1837. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 7 December 1810

1837. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 7 December 1810 ⁠* 

Dec. 7. 1810.

My dear Rickman

Concerning the good custom of Bride-wains [1]  the arrangement you propose is not practicable, – it having long been understood that the opera omnia [2]  were delayed till my journey to London, when I might have them bound to my own taste, – a present thereof to Mrs H. Southey, which was ordered at hap-hazard not having altogether pleased me. There is also another objection quoad [3]  the proposed mode of package, – for the Operas are to grow, I trust, – & the case would not. – But that you may not think I mean to divert you from a good purpose I will mention that Mrs T.S. has not got Wordsworths poems, [4]  – & I have no doubt she would be much gratified in receiving them from you. She goes in a few days to her fathers (Mr Castle) [5]  at Durham, & there they should be directed.

The Malaga & Santona xxx expeditions seem both to have failed from mismanagement. In the former Lord B– was duped by a stratagem against which he ought to have been on his guard; [6]  – for the second bad weather & Spanish sea manship or rather no-seamanship sufficiently account. [7]  Doyles Catalonian expedition of the same kind was uniformly successful. [8] 

I am well pleased with Lord Wellingtons conduct; – if it appears doubtful in any thing it is in not having defended the passage of the Zezere from the side of Abrantes. Do you believe that string of questions & answers? To me it seems very suspicious, – I cannot conceive why the <messenger> should be provided in writing with xxxxxx information, every part of which he might have delivered just as well by word of mouth, – for one cannot suppose such a blockhead was sent that it was necessary he should con his lesson the whole way. – Massena [9]  I think is retreating across the Zezere, & probably cross the Tagus if he can effect the passage. In falling back to Santarem merely to be nearer his reinforcements there could be no possible advantage, – especially after he had entrenched himself strongly in his former position. Want of provisions, hopelessness of beating the English if he attacked them, & fear of being attacked himself, – these explain his movements satisfactorily to me. They talk of reinforcements from the side of Andalusia, – if any considerable force is detached the siege of Cadiz must be raised, & Seville will not improbably be recovered. On the whole things look well. The Portugueze army will every day improve. In Spain I trust the Cortes & Blake [10]  who has now the power & must have the knowledge – will put their army on the right footing – that is that they will do as the French did, neglect rank altogether in their promotions, & pick out <raise> officers & generals from the ranks, as fast as men can be found to merit promotion command.

Do not forget Malthus & the Poor Laws, [11] – subjects which hang together. The Edinburgh Review which seems destined to be wrong upon every subject that requires either sound knowledge, or decent <good> feeling, has just been taking up the cause of this doughty philosophicide. [12]  There cannot be a better opportunity of knocking down two dodos with one stone.

Remember me to Mrs R. I am truly glad to hear of her well-doing. You & I are got into the female-line. [13] 

Carlisle sent me a not-very-wise message the other day that Lord Holland was certainly to be prime-minister, he knew it to be so &c –. upon which you may guess what sort of reliance I should have placed, even if he had known also that it was certain the King [14]  would not recover: – of Ld Grenvilles disposition as to war or peace all I know is that when Wynn wrote to me of the Register he said he excused my Spanish fever; – in reply to which <this> I talked of his French ague. [15]  – We have only to fight on, & the end must be in our favour.

I am getting on with the vile business of the D of York. [16]  The channels of communication which H. Robinson has opened to me make me throw the whole of the peninsular affairs together at the end of the volume, – in order to gain time for communications from Cadiz & from Col. Carol. [17] 

My advertisement for books has brought me a Brazilian grammar [18]  – there is one thing in it truly Tupinamban, – an interjection expressive of joy at the sufferings of another. The language is excellently barbarous. I shall very shortly refresh myself from these home-politics by a run in Brazil. – it is a sort of intellectual change of air, which gives new strength & keener appetite.

About the Annual Accounts [19]  – I have as decided a no-genius for these things as you have an aptitude for them. The utmost I can do in xxxxxx <upon> finance is to follow the debates closely, without attempting even to form an opinion about them. If you send me any Being incapable, the best thing is to be sensible of that incapacity. So if you send me any thing let it be in such a shape that I have only to transcribe, – to understand is out of my power.

God bless you



* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 7 Decr. 1810 –
MS: Huntington Library, RS 157. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The waggon in which a bride was driven to her new home. Also, the tradition by which a newly-wed poor couple drove around their village collecting small sums of money or articles of furniture towards their new home. BACK

[2] The ‘complete works’ of Southey. BACK

[3] ‘with respect to’. BACK

[4] Probably Wordsworth’s Poems in Two Volumes (1807). BACK

[5] Samuel Castle (d. 1815), a solicitor in County Durham, where he was Clerk of the Crown and held various legal appointments in the Bishop of Durham’s household. BACK

[6] Andrew Thomas Blayney, 11th Baron Blayney (1770–1834; DNB), was defeated and captured when he attacked Fuengirola in October 1810, using a mixed force of British, Spanish, German, Italian and Polish soldiers. Some of these troops were formerly in the service of the French and re-deserted to their old allegiance. BACK

[7] A party of British marines and Spanish troops had briefly occupied the Spanish port of Santona in July 1810, but withdrew when attacked by French forces. BACK

[8] Sir Charles William Doyle (1770–1842; DNB), British liaison officer to Spanish forces in Catalonia 1809–1811. He played an important role in the allied victory at La Bisbal, 14 September 1810. BACK

[9] The French Marshal André Massena (1758–1817), one of the commanders of the invasion of Portugal in 1810. BACK

[10] Joaquin Blake y Joyes (1759–1827), Spanish general who was constructing a General Staff for the scattered Spanish armies. He was also a member of the Council of Regency. BACK

[11] The political economist Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834; DNB). Southey was encouraging Rickman to write about the Poor Laws. It was a subject Southey too pursued. The first of a series of Southeyan articles on the poor appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. It was possible co-authored with John Rickman and was intended as ‘an attack upon Malthus’, amongst others; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 5 January 1813, Letter 2199. BACK

[12] See, for instance, Edinburgh Review, 16 (August 1810), 464–476. BACK

[13] Rickman and Southey had both fathered more daughters than sons. Rickman’s marriage eventually produced three daughters and one son; Southey’s six daughters and two sons. BACK

[14] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). His mental health had collapsed again in October 1810 and he was incapable of conducting public business. BACK

[15] See Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 November 1810, Letter 1826. BACK

[16] In 1809, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB) had been forced to resign as commander-in-chief of the British army in the wake of allegations that he had profited from office trafficking. After a lengthy investigation, the charges were found to be unproven. It had, however, become apparent that his former mistress Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB) had received money from individuals keen for her to use her influence with the Duke, and that the Duke himself had known of her actions. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 109–301. BACK

[17] i.e. from the seat of the Spanish Junta in Cadiz; and from William Parker Carrol (1776–1842), liaison officer between the British and Spanish forces. He was later promoted to Major-General and Field Marshal in the Spanish Army. BACK

[18] An edition from 1795 of Luiz Figueira (1573–1643), Arte de Grammatica da Lingua Brasilica (1687), no. 3396 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey had been lent a copy of this edition by the merchant Thomas Kinder (c. 1781–1846), who had lived in South America 1808–1810. Southey had not asked for this book in his ‘advertisement’, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, p. vi. It was a grammar of the Tupi langauage, widely spoken in coastal regions of Brazil when the Portuguese arrived in the early sixteenth century. BACK

[19] The detailed information on state finances required by Southey for his section of the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809. Rickman supplied the necessary figures and they appeared in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 2.1 (1811), ‘Appendix’, i–viii. BACK