1311. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 24 April 1807]

1311. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 24 April 1807] ⁠* 

Dear Rickman

What you have heard of Coleridge is true, he is about to seperate from his wife, & as he chuses to do every thing in a way different from the rest of the world, is first going with her to visit his relations where however she has long since been introduced. The seperation is a good thing, – his habits are so murderous of all domestic comfort that I am only surprized xx xxxxx Mrs C. is not rejoiced at being rid of him. He besots himself with opium, or with spirits, till his eyes look like a Turks who is half reduced to idiotcy by the practise – he calls up the servants at all hours of the night to prepare food for him, – he does in short every all things just at the time when it at all times except the proper time, – does nothing which he ought to do, & every thing which he ought not. His present scheme is to live with Wordsworth – it is from his idolatry of that family that this has begun, – they have always humoured him in all his follies, – listened to his complaints of his wife, – & when he has complained of the itch, helped him to scratch, instead of covering him with brimstone ointment, & shutting him up by himself. Wordsworth & his sister who pride themselves upon having no selfishness, are of all human beings whom I have ever known the most intensely selfish. The one thing to which W. would sacrifice all others is his own reputation, concerning which his anxiety is perfectly childish – like a woman of her beauty: & so he can get Coleridge to talk his own writings over with him, & critise them & (without amending them) teach him how to do it, – to be in fact the very rain & air & sunshine of his intellect, he thinks C. is very well employed & this arrangement a very good one. I myself, as I have told Coleridge, think it highly fit that the seperation should take place, but by no means so that it should ever have been xxxxxx necessary.

There were but four books in that catalogue you sent me which I wanted – all the others of any value were already in my possession. Another Catalogue has made me suspect that I have inserted a lie among the Omniana in the Athenaeum (I know not whether you see this my Scrap & Omnium) – but there is a tale there of a certain Father Domenick Ottoman, [1] & I found it in a history of Isuf Bassa, [2]  but I see in this Catalogue a book entitled the Three Impostors [3]  & one Father Ottoman stands at the head of the list: – my friend no doubt – I have ordered the book, which is marked half a crown, & shall make it a point of conscience to get three shillings worth out of it.

Remember me to Mrs R. In the month of June I hope you will pay your respects to old Skiddaw.

It is fit that the inclosed should be franked – Tis to an old fellow collegian of mine, who now keeps a school & is contented with very little. I scruple to make him pay postage. [4] 




* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ End <Middle> of Ap. 1807.
MS: Huntington Library, RS 109. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 448–449.
Dating note: Dating from JR’s endorsement; note by E. L. Griggs inserted with MS says JR’s letter of 27 April is a reply to this. Also in this letter RS says he is enclosing a letter for Lightfoot (‘an old fellow collegian of mine, who now keeps a school & is contented with very little’) and this letter is dated 24 April 1807 (see Letter 1310). BACK

[1] In the ‘Omniana’, Southey’s contribution to The Athenæum, a Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information, 1 (April 1807), p. 357, is the story of a son of Sultan Ibrahim and a Georgian slavewoman who was captured with his mother en route to Mecca by ship. Taken to Malta, he was brought up by the Dominicans after her death, and took the name Fr. Domenico Ottomano, becoming a skilled linguist and diplomat. BACK

[2] Sir Thomas Higgons (1623/4–1691; DNB), The History of Isuf Bassa, Captain General of the Ottoman Army at the Invasion of Candia (1684). BACK

[3] John Evelyn (1620–1706; DNB), The History of the Three Late Famous Impostors, viz. Padre Ottomano, Mahomed Bei, and Sabatai Sevi. ... With a brief account of the ground, and occasion of the present war between the Turk and the Venetian. Together with the cause of the final extirpation ... of the Jews out of the Empire of Persia (1669). BACK

[4] See Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 24 April 1807, Letter 1310. BACK

Places mentioned

Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)