1351. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 8 August 1807

1351. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 8 August 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

On my return last night from Lloyds where <with whom> I past three days (partly for the sake of curing an obstinate cold by deign of air & exercise & partly for the sake of getting to our nearest large town which lies a step beyond him) I found a letter from Tom; telling me that the hospital x hospital surgeon is now of opinion with the physician of the fleet that it is absolutely necessary for him to go into the country, – this has been duly notified to the Admiralty, & their answer, which was expected on Wednesday last would set him off on his way. Thus this matter has ended after having given me quite as much vexation as I ever allow myself to feel. [1] 

I found also an importation of books containing those for which I waited expecting the Cid, & some of great importance respecting South America. [2]  About the former it is now time, without farther delay, to open a negociation with the Long-Men of literature, & send it to press. The notes must inevitably be placed at the end because so much will be to be gleaned for them from Ld Hollands library [3]  on my next visit to town, & from the great book in the Museum [4]  which is far too expensive to be within my reach in the Bibliothéca Arabico-Hispana. [5]  You will I think be well pleased with the text; indeed the whole work will be one of which I shall feel proud, & for the appearance of which I am a little impatient, as being the first fruits of a long harvest.

While I am writing the history of Brazil & the River Plata our wise ministers are preparing xxxxxxx matter for a melancholy concluding chapter. The frantic folly of their proceedings & views in that quarter is so monstrous, that the very excess of abhorrence & contempt which I feel for such policy, will sufficiently set me on my guard, & make me write with as much temper & coolness as severity. Sir Home Popham [6]  might have done very well in the buccaneering days of such men as Cavendish. [7]  As for keeping any conquests in that part of the world, there is a case in point which is perfectly decisive – that of the Dutch in Brazil, – turned out of provinces which had been ceded to them by treaty, when they had been settled about twenty years, & which they had managed ten times better than we should manage them; but the Portugueze & the concerted natives could not bear the dominion of heretics, & they were expelled by these insurgents, without any aid from Portugal. The case is precisely in point, as has been already pretty plainly proved at Buenos Ayres. We might have insisted upon a free trade with the Spanish colonies at peace, – or we might have guaranteed to them their independence during war; Of three possible modes of conduct two were good, & therefore we blundered upon the third. Oh that Hounslow Heath should still remain waste land, when xxxx hemp is so manifestly wanted! [8]  – But as Russia will soon join the rest of the world & go to war with us, there is good reason to believe that we shall begin to grow hemp in greater quantities than we have of late done, or perhaps for better purposes. [9]  Amen saith his majestys pensioner. [10] 

In which capacity I pray you to send the inclosed – being my first fingering x – to Grosvenor Bedford at the Exchequer. How much of the quarter is to be fingered for fees I know not, but G.C.B. tells me very little will be forthcoming to me, because the King cannot be bountiful for nothing, & all the fees are to be deducted from it. – I will own to you that if ever by any means I realise two hundred a year – or succeed to it (as by common law I ought to have done, & am still entitled to do,) it will be with unusuall pleasure that I shall indite a letter of resignation to Lord of his Majestys Treasury.

I wonder at the blindness of the Lords in throwing out this bill, versed as they are in all the tricks of the trade, it is marvellous that they should defy the sense of the public & insult it by this open conduct, instead of devising means to elude the bill. [11]  when Quos Jupiter &c. [12] 

I hope you have received Espriella [13]  – & that the Tantara-rares [14]  will soon leave you at liberty to set your face to the North. – My daughter is getting rid of a slight feverish attack. My son gets more firmness of flesh & brightness of eyes since his weaning, & I xxxx I am likely to oppose Mr Malthus’s precious system [15]  practically as well as theoretically. The more the merrier say I – they shall all be trained up in the way they should go.

God bless you


Saturday August 8. 1807.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr.
Endorsement: RS./ 8 Augt. 1807
MS: Huntington Library, RS 116. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] For a fuller account of Thomas Southey’s health problems, see Southey to John May, 12 August 1807, Letter 1352. BACK

[2] Southey had been sent books from Lisbon by his uncle Herbert Hill, which he needed for his edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808) and his History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[3] The library of Spanish books assembled by Henry Richard Vassall-Fox at his seat, Holland House. BACK

[4] The British Museum. BACK

[5] The catalogue Bibliotheca Arabica-Hispana Escurialensis de Casiri (1760–1770). BACK

[6] In June 1806, with Spain, the colonial master of South America, under French sway and Britain’s enemy, a force under Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham (1762–1820; DNB) and William Carr Beresford (1768–1856; DNB), occupied Buenos Aires and held it until 14 August. On 3 February 1807 the attack was renewed when the British took Montevideo from the sea. In July a British attempt to retake Buenos Aires was repulsed with great loss of life. BACK

[7] Thomas Cavendish (1760–1792; DNB), buccaneer and circumnavigator. BACK

[8] Hounslow Heath, to the west of London, was a common frequented by highwaymen; those caught were hung and their bodies gibbeted there. BACK

[9] That is, for cordage for naval ships. BACK

[10] The so-called Ministry of All the Talents, in which Wynn had served as Under Secretary of State in the Home Office, had broken up in March. Before he left office, Wynn had succeeded in arranging that the pension he paid Southey from his personal funds was replaced by a government pension. BACK

[11] On 3 August 1807 the House of Lords rejected, as unparliamentary, a bill entitled ‘An Act for abolishing fees received by officers in the service of the customs in the several ports of Ireland, and for making compensation to the said officers, and for regulating the hours of attendance, and the number of holidays to be observed by them’. The issue concerned corruption and places. BACK

[12] An abbreviation of the Latin phrase, ‘Quos Jupiter perdere vult prius dementat’. This translates as ‘those whom he wants to destroy, Jupiter first deprives of their reason’. BACK

[13] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[14] Southey’s disparaging term for the noisy MPs in the House of Commons. Tantara-rara, Rogues All was the title of a 1786 play by John O’Keeffe (1747–1833; DNB); see The Dramatic Works of John O’Keeffe Esq., 4 vols (London, 1798), III, pp. 349–90. ‘Tantara-rara, Fools All Fools All’ was also a popular song from Henry Fielding’s (1707–1754; DNB) play The Lottery (1732). BACK

[15] Thomas Malthus (1766–1834; DNB) had argued that, since population increase tended to exceed the expansion of food supply, ‘moral restraint’ – abstinence from procreation – was called for. Southey had recently favourably reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1806, 5 (1807), 607–615, an attack on Malthus: Thomas Jarrold (1770–1853; DNB), Dissertations on Man, Philosophical, Physiological and Political; in Answer to Mr. Malthus’s ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ (1806). BACK

Places mentioned

Holland House (mentioned 1 time)


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