2553. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 12 February 1815

2553. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 12 February 1815 ⁠* 

My dear R.

I shall not grumble at the loss of the Property Tax [1]  which to me is gain. It is well to be rid of what was laid on with such injustice: but in sober judgement I would have voted for its continuance another year to facilitate the winding up of the war. It is pitiable to see the weakness of the Ministry, & the manner in which they are baited by a set of curs, who if they <were> but fairly met, would put their tails between their legs & sneek out of sight.

If Murat [2]  were hanged, & Buonaparte in the Seven Towers [3]  (hanging being too good for him) I should be well pleased with these ferments in Italy, [4]  & heartily glad to see it insist upon its indepe becoming an independent state under Eugene Beauharnais, [5]  or any body else, or in any form, – so it were in one independent state. If Buonaparte had been a wise man, he would have [MS torn]anged matters ten years ago as to restore the Bourbons, & have taken Italy for his reward, – an arrangement to which all powers would have assented.

How admirably the Pope & the French Clergy are acting to exemplify the mildness, moderation, & xxxx altered principles of the Catholic Church! Oh these emancipators! [6] 

I am close at work; – sometimes upon Brazil, [7]  – sometimes upon the Spanish history; [8]  – sometimes reviewing in the service of Mammon. – Spring is coming on, but I cannot determine upon my movements. I want a run in France, but not to run by myself; – so I must go when I can meet with a suitable companion.

Remember me to Mrs R.

& God bless you


12 Feby 1815.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Endorsement: RS/ 12 Feb 1815
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 15 FE 15/ 1815
MS: Huntington Library, RS 243. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 399–400. BACK

[1] The Government had made an announcement in the House of Commons on 9 February 1815 that income tax would be abolished. In fact, the renewed war with France in 1815 meant the war-time income tax was not finally ended until 1816. BACK

[2] Joachim Murat (1767–1815), Marshal of France, King of Naples 1808–1815, and Bonaparte’s brother-in-law. He was eventually executed by firing squad on 23 October 1815 after an unsuccessful attempt to regain Naples. BACK

[3] The infamous Ottoman prison, the Fortress of the Seven Towers in Constantinople. BACK

[4] The future role of Murat in Naples was still unclear at this time, and there was some underground revolutionary activity by the Carbonari secret societies, especially in Sicily and the Papal States. BACK

[5] Eugéne de Beauharnais (1781–1824), Bonaparte’s step-son. He was Viceroy of Italy 1805–1814 and heir-presumptive to the Throne of Italy if Napoleon did not have a second son. After the upheavals of 1815 he retired to Munich. BACK

[6] The Papacy had been restored to its temporal authority over the Papal States in central Italy and Pius VII (1742–1823; Pope 1800–1823) seemed to be pursuing a reactionary course: the Society of Jesus was restored on 7 August 1814 (after being suppressed since 1773); two Papal congregations were examining the conduct of clergy who had collaborated with the French regime in Rome; and Jean-Sifrein Maury (1746–1817), Archbishop of Paris since 1810, was imprisoned for disobeying Papal orders. In France, the country had been consecrated to the Virgin Mary as its special patroness by royal decrees in 1638, 1656 and 1738. On 5 August 1814 Louis XVIII (1755–1824; King of France 1814–1824) ordered the initial declaration of 1638 should be read again in all churches on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (15 August), followed by a special procession of local dignitaries. Southey uses this behaviour by the Catholic Church to criticise those favouring Catholic Emancipation in the United Kingdom. BACK

[7] The second volume of the History of Brazil, published in 1817. BACK

[8] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK