3205. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 6 November 1818

3205. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 6 November 1818⁠* 

My dear R.

Paul – Whitbread – Romilly – three fit subjects cases worthy of being consigned to posterity in the shape of a Triad. [1]  – This I think must have been a case of brain fever: – tho it agrees with his habitual intemperance of mind. – I heard of some person who happened to follow his children [2]  somewhere in the street (I believe at a watering place), & overheard the one talking to the other about something which “the naughty Prince” [3]  had done. Brougham probably will start for Westminster, – but let the Constables secure fair play at the hustings & Maxwell will beat him there by plain honest English speaking, – whatever he may do upon the poll. [4] 

I have had a guest (Hare Townsends [5]  son) who has done me the good & the evil of making me literally somewhat idle for a month, & shaken me up by a little exercise, tho I should have had much more if he had been strong enough to walk over the mountains. However I made good use of the odds & ends of time, – & now being once more left to myself, I am working vigorously. To night I trouble you with copy for Strahan, [6]  – & tomorrow I expect to have a portion of Brazil [7]  ready; – some of the next proofs will show that the Spaniards of Paraguay & the Plata (the present heroes of independence! God help us!) are much greater brutes & savages, than the worst of the native tribes. [8] 

The inclosed letter is a matter of compassion, – a medical case of a very uncommon kind, – an internal enlargement of the parotid glands on both sides, – occasioning fever, thirst & difficulty of xxxxxx breathing. I fear it is incurable, – but it is doing the poor patient some good to give her the hope of relief which better advice than a village can afford may seem to offer her. [9] 

Gifford you see allowed me my blow at the Malthusians in the last number. [10]  But how preposterous is it for the Review to be thus saying & unsaying! – I am speaking a word about pictures for the new churches, – & saying a good deal about cemeteries. [11] 

Remember us to Mrs R.

God bless you


Keswick. 6 Nov. 1818


* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
MS: Huntington Library, RS 357. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Sir Samuel Romilly (1757–1818; DNB), Whig MP and legal reformer had cut his own throat on 2 November 1818. Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB), a leading Whig, and particular bête noire of Southey’s, had cut his throat on 6 July 1815. James Paull (1770–1808; DNB), MP for Newport, Isle of Wight 1805–1807 and critic of Lord Wellesley’s administration in India, cut his throat on 15 April 1808. Triads, which grouped items in threes, were rhetorical forms used by Welsh bards. BACK

[2] Romilly had seven children: Sophia (d. 1879); William (1798–1855); John, later 1st Lord Romilly (1802–1874); Edward (1804–1870); Henry (1804–1884); Charles (1808–1887); and Frederick (1810–1887). BACK

[3] This could refer to any one of the brothers: the Prince Regent; Frederick, Duke of York (1763-1827; DNB), William, Duke of Clarence (1765–1837; King of the United Kingdom 1830–1837; DNB); Edward, Duke of Kent (1767–1820; DNB); Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1771–1851; DNB); Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773–1843; DNB); or Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (1774–1850; DNB). BACK

[4] Romilly’s death necessitated a by-election in the constituency of Westminster. At the general election in 1818 Sir Murray Maxwell (1775–1831; DNB), a naval hero, had stood as a pro-ministerial candidate. He was financially ruined and also severely injured by a paving slab thrown from the crowd. He did not contest the subsequent by-election in 1819 and nor did Brougham. BACK

[5] Henry Hare Townsend (1765–1827), wealthy landowner and radical. BACK

[6] Andrew Strahan (1749–1831; DNB), wealthy printer and MP. His firm printed Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[7] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[8] Chapter 39, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 442–504, dealt with the ‘War of the Seven Reductions’ in 1756 in which the Spanish and Portuguese armies destroyed seven Jesuit settlements that refused to relocate from the east to the west bank of the Uruguay River. The settlers of Paraguay and Argentina were regarded as ‘heroes’ because of their ongoing struggle for independence from Spain. BACK

[9] The identity of this patient is unknown. BACK

[10] Southey criticised the arguments of Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), though not by name, in ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118. In particular, he declared ‘Away then with all silly theorems about population, – the whole battology of statistics, “with many words making nothing understood.” Population cannot be discouraged, and must not be interfered with by legislative regulations – you might as well attempt to regulate the seasons. The one thing needful is to give the lower classes that knowledge and those principles which shall make them understand that moral restraint is a duty, and that their duty and their interest are the same’ (96–97). This contradicted the arguments in Quarterly Review, 17 (July 1817), 369–403, which carried a review by John Bird Sumner (1780–1862; DNB), entitled ‘Malthus on Population’ and far more favourable to the ideas of Malthus on poverty and population increase than Southey’s opinions. BACK

[11] Southey discussed churches in Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591, in a review of Haydon’s New Churches, Considered with Respect to the Opportunities they Offer for the Encouragement of Painting (1818). He dealt with cemeteries in ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’, Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–398. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)