1024. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 23 January [1805]

1024. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 23 January [1805] ⁠* 

Wednesday Jany 23.

Dear Rickman

Your letter, for the main part, was answered before it was received, so that for that matter I have only to thank you for what you have done in it. It never was my opinion that the expedition would take place, till the papers xx positively affirmed it. I cannot think any military man would advise it, knowing the state of the Portugueze army, – still less that we should be so mad as to send troops to a city, so near the seat of pestilence, & so perilously exposed to it. Being a spare bodied man myself, more in danger of diseases of debility than of inflammation, I have – at this distance – no fear of the fever, & think that my constitution & plentiful fumigations would secure me if it came in my way. At least it is not that fear – which should keep me from going to Lisbon to do my work thoroughly.

The Metrical Tales you will before this time have received [1]  – if my directions have been executed by Longman. a mere republication whereof in some former letter I advised you, [2]  – issued at no expence of time, & no risk of loss – in the xxxxx hope of some little profit. – little enough it will be, as only 500 are printed & Artaxerxes [3]  & I are to share equally. I thought I had explained to Lamb about the Cottonian extracts in a letter written some time ago. [4]  the plan of the Specimens is to arrange them chronologically from every poet – i.e. versifier – who had died between the years 1685 – & 1800, – in fact a sequel to George Ellis’s book, [5]  done by R.S. for the lucre of gain. having brief notices of the xxxx writers prefixed. had the series extended farther back I should have begged more assistance from Lamb. as it was I applied about Cotton, knowing that he had made extracts from him, – not having read the book myself tho I possess it – & – under the nose – not being very desirous to xxxx trust my lazy deputy where any taste was required.

Toms conduct has been so far approved by Sir Samuel Hood [6]  that he has made him First Lieutenant of the Amelia – a larger & finer frigate than that wherefrom he was dismissed, [7]  – & his new Captain [8]  says that the Commodore speaks so highly of him that he expects to see him a Commander ere long. I knew Tom had acted well, but was not quite so sure that he had acted prudently.

Should my Uncle be driven from Portugal, & my design of going over in consequence frustrated – I should put the first volume to press in the course of next winter. [9]  Of materials arranged – & unarranged for the several divisions, I have xxxxx <more than> as much as would make seven such volumes as the Sharonical [10]  – a great capital of labour lying dead. With the needful works of reference at hand, nothing more is required than to transcribe them for the printer – for I have all the arrangement methodized in my own mind, & could fit in the new matter to its place as I wrote on. I am confident that the work is what it ought to be. that every thing having followed this for my rule – to relate every thing – to be as & to write first as intelli – nay – you shall have it in a Triad – the three excellencies of historical composition – language as intelligible as possible – as concise as possible, & as rememberable as possible. [11]  Nothing provokes me like a waste of words. Me judice [12]  I am a good poet – but a better historian, & the better for having been accustomed to feel & think as a poet. A new but happily a last cargo xxxx interrupted me just as I was setting to. [13]  they are almost killed off, & meantime I had collected matter for a chapter on the Hindoos, & begun the Fuero Viejo, the Code of Castilian laws which succeeded to the Gothic code. [14]  I shall do a world of work this summer – if nothing happens to prevent me.

Tell George I that I shall write to him as soon as I am at leisure – to acknowledge the receipt of 3/6 & certain books – for which I thank him.

You have been very kind to G. Fricker. his migration to London has thus far been very fortunate. but I do not approve the way in which it was brought about – more than you do. Coleridge is very zealous to serve others – & is capable of making xxx sacrifices & acting very generously on such occasions. but in this case as he had no time to act – he should have done nothing unless he could have done more. [15]  Had I thought it expedient to bring George to London on a temporary situation – for the chance of his getting a permanent one – I should have gone to work the straight way, & applied to you. Coleridge should not have done it, because I had not, & he must have known that had it seemed proper to me I should. His name & mine are usually coupled by strangers, not by those who know us. we have very few common friends – indeed scarcely any. the friends of one are nothing more than acquaintance of the other – when so much. The total difference of our habits & manners is the cause, – the way he has of trying to please strangers, & the mortal dislike I have of that way. Every body sees wherein we differ, because it is in those points which touch every body. the things wherein we agree belong xxx to a confidential fire side. – We are uneasy at his long silence, no letter of a later date than June.

God bless you.



* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ Jan. 23:/ 1805
MS: Huntington Library, RS 68. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 375–377. BACK

[1] Southey’s contributions to the Annual Anthology (1799–1800) were republished under his own name in Metrical Tales and other Poems (1805). BACK

[2] Possibly Southey to John Rickman, 6 August 1804, Letter 975. BACK

[3] Southey’s nickname for Longman, after the Persian emperor Artaxerxes I (also named Longimanus) who reigned 465–424 BC. BACK

[4] See letter 995 of this edition. Charles Cotton (1630–1687; DNB) was a poet and translator of Montaigne. Charles Lamb quoted from his poem ‘The New Year’ in his 1821 Elia essay, ‘New Year’s Eve’. Poems by Cotton appear in Southey’s and Bedford’s jointly authored Specimens of the Later English Poets, 3 vols (London, 1807), I, pp. 35–47. BACK

[5] George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1790, 2nd edn 1801, 3rd edn 1803). BACK

[6] Commodore (later Vice-Admiral) Sir Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet (1762–1814; DNB). BACK

[7] On 14 August 1804, the boats of Thomas Southey’s ship HMS Galatea made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission 65 were killed or wounded. Thomas had been placed under arrest (and was subsequently court-martialled), and Lieutenant Charles Hayman (d. 1804), his replacement on the raid, died. After the court martial, Thomas was made lieutenant of HMS Amelia, a finer ship than the Galatea, because she was a 38-gun Hébé-class frigate of the French navy captured in 1796 and then commissioned into the navy. BACK

[8] William Charles Fahie (1763–1833). BACK

[9] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

[10] A reference to Sharon Turner’s, History of the Anglo-Saxons (1799–1805). BACK

[11] Welsh sayings collected in groups of three lines, the earliest of which predate Saxon times. Preserved in different versions, partly in the fourteenth century White Book of Rhydderch and Red Book of Hergest, the triads were associated with bardic recitation. They include stories of King Arthur and of Llywarch Hen (whom Southey would discuss in his 1829 text Sir Thomas More: or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society). Southey cited the triads in the preface to Madoc (1805) from the translation of Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg; 1747–1826; DNB) in his Poems, Lyric and Pastoral (1794). BACK

[12] Meaning ‘in my own judgement’. BACK

[13] Of books for Southey to review for the Annual Review. BACK

[14] No. 3387 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was D. Ignatius Jordan de Asso y del Rio (1742–1804), and D. Miguel de Manuel y Rodriguez (fl. 1780), El Fuero Viejo de Castilla, con Notas Historicas, y Legales (1771). BACK

[15] For details of Coleridge’s attempts, before he left Britain for Malta in 1804, to help George Fricker find employment in London, see The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Earl Leslie Griggs, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), II, 1064 (Coleridge to Rickman, 15 February 1804), and 1067 (Coleridge to Southey, 17 February 1804). BACK

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