1809. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 29 September 1810

1809. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 29 September 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Sept. 29. 1810.

My dear Rickman

I must begin by thanking Mrs R. for the very long list of subscribers which she has had zeal as well as goodness enough to procure. [1]  If we had a Prime Minister who set about his business with half as much spirit, Buonaparte would be beaten out of Spain before Christmas, & would cut his throat to escape hanging before Easter.

Can you procure for me the Parl. Papers about that curst Expedition to the Scheldt? [2]  – the history of which miserable business I have to collect for the Register. If you have seen the existing volume you will not have been displeased at the plain English therein used respecting Buonaparte, [3]  – I shall soon speak as plainly of his father-in-law [4]  & of Austrian business from the commencement of the Anti-Jacobine war thro all the abominations & absurdities committed by that execrable House down to its worthy alliance with Napoleon. [5]  – You past I think an ill-founded censure on Wordsworths’ pamphlett [6]  when you said it was not a practical work. I can conceive nothing so xx of equal practical importance to the philosophy which pervades it, that an reliance may be placed upon the moral nature of man; & that where there <since there> is no principle to reply upon, there can be nothing else, but what is as treacherous as a foundation of sand: witness Spain & Austria, & what has past in both countries since that pamphlett was written. The lilly-livered politicians said xx last year that the fate of the Spain was to be decided in Germany, – affairs in the peninsula were of secondary importance, regular governments & regular armies were what we had to trust to, – the old cant & nonsense of the Pittites [7]  gobbled up & regorged as crude as it had been swallowed by their xxxxxxx xxxxx x old opponents. We have now experienced the faith & Honour of a regular Government, – that is to say, of an old Despotism, – & we are still experiencing the fidelity of a determined people, who have taken arms to deliver their country, & who will never lay their arms down till that object is fully accomplished. –

This Register proves to me a very profitable concern. I believe I told you that they pay me 400 £ for the years’ work, history, – which is about half a years work. 209 £ of this first years payment I have vested in a twelfth part of the property of the work, which has been vacated for the purpose of attaching me more intimately to its interests; – for this Ballantyne gives me his bill at twelve months for 80 £, & this interest will not diminish as long as the book keeps up its sale, – which it will do I trust as long as I continue to bear the main part in it. 4000 copies are printed. the outlay has been about 2500 £. – the net profits you see 960 £. The Ballantynes find their account in their additional profits, one as printer, the other as publisher, – or in technical phrase, husband of the work.

I expect to get the second vol. off my hands by the end of February, & a few other jobs will be cleared off at xxxx xxx intermediate time. As early in the spring as may be, it is my present intention, to visit Streatham, & my friends in town. If possible I shall persuade Edith to accompany me, if <should> circumstances all permit. –

Kehama [8]  is compleated at last, – hot-presses, folders & stitchers, binders & the slow waggon from Edinburgh, – or the Leith traders, will detain him some four or five weeks, – but I think xxxx the book may <will> make its appearance in Palace Yard early in November. Tell Mrs R. that I do not by any means expect or require her to like it, – it will be quite sufficient if she wonders at it.

There has scarcely a day past in this month, in which I have not wished you had been here. We never remember so fine a season.

God bless you



* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 29 Septr. 1810
MS: Huntington Library, RS 151. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 538–540. BACK

[1] Susannah Rickman had been soliticing subscribers to an edition of the poems and letters of William Isaac Roberts, designed to benefit his surviving family members; see Southey to Susannah Rickman, [c. 26 March 1810], Letter 1766. BACK

[2] Also known as the Walcheren Campaign: an unsuccessful British expedition to the Netherlands in 1809. The plan had been to open another front in the war against Napoleon. Although there was little actual fighting, the British forces were severely depleted by a sickness quickly dubbed the ‘Walcheren Fever’. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 660–692. BACK

[3] For example, ‘The kiss of Judas Iscariot was not more treacherous than this Corsican embrace’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 250. BACK

[4] Francis I (1768–1835), Holy Roman Emperor (1792–1806) and Emperor of Austria (1804–1835). His daughter Marie-Louise (1791–1847) had married Napoleon in March 1810. BACK

[5] See chapters 24–27 of the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 575–659. Whilst Austria had been a prime mover in the wars against France since 1793, by 1810 it was actively seeking French friendship. BACK

[6] Wordsworth’s The Convention of Cintra (1809). BACK

[7] Followers of William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. BACK

[8] The Hindu romance The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)