3052. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 17 December 1817]

3052. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 17 December 1817] ⁠* 

My dear R.

I get on slowly with the paper upon the Poor Laws, [1]  – feeling the difficulty of dressing up with a certain quantity of garnish, a small portion of good matter which might better be stated in two or three pages than in as many sheets, if it pleased the Gods. – You may well imagine how much I was astonished at the Malthusian article in the last number. [2]  I certainly shall not abstain from touching upon that same worthy author in this, & if what I say should be expunged, it will terminate my connection with the Q.R.

In the way of miscellaneous reading I have just finished Halls Chronicle. [3]  Among the notanda are a Spencean insurrection in Henry the sixths time, [4]  & a second case of stone ships for stopping up the harbour of Calais, – there was a third in Edward sixths reign. [5]  Is not this marvellous!

Remember us to Mrs R. – As yet we have had no snow in the valley. If the Courier account about the north pole [6]  be true, it is the best news that has been heard in the physical world since the world began. During the whole month of May we had piercing winds from the W. & S.W. quite as cold as those from the E. & N.E. & I repeatedly said to my fellow travellers that there was no other way of accounting for it than by supposing that large masses of ice were floating in that direction. We heard of such afterwards in the newspapers as seen by various ships. [7]  And now it appears that whalers have got as far as 84, the sea open, & no ice in sight! – Some earthquake or volcano must have broken it up, & opened the coast of East Greenland. [8] 

God bless you



* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: RS./ 17–2- Decr. 1817
MS: Huntington Library, RS 323. ALS; 3p.
Dating note: Dating from endorsement. BACK

[1] Southey was working towards the articles ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308, and ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118. BACK

[2] An article by John Bird Sumner (1780–1862; DNB), ‘Malthus on Population’, in Quarterly Review, 17 (July 1817), 369–403, reviewing a new edition of Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), Essay on the Principle of Population (1817) was far less critical than Southey was wont to be of Malthus’s theories. Southey, who had published a hostile review of Malthus’s Essay as early as Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 292–301, climbed down from this threat to sever his connection with the Quarterly Review. BACK

[3] Edward Hall or Halle (1497–1547; DNB), The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke (1542). The chronicle had been published in a new edition, Hall’s Chronicle, Containing the History of England During the Reign of Henry IV and the Succeeding Monarchs to the End of the Reign of Henry VIII (1809). BACK

[4] Hall’s Chronicle, Containing the History of England During the Reign of Henry IV and the Succeeding Monarchs to the End of the Reign of Henry VIII (London, 1809), p. 166. The Sharpe Uprising of 1430 centred on a weaver and bailiff of Abingdon, William Mandeville (d. 1430), who took the name Jack Sharpe. Very little is known about this incident. It occurred in the reign of Henry VI (1421–1471; King of England 1422–1461, 1470–1471; DNB) and Southey compares its purpose to that of the followers of Thomas Spence (1750–1814; DNB). BACK

[5] The use of ships laden with stone for this purpose is discussed in Hall’s Chronicle (London, 1809), p. 658, including an occasion in the reign of Edward VI (1537–1553; King of England 1547–1553; DNB). Southey had first noticed the use of ‘stone ships’ in Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores, 2 vols (London, 1812), II, pp. 31–32. BACK

[6] This appeared in the Courier, 22 November 1817. BACK

[7] See, Morning Chronicle, 4 October 1817, for an account of unusual amounts of ice in the North Atlantic. BACK

[8] Reports of events in the Arctic were widespread in British newspapers; see, for example, Morning Chronicle, 22 November 1817, which coincides closely with Southey’s information. BACK

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