3179. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 6 August 1818]

3179. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 6 August 1818] ⁠* 

My dear R.

I have been chewing the cud upon your letter. The variety of my employments is such that it enables me at any time to throw aside any train of uncomfortable thoughts arising from the τα ούκ έφ ήμιν. [1]  And in the case of the Appleby orator I should not have thought of answ noticing him, had it not appeared a fair opportunity of doing local good by mauling him heartily. [2]  I dare say you may long ere this have perceived in me a promptness to act with decision – which may sometimes amounts to temerity & often to imprudence, – & on the other hand a good portion of docility in submitting to the advice of those whom I esteem & love. I may probably send up another portion of the intended letter, – but very likely it will not go beyond your hands & Bedfords.

On the other hand if I thought that any real good were to be done by a full representation of the state of things, – I would gird up my loins to the task. How may this best be done – in an anonymous volume, – the secret of which should rest between you & me to the exclusion of all other persons, – or in the character of Espriella, [3]  which has a greater advantage even than that of concealment, because no one can draw the line between what is said in the personated character, & what is said thro it.

At present totis viribus [4]  I will work on thro the opus majus. [5]  I send now a portion of very curious matter, – some of it collected from the papers which I obtained from Coxe. [6] 

My great consignment of the Saints &c is arrived, [7]  & I am delightfully busy in arranging the shelves.

God bless you



* Address: J Rickman Esqre
MS: Huntington Library, RS 347. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 94–95 [dated July].
Dating note: Dating from content, in particular references to the arrival of Southey’s copy of the Acta Sanctorum. BACK

[1] ‘The things that are not our responsibility’. BACK

[2] Brougham had provoked Southey’s ire by, reportedly, attacking him at the hustings for the Westmorland election on 30 June 1818. Southey was dissuaded from publishing his retort to Brougham, which he modelled on his pamphlet A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M. P. (1817) and termed the ‘Tender Epistle’. The sections that were completed were published (without naming Brougham) as a ‘Postscript’ to the second edition of Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53. BACK

[3] Southey never published a second instalment of the travel narrative of his fictional visitor to Britain, Letters from England: By Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella (1807). BACK

[4] ‘With all my strength’. BACK

[5] The ‘great work’ was the History of Brazil (1810–1819), of which the final volume was in progress. BACK

[6] The History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1819), III, pp. vi–vii, thanked Coxe for the diplomatic correspondence he lent to Southey. BACK

[7] The 53–volume compendium of hagiographies entitled Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794) that Southey had bought in Brussels in 1817, no. 207 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK