3117. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [11 April 1818]

3117. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [11 April 1818] ⁠* 

My dear R.

I am not a little pleased that the paper [1]  has passed thro the hands of the Grand-Castrator with so little mutilation; – for as to what relates to the Insolvents &c that may easily find place else in a subsequent paper. [2]  My letter to Murraymagne in reply to his intended act of exclusion has had its proper effect. [3]  But woe behold the said Murraymagne does not regard this Poor Law paper as political, – such papers as this he says, are “exceedingly desirable for the Review, because they are of essential service to the country, & they must obtain for us the esteem of all well-thinking men.” – He only meant that we should avoid all party politics. – I wish he did mean this, & could be made to perceive how greatly it would be for his interest to let me give the review its political tone. However for the present we have got a most important paper, – most important in two points, for strengthening authority as much as for its remedy for the evil of the Poor Laws. No doubt it will produce good.

The second Police Report [4]  is not of the character which you supposed. – There is much valuable matter in it, – & indeed both Reports xx furnish stronger positions for me than for the enemy to occupy. The Bow Street men [5]  appear to great advantage in both. It really appears as if the Coffee Shops would almost supersede dram-drinking, – so comfortable do the working classes find warmth & distention (your pr philosophy. –) Do you know that of all known substances Coffee produces the gre the most of that excitement which is required in fatigue? The hunters in the Isles of France & Bourbon [6]  take no other provision into the wood. And Bruce tells us that the viaticum [7]  of the Galla in their expeditions consists of balls of ground-coffee & butter, – one per diem (I believe) the size of a walnut sufficing to prevent the sense of hunger. [8]  I have just made a curious note upon the same subject for Brazil. [9]  A people in the very heart of S America, living beside a lake of unwholesome water, instead of making maize beer, like all their neighbours, carbonized their maize, as good a substitute for coffee as any which was used under Buonapartes commercial system. [10]  And this was their sole beverage, & it was found highly very xxxxxx conducive to health

Edith has found a brazen {or copper} spear head upon Swinside. [11]  In a craggy part of the mountain, where it may have lain unseen for centuries. – It is perfectly green but not corroded, – exceedingly brittle, quite plain but of very neat workmanship, – as if it had been cast, – one of my spans in length – which is just the breadth of the paper.

Dismal weather – the post not letters not arrived yet three hours later than usual because of the snow.

God bless you



* Endorsement: RS/ 11 April 1818
MS: Huntington Library, RS 340. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 299–301 [in part].
Dating note: Dating from endorsement. BACK

[1] Southey and Rickman’s ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308. BACK

[2] The Insolvent Debtors Act of 1813 attempted to reduce the number of debtors languishing in jail by providing means for a compact to be reached with creditors. The Report from the Select Committee on the Insolvent Debtors Act (1816) recommended alterations in its operations. ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 264, condemned the operation of the Act without referring to the Report. Southey intimates that further material on this Act could be placed in his article, ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118. BACK

[3] See Southey’s letter to Murray of 3 April 1818, Letter 3110. Murray had suggested placing less emphasis on explicitly political articles in the Quarterly Review. BACK

[4] The Parliamentary Select Committee on the State of the Police of the Metropolis reported twice in 1817. Rickman had sent Southey both reports. BACK

[5] The group of professional thief takers founded in 1742 and based at Bow Street magistrate’s court, near Covent Garden. BACK

[6] Mauritius and Reunion. BACK

[7] ‘provisions for a journey’. BACK

[8] James Bruce (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73, 2nd edn, 7 vols (Edinburgh, 1804–1805), I, p. 246. Southey had reviewed this book in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 2–16. BACK

[9] Southey, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 189–190. BACK

[10] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; Emperor of the French, 1804–1814, 1815). When France dominated the Continent in 1806–1814 it attempted to ban all trade with Britain, leading to ingenious attempts to manufacture substitutes for imported products. BACK

[11] An area adjoining Black Combe, a fell in the southwest of the Lake District, near Broughton-in-Furness. BACK

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