966. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 18 July 1804

966. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 18 July 1804 ⁠* 

July 18.

Dear Rickman

I did more business than I expected at Richmond. John May took me to see a house very near him, of which we obtained the refusal, & which I shall write to secure. it will not be untenanted before November. of course not vacant for me before Xmas. this was very fortunate – I shall rejoice to cast anchor at last. [1] Danvers took me by water to Brentford, & in consequence we totally forgot Captain Burneys direction in Kew Road. [2]  he however is not a man to be offended & will not be displeased that we escaped a long walk in the dust & sunshine. I will send up the old Navigation book & the Spanish Account of Sir Francis Drake [3]  by Tobin when he goes.

An event! George the Second has – as Danvers calls it – signed my pardon. he writes me that his mental derangement is over. that the disagreable between is us not worth remembering, & that he shall be glad to shake hands with me. – & he says his conduct is all of a piece – upon my soul he says true. poor fellow if he would but work now that I have this Paternoster-patronage [4]  to dispose of – but to set him about any one thing in the world would be to have tenfold more trouble than if I did it myself, because it must be beat into his head first, & out of his head afterwards.

It does me good to contemplate my campaign against the spiders. [5]  & to think of the Resurrection of Jokes which I shall bring about, & the good old gentlemen whom I shall praise to their hearts desire. a good deal of the more laborious work has been done by various compilers – more than one at first supposes. all hills look steep at a distance – & all work seems difficult when a man thinks about it lazily. I shall have a bundle of scraps ready before our removal to Richmond. you prophesied very truly about the progressive speed of publication when the ship is once afloat she will go on fairly before the wind. At present I am writing about this business to raise recruits & thinking of it, & manuring for it, & going steadily on with Portugal. [6] 

In Ritsons glossary to the Metrical Romances he derives Admiral from Admyrold or Amerayle, a corrupt title given by some ancient historians to the Saracen Kings. [7]  the original Arabic he says is Ameer al omrah, Prince of the Princes. he must be wrong. [8]  I have seen the title applied to a Saracen in Romance, but never in Spani[MS torn] history, where of course, if of Moorish origin, it would be to be found. the Almirante is always the commander of the Xtian fleet there, & seems to have been an hereditary office. what is remarkable enough is that the families who held it both in Castile & Portugal in the 14th century were Genoese. – I was accurate in my assertion to that miserable Stoddart [9]  about the letters of Ulphilas. [10]  the public use of them was abolished by Alonso 6 at the same time that he established the Romish instead of the Muzarabic liturgy about 1080. [11]  there can be no doubt that the alphabet que D. Golfidas Obispo de los Godos fallo premeramente, means the characters invented by Bishop Ulphilas  [12]  – the only consolation a man feels in disputing with that babbler is the certainty that he must be in the right when Stoddart contradicts him.

I have written to Burton to have the books sent. [13] 

That Opus Majus [14]  of the Grand Parleur upon the Records will be of very great service to me. I am puzzled how to manage about MSS. that is who to employ upon them, for my eyes are too weak, & my time worth too much. Ritson [15]  would be the man if he can be made any ways practicable as the phrase is. the General in Chief will have enough to do without pioneering or working in the trenches.

Remember me to your Aunt to whom as well as to you I feel myself much indebted. Edith desires to be remembered. she & the young one are going on well – but Miss is the Mistress.

God bless you.


Monday July 18. 1804.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ July 18./ 1804
MS: Huntington Library, RS 61. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey did not move to Richmond. BACK

[2] Burney had separated from his wife and had set up house, from 1798–1803, with his half-sister Sarah Burney (1772–1844). He returned to his wife in 1803, where Southey subsequently visited him at his home in James Street, Westminster. BACK

[3] Southey was sending books to help Burney in his ongoing Chronological History. The ‘old Navigation book’ may have been Martin Cortes (1532–1589), The Arte of Navigation, tr. R. Eden (1561) or Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Navigatione e Viaggi (1556–1588). Both works are listed in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, as nos 890 and 2382 respectively. Spanish accounts of Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596; DNB) included Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559–1625), Historia General del Mundo (1606) and Bartolomé Leonardo de Argensola (1562–1631), Conquista de las Islas Malucas (1609). The sale catalogue of Southey’s library shows that he owned the former, no. 3562. BACK

[4] Work for Southey’s publishers Longman and Rees of Paternoster Row, St Paul’s Churchyard, London. BACK

[5] Work on the project that Southey undertook with Grosvenor Bedford and published with Longman in 1807 as Specimens of the Later English Poets. BACK

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

[7] Joseph Ritson (1752–1803; DNB), Ancient Engleish Metrical Romanceës, 3 vols (London, 1802), III, p. 359. BACK

[8] Ritson was nearly correct. The word was brought to Europe by the Crusaders from the Arabic ‘amir-al- مير الـ’, meaning ‘commander of the’. In Arabic ‘amir-al-bahr أمير البحر’, means ‘commander of the sea’. BACK

[9] Sir John Stoddart (1773–1856; DNB), brother-in-law, from 1808 of William Hazlitt (1778–1830; DNB) and from 1803 to 1807 the king’s and the admiralty’s advocate at Malta, in which capacity he was an associate of Coleridge. Later he was the editor of The Times and The New Times, in which capacity he was satirised, alongside Southey, by William Hone, in A Slap at Slop (1821). BACK

[10] Ulphilas, the Apostle of the Goths (313–383) was born into a Cappodocian family that had been taken captive by the Goths. Ulphilas converted his captors to Christianity, translating the Bible into the Goths’ language, using a new alphabet, a combination of Greek and Runic letters to do so. BACK

[11] The Mozarabic rite was the form of worship practised in Andalucia by Christians under Moorish, Islamic, rule, until Alfonso VI of Castile (1040–1109) conquered Toledo in 1085, after which it was replaced by the Roman rite, with the exception of six parishes in the city. BACK

[12] Southey is rehearsing the history (from Florian de Ocampo (1499?–1555?), Coronica General de Espana, con las Antiguedades de las Ciudades de Espanae Opusculas de Ambrosio de Morales (1791–1793) of the Council of Leon (1020) at which Alfonso ordered the scribes to desist from using the Toledan mode of writing invented by Don Golfidas, the famous bishop of the Goths. Southey interprets Golfidas’s script as being that invented by Ulphilas. BACK

[13] Southey had left boxes of books with Biddlecombe at Burton. BACK

[14] Meaning ‘major work’. BACK

[15] See note 7. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)
Rees, Owen (1770–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Burney, James (1750–1821) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)


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