1862. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 2 February 1811

1862. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 2 February 1811 ⁠* 

Feby 2. 1811

My dear Rickman

Thank you for your last. – How much of its matter I have profited by you will perceive, & what is now left untouched stands over for Burdetts business in 1810. [1]  I am in the midst of the subject, & ni fallor  [2]  am handling it well.

L Goldsmid is ordered upon your advice. His book is at hand – a most rascally one, so rascally that I had fully believed he was employed by Buonaparte to over-act Anti-Gallicism, & serve him by uttering calumnies too outrageous to be believed. [3]  Herries assured Bedford that this fellow had a sort of devilish acuteness in him, – I cannot perceive one trace of it in his book. His newspaper [4]  seems to xxx place him in the same scale of morals & utility with the Bow street officers, [5]  – useful subjects tho greater rascals than those whom they hang. – How is it that the Country Newspapers which in Pitts time [6]  were all Pittite, are now as universally Burdettite? This is an evil sign. – Thank you about the Chronicle, [7]  – when there appears any thing with a mark of blacker damnation about it, send me the paper.

I apprehend the French lines before Cadiz are strong, or some attack would have been made upon them while we had a strong force there. Still the pokers & Tongs have xx not been employed as they should be. It would have been a good plan to have sent out a detachment of yellow-fever-men on purpose to be made prisoners. I am quite of Pasleys [8]  opinion about our directing the Spaniards. A most essential measure would be to send officers to Coruna & discipline an army in Galicia. Sir Robert Wilson is the fit man to be employed. In six weeks he raised his legion & took the field with them at the very time when Moore began to run away. – [9] 

Wynn says ‘any ministry must recall our troops from Spain.” – this then is plainly the Grenville plan. I am sure it cannot be Ld Hollands. God send the King [10]  well again & give him a long lease of life to keep these wretches out!


The inclosed per twopenny.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS/ 2 Febry 1811
MS: Huntington Library, RS 165. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had used documents relating to the politician Sir Francis Burdett and sent to him by Rickman, for the latest volume of the Edinburgh Annual Register that dealt with events in 1809. He had reserved some for the volume that would cover 1810 – an exciting year for Burdett as he was committed to prison by the House of Commons on 5 April 1810 for breach of privilege. He barricaded himself into his house until 9 April and the resultant riots in London caused great concern in government circles. BACK

[2] ‘if I err not’. BACK

[3] Lewis Goldsmith (c. 1763/4–1846; DNB). His The Secret History of the Cabinet of Bonaparte (1810) argued that Britain could never make a secure peace with Napoleon. Goldsmith’s narrative combined accurate information with wild allegations, including atrocity stories and tales of sexual misconduct. It was a bestseller, going into 6 editions by 1811. BACK

[4] Goldsmith had launched a Sunday newspaper, the Anti-Gallican Monitor, earlier in 1811. His backers possibly included supporters of the exiled French monarchy and the British government. BACK

[5] The first professional London police force, founded by the author and magistrate Henry Fielding (1707–1754; DNB) in 1749. BACK

[6] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. BACK

[7] Presumably the London newspaper the Morning Chronicle. BACK

[8] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), who had served in the British army in Spain in 1808 and 1809. His Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (London, 1810), p. 241, argued that the British should have demanded ‘the chief command of every combined army in Spain’. BACK

[9] Sir Robert Wilson (1777–1849; DNB), commander of the Loyal Lusitanian Legion, raised from Portuguese refugees and officered by British soldiers. He was credited with being the first to demonstrate that Portuguese recruits could be trained and organised into successful fighting units. Wilson served in the Peninsular in 1808–1809 and, after the defeat and death of Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB) at Corunna, had held open vital communication lines and kept the French armies in check. BACK

[10] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). His mental health had collapsed again in October 1810 and he was incapable of conducting public business. The question of a regency for him was hotly-debated as it was believed that his heir and the natural choice as regent, George, Prince of Wales (1762–1830; Prince Regent 1811–1820; King of the United Kingdom as George IV 1820–1830), favoured opposition politicians. BACK