred in the minority of Henry VI (1421–1471; King of England 1422–1461, 1470–1471; DNB), while his uncle, Henry Beaufort (c. 1377–1447; DNB), Bishop of Winchester 1404–1447, was a member of the Regency Council. BACK

[2] ‘Jack Cade’ (d. 1450; DNB) was the pseudonym of the leader of a popular rebellion in Kent in 1450. BACK

[3] Robert Fabyan (d. c.1512), New Chronicles of England and France (1516), later reprinted as Fabyan’s Chronicle (1553). BACK

[4] Sir John Oldcastle (d. 1417; DNB), leader of various Lollard conspiracies and rebellions 1414–1417. BACK

[5] British newspapers had recently carried a number of extracts from Hamburg papers, e.g. Morning Chronicle, 8 December 1817. One of the extracts reported that in the Kamchatka peninsula ‘in the course of last winter an incredible number of bears have left the woods, frequently entered the houses of the Kamtschdales; in many places have attacked and devoured the inhabitants; nay traces have even been found of their having killed and devoured each other; at the end of the winter many bears were found who had perished of hunger. In several settlements they have killed from two to three hundred bears, the oldest Kamtschadales do not remember ever to have seen so many bears so savage and blood-thirsty. The cause of this savageness and of their hunger is, that for these two years past there has been an entire want of fish in the Kamschatka sea, and fish, as is well known, are the chief food of the bears, which being usually so abundant in those waters, they easily contrive to catch. A couple of shocks of an earthquake have been lately felt in the Peninsula.’ BACK

[6] The newspapers reported that the returning whaling fleet had encountered remarkably ice-free conditions in the Arctic, allowing them to sail further north, to 84 degrees latitude, than before and raising the prospect of tracing a navigable Northwest passage to the Pacific; see Morning Chronicle, 22 November 1817. BACK