1831. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 1 December 1810

1831. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 1 December 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 1. 1810.

My dear Rickman

The shoes arrived in good time, just as having drank my second cup of tea, I was lighting my candle to proceed up stairs to write a letter to you. They fit as well as possible, – & I consider myself as shod for two campaigns at least. Bedford will pay you for them, he being my receiver-general at his Majestys Exchequer. I believe he leaves Ambleside tomorrow for London, having been three weeks there taking lessons in landscape from Green, [1] a melancholy xxx thing it is well that he can amuse himself thus: but it is a melancholy thing to think of a man in his state of organic disease acquiring any <new> accomplishment.

Thank you for papers concerning Reform, – some of the arguments are staggering ones, – I will when occasion offers, as it will shortly do, state them fully, & give them their fair weight, whether they turn the balance in my own mind or not. [2]  xx My letter to Robinson proves an efficient one. I received a very friendly reply for him, & he has introduced me to a correspondence with the Duke de Albuquerques Secretary, – to whom I have written once, – & for whom I have proferred some specific queries upon points which he will be able to answer because they relate to affairs in which Albuquerque [3]  was principally concerned. Robinson also put me in the way of obtaining information from Colonel Carol [4]  of Romana’s [5]  movements, thro Amyot, Windhams secretary. [6]  To him x I write tomorrow. And he promises me news & publications from Cadiz as they reach there him. – This second volume is likely to be less imperfect than the first, unless I fail in the Austrian war, [7]  – tho here it is to be hoped Schill & the Tyrolese will bear me out; [8]  – as for the contest between mere French & mere Austrians, had there been nothing but the interest of these two nations at stake, I should take less interest in them than in a Long-Main. [9] 

Gemelli Careri [10]  has been generally suspected of being a traveller at home, – but I have seen (& cannot recollect where) some late assertion that his veracity has been now placed out of doubt, & that the suspicions were wholly groundless. [11]  –––

I doubt your Penrith account of the effects of arsenic, [12]  – because since Wards [13]  time it has been gradually getting into use, & no such effects have been <generally> observed. My The same thing has been said of foxglove, & may I think easily be explained in both cases, & in all similar cases. Dropsy is a disease of debility, & many a man who recovers from a disease dies of the debility which it leaves behind it – Measles not unfrequently produce dropsy & in this manner, – but the causa causans  [14]  is known, & nobody ever thinks of imputing the effect to the medicine.

I have seen to night extracts of letters from Lisbon, written by Sealy [15]  (my sister-in-laws father) a great friend of my Uncle, & a stout-hearted as well as strong-headed man. He is confident of success & in high spirits. People, he says, go from Lisbon to see the lines – just as Londoners go to a Review, at Blackheath. The sailors make a most grotesque scene – they are stationed at Alhandra, a town which has been forsaken by all the inhabitants, & there these fellows sit out in the streets in the huge old fashioned armed-chairs of the Portugueze, smoaking & drinking, & as happy as their hearts can desire. – My own opinion is that Massena [16]  will cross the Tagus, – but he must pay dearly if he does it.

God bless you



* Endorsement: RS./ 1 Decr. 1810.’
MS: Huntington Library, RS 156. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The landscape painter and etcher William Green (1760–1823; DNB), who had based himself in Ambleside in 1800 and had a specialism in Lake District scenes. BACK

[2] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 282–294, expressed Southey’s forthright condemnation of Parliamentary Reform. BACK

[3] The Spanish military commander, Jose Miguel de la Cueva, 13th Duke of Alburquerque (1774–1811). For Southey’s account of his final months as ambassador in England, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 296–297. BACK

[4] William Parker Carrol (1776–1842), liaison officer between the British and Spanish forces. Later promoted to Major-General and Field Marshal in the Spanish Army. BACK

[5] The Spanish general Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761–1811). BACK

[6] Amyot had been private secretary to William Windham (1750–1810; DNB) since 1806. BACK

[7] See Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 575–659. An account of Austria’s defeat by France in 1809. BACK

[8] Ferdinand von Schill (1776–1809), Prussian officer who attempted to lead a revolution against French control of northern Germany; a revolt in the Tyrol against France’s ally, Bavaria, had been briefly successful in April–November 1809. BACK

[9] A cock-fight that could last as long as a week. BACK

[10] Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri (1651–1725), Italian traveller and adventurer. The authenticity of his Giro del Mondo (1699) was once questioned, but it is now thought to be genuine. BACK

[11] Southey’s opinion was not shared by all of his contemporaries. See Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 195, which noted that Gemelli performed a ‘voyage round the world … without stirring out of the city of Naples’. Southey pointed the inaccuracy out to John Murray, 22 April 1810, Letter 1771. BACK

[12] An account of how arsenic could be used to treat ‘agues’, given to Rickman by an ‘intelligent Medical Man’ he met in an inn at Penrith; see Rickman to Robert Southey, 19 November 1810, Huntington Library MS. BACK

[13] Joshua Ward (1684/5–1761; DNB), medical practitioner and inventor of the patent medicine ‘Ward’s Drops’. Of the three varieties of ‘Drops’ (blue, red, and purple), two contained arsenic. BACK

[14] ‘The primary cause’. BACK

[15] Richard Sealy (c. 1752–1821), merchant based in Lisbon. BACK

[16] The French Marshal André Massena (1758–1817), one of the commanders of the invasion of Portugal in 1810. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)