2442. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 15 June 1814

2442. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 15 June 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. July <June> 15. 1814

My dear Rickman

It came into my head that it might peradventure be a fit thing for the P. L. to write certain verses upon the Peace & the Personages who are now dragging all London after their horses heels. I was very well inclined to put this thought out of my head, if some of the very few persons whom I see here had not shown me by their enquiries that it would come into other heads as well as mine. The subjects for their kind were the best possible, – so I fell to in good earnest, & have written three odes in Thalaban verse. [1]  The Carmen [2]  was an oration in rhyme. These are odes without rhyme, – but in manner & matter altogether lyric. I shall have no time even to correct the press: – this packet for Bedford contains an insertion of a few lines for one of them, which I hope will not be too late. [3]  On Monday or Tuesday, a copy I hope will be duly delivered at your door. – I have written to Croker [4]  saying that it may be proper to present copies to the persons beöded (you will remember analogous verbs ap as applied to Ditton & wicked Will Whiston [5] ) – or that such a presentation might be improper, & that in my ignorance of such things I requested him to act for me. Copies should be sent to him, & I relied upon him to dispose of them as he should judge fitting. This was said in proper phrase, & I dare say he will have no objection to the commission.

I am in some trouble about my good correspondent D Manuel Abella. A man of letters, & a staunch friend of the old Cortes, tho no admirer of the head-over-heels activity of the new ones, [6]  I think he is in some danger of coming under a proscription which seems to make little distinction of persons. That Ferdinand & the Constitution could long coexist was not possible; – the King was a mere log, & must soon have been treated as such. [7]  But he has gone vilely to work, & tho I will not condemn him in toto till it be seen what sort of constitution he means to give to the people (encore un constitution!) I very much fear that the old system of favouritism will return, & that abominations of every kind will be restored as well as the Inquisition; [8]  – which blessed Office you see has been reestablished in compliance with the popular cry as a boon! Was it not old Frederic who upon some theological dispute about Purgatory & Hell, said he gave free liberty to all his subjects to be damned eternally who liked it? [9]  This gracious permission could do no harm, – but a nation cannot quite xx so innocently be indulged with a Holy Office.

An officer of Suchets army, who served at the siege of Tarragona, [10]  & was afterwards taken by Eroles, [11]  was brought here last week by Wordsworth, to whom he had letters of recommendation from France. A young man, & apparently one of the best of the Frenchmen. [12]  He had grace enough to acknowledge that the Spanish business was an unjust war – which he said all the officers knew, & he amused me by complaining that the Spaniards were very hard-hearted: to which I replied that they had not invited him & his countrymen. He said “they did make beautiful defence” – & I gathered from him some information upon points of consequence.

Two or three weeks will compleat my long poem, [13]  & I am longing then to have my Brazil in the press [14]  – the next main work. – What will you <do> with this mischievous Princess? [15] 

I have sent to the Courier a doggrel march to Moscow [16]  written months ago to amuse the children, & chiefly upon the provocation of one irresistible rhyme, – which is not to be printed. I give you the supprest stanza, for I am sure if you happen to see the song, you will cry wonder how such a hit should have been mist

The Emperor Nap he talked so loud
That he frightened Mr Roscoe, –
John Bull he cries, if you’ll be wise
Ask the Emperor Nap if he will please
To grant you peace upon your knees,
Because he’s going to Moscow!
He’ll make all the Poles come out of their holes.
And eat the Prussians & beat the Russians –
The fields are green, & the sky is blue
Morbleu! Parbleu!
He’ll certainly get to Moscow!

There is some <good> doggrel in the rest, & Morbleu &c – is the choru burthen of the song.

Remember me to Mrs R.

Yrs most truly


Is there no chance of your visiting your ‘roads & bridges’ [17]  this summer, & leaving Mrs R. here on your way?


* Endorsement: RS./ 15 June 1814
MS: Huntington Library, RS 226. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 78–80 [in part; dated 16 June 1814]. BACK

[1] i.e. in the verse form used in Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). The three odes were to George, Prince Regent (1762–1830; Prince Regent 1811–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1820–1830; DNB); Alexander I (1777–1825; Emperor of Russia 1801–1825); Frederick William III (1770–1840; King of Prussia 1797–1840). They were published in book form as Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (1814). BACK

[2] Carmen Triumphale (1814). BACK

[3] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 June [1814], Letter 2441. BACK

[4] See Southey to John Wilson Croker, 14 June 1814, Letter 2440. BACK

[5] Jonathan Swift (1667–1745; DNB), ‘Ode for Musick’ (1715), lines 5–8: ‘So Ditton and Whiston/ May both be be-pst on; / And Whiston and Ditton/ May both be besh-t on’; referring to Humphry Ditton (1675–1715; DNB) and William Whiston (1667–1752; DNB), mathematicians who produced an impractical solution to the problem of determining longitude at sea. BACK

[6] i.e. of the old form of Cortes that had existed in Castile, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Navarre, consisting of three estates of clergy, nobles and cities; rather than the new Cortes elected in 1810, which represented all of Spain (and some of the colonies) and sat as one chamber. BACK

[7] Ferdinand VII (1784–1833; King of Spain, 1808, 1813–1833) abolished the liberal Constitution of 1812 on 4 May 1814 and imprisoned leading liberals on 10 May. He promised to call a traditional Cortes of three estates, but never did so and ruled absolutely. BACK

[8] Ferdinand VII also restored the Inquisition in 1814. It was permanently abolished in 1834. BACK

[9] Frederick II, ‘the Great’ (1712–1786; King of Prussia 1740–1786). On receiving a plea to suspend a clergyman who did not believe in the eternal damnation of souls, he was said to have replied, ‘I have considered the petition, and do hereby give my royal permission to all my loyal subjects to be damned to all eternity, if they choose it; but I do positively forbid their quarrelling with their neighbours, who are not willing to keep their company so long.’ BACK

[10] The siege of Tarragona, 5 May-29 June 1811, after which a large French force finally captured the port from a Spanish Army. BACK

[11] Joaquin Cuevas Ibanez y de Valonga, Baron de Eroles (1784–1825), leader of a guerrilla army called ‘the Army of the Faithful’ in Catalonia. BACK

[12] The French officer was Eustace Baudouin (b. c. 1792). He served in the army of Louis Gabriel Suchet, 1st Duc d’Albufera (1770–1826), Marshal of France, saw action at the first siege of Tarragona, 1811 and in the same year was captured by Eroles. Baudouin spent time in Britain as a prisoner of war, and at one point was held at Oswestry, in Shropshire. On his release, he visited the Wordsworths before returning to France. Baudouin had made contact with Wordsworth in 1812 via mutual acquaintances: his brother was engaged to Caroline (1792–1862), daughter of Wordsworth and Annette Vallon (1766–1841). Caroline and Jean Baptiste Baudouin (b. c. 1780) married in February 1816. Southey travelled to France and visited them and their infant daughter in 1817, when he also renewed his acquaintance with Eustace Baudouin; see Southey to Edith Southey, 17 May 1817. BACK

[13] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[14] The second volume of the History of Brazil, published in 1817. BACK

[15] Either a reference to the Prince Regent’s only child Charlotte, who had broken off her engagement to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, William (1792–1849; King of the Netherlands 1840–1849), the husband selected for her by her father and his advisers. In his official capacity as Poet Laureate, Southey had been planning a poem on the marriage; or, to Charlotte’s mother, Princess Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel (1768–1821; DNB). BACK

[16] The ‘March to Moscow’ appeared in the Courier, 23 June 1814. BACK

[17] Rickman was Secretary to the Parliamentary Commission, set up in 1803, on the making of roads and bridges in Scotland. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)