2729. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 28 February 1816]

2729. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 28 February 1816]⁠* 

My dear R.

Your arguments are valid against the cuirass [1]  for him whose weapon is the broad-sword; but for infantry it should seem good, as the best defence against the bayonet, & in no way impeding the use of it. Good use was made of the sword when men were cased like lobsters, [2]  – it only requires a different one.

I delay some ready manuscript in order at your suggestion to insert something about Gemappe, [3]  & to make perhaps some other additions. – Chaucer unluckily was not Laureate, – the office had not been transplanted from Italy in his days, – when indeed it had not but just originated. [4] 



* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 28 FE 28/ 1816
MS: Huntington Library, RS 269. ALS; 2p.
Endorsement: Febry 1816
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The cuirass is an armoured breastplate and backplate, which was worn by French troops but not by British soldiers at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. Southey had argued at length for the value of defensive armour, including the cuirass, in his account of the battle in his ‘Life of Wellington’, Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526 (509). BACK

[2] Early modern armour with overlapping plates, rather like the shell of a lobster. BACK

[3] A brief cavalry skirmish occurred at Genappe on 17 June 1815, the day before the Battle of Waterloo. Southey mentioned the place in The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 4, stanza 24, line 1 and note. BACK

[4] Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343–1400; DNB), poet and author of The Canterbury Tales. The classical tradition of crowning a great poet with laurel leaves was first revived in Italy for Albertino Mussato (1261–1329) in 1315. In The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), ‘Proem’, stanza 24, Southey established his credentials as national poet by invoking previous Poets Laureate. BACK