3746. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 9 November 1821

3746. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 9 November 1821⁠* 

Keswick 9 Nov. 1821

My dear R.

I am glad you are pleased with the view which I have taken of Cromwells history. [1]  The subject has interested me so much (especially since I fell in at Lowther with a large collection of tracts of that age) that it will be Murray-le-magne’s fault if I do not take it up upon a larger scale, & expand it into two such volumes as the Life of Nelson. [2] 

Rushworth, [3]  with all that affectation of liberality which the Anti Churchmen show in prating about “the Bible without comment,” [4]  is a thorough party compiler, very careful as to what he suppresses, – & careful in nothing else. There are several speeches & papers which he prints two or three times over. It is a great pity that Nalsons Collections [5]  (which were undertaken to counteract the insidious tendency of his ex-parte statements) were not compleated. Nalson quotes from some Memoirs by Manchester, [6]  which I think have never been published, & ought to be brought to light. There are some memoirs of those times by Lady Fanshaw (wife of Sir Richard) in the possession of her family. [7]  Seward published some specimens in his anecdotes; [8]  – & if the possessors should be in town when next I visit it, I can <obtain> sight of the MS.

The Peninsular War has been dormant the while. 53 sheets are printed. I am now drawing to the close of one the longest & one of the most interesting chapters in the volume, relating the events in Portugal, from the commencement of the insurrection in Spain, till Sir A Wellesleys landing. [9]  The volume will end with our embarkation from Coruña, [10]  the first year of the war occupying necessarily more narration than any other two. – Frere’s absence from England is an evil to me. I should have profited more by correspondence with them, than from heaps of papers. – The volume will certainly be ready early in the spring, unless any illness should arrest my hand.

You will receive a copy of Dobrizhoffer [11]  by desire of the Translator, who, (be it known to you, under the rose) is Miss Sara Coleridge: – an extraordinary proof of industry & self-acquired attainments. The history of this publication is curious. I projected it for Derwent, while he was spending two years as tutor in a private family, [12]  – as a means of facilitating his way thro the University. His sister offered to assist him; – he soon grew tired of the task (the little which he did indeed was neither not so accurate as hers, & far inferior in grace & easiness of diction) – & this indefatigable girl went thro with it. I am now about to review it, in such a way, I hope, as may make the sale remunerate her.

I think it is in Rushworth x <where> I find that it was declared to be law in Elizabeths reign that slave a slave could not exist in England. [13]  – But I am now making my notes from Rushworth having borrowed a set from Lowther. In books of English history my library is sadly deficient, the great collections being beyond my reach. I have particularly felt the want of the Parliamentary History. [14]  – Mr Phillips’s [15]  red-books bear testimony to the use I have made of accessible materials. And by God’s blessing I shall do good service hereafter, as an Iconoclast in the Temples of Whig Idolatry

Now I return to Portugal

God bless you –



* Endorsement: 9 Nov. 1821
MS: Huntington Library, RS 417. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 284–286. BACK

[1] Southey’s ‘Life of Cromwell’, Quarterly Review, 25 (July 1821), 279–347. BACK

[2] Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813), an expansion of his article in Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. Southey did not produce a similarly expanded life of Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB). BACK

[3] John Rushworth (1612–1690; DNB), Historical Collections of Private Passages of State (1659–1721). BACK

[4] The standard formula that Nonconformists used to describe how they wished to see Christianity taught in schools; in other words, the Bible should not be interpreted according to the doctrines of the Church of England. BACK

[5] John Nalson (1637–1686; DNB), An Impartial Collection of the Great Affairs of State, from the Beginning of the Scotch Rebellion in the Year MDCXXXIX to the Murther of King Charles I (1682–1683), no. 1924 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester (1602–1671; DNB), Parliamentary commander. The memoirs Southey refers to are in the British Library, Add. MS 15567, but are not by Manchester. BACK

[7] Sir Richard Fanshawe, 1st Baronet (1608–1666; DNB), was a Royalist minister and poet, and later Ambassador to Portugal 1662–1666. His wife, Anne Fanshawe, née Harrison (1625–1680; DNB), wrote memoirs of her husband in 1676 for private family circulation. They were not published until 1829. BACK

[8] William Seward (1747–1799; DNB), Anecdotes of Some Distinguished Persons, Chiefly of the Present and Two Preceding Centuries, 5 vols (London, 1795–1797), I, pp. 262–266, and III, pp. 307–320. BACK

[9] Chapter 10, History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 425–525, dealing with events in Portugal between August and November 1808. BACK

[10] The evacuation of British troops from Corunna in January 1809. BACK

[11] Southey reviewed Sara Coleridge’s An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay (1822), in Quarterly Review, 26 (January 1822), 277–323. Her book was a translation of Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariae Natione (1784). BACK

[12] Derwent Coleridge lived with the Hopwood family, well-connected Lancashire landowners, at Summerhill, near Ulverston 1817–1819. Robert Gregge Hopwood (1773–1854) had married in 1805 Cecilia Elizabeth Byng (1770–1854), daughter of John Byng, 5th Viscount Torrington (1743–1813). Derwent Coleridge was tutor to the Hopwoods’ sons, Edward (1807–1891), Frank (1810–1890) and Hervey (1811–1881). BACK

[13] John Rushworth, Historical Collections of Private Passages of State, 8 vols (London, 1659–1721), V, p. 159, referring to a judgement of 1569 concerning a slave brought to England from Russia, in the reign of Elizabeth I (1533–1603; Queen of England 1558–1603; DNB). Southey wrote on slavery in England in Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829), I, pp. 61–94. BACK

[14] Parliamentary History of England. From the Norman Conquest, in 1066. To the Year, 1803 (1806–1820), a work in 36 volumes. Southey eventually acquired a copy and it became no. 2183 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[15] Probably Edward Phillips (1771–1844), Secretary to The Speaker 1814–1833. Southey had been given the ‘red-books’ for his note-taking when he was in London in May–June 1820. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Lowther estate (mentioned 2 times)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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