3229. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [1 January 1819]

3229. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [1 January 1819] ⁠* 

My dear R.

Many happy new years to you & yours, & may you go on well however the world goes; – go as it may, it is some satisfaction to think that it will not be the worse for any thing that you & I have done in it. And it is to be hoped that our work is not done yet. I have a strong hope that something may be effected in our old scheme about the reformed Convents, [1]  – & that would be as great a step towards amending the condition of educated women, as the establishment of Saving Banks has been for bettering the state of the lower classes. [2] 

You see I am making good way with Brazil. – three chapters more will bring it to a close & I shall not take my hand from the plough till it has reached the last furrow [3] 

Our house is too quiet. Sara & Edith & Mrs Coleridge are gone to spend a fortnight at Wordsworths.

I am reading Coxes Memoirs of Marlborough, [4]  – by far the best of his books. Marlborough [5]  appears to more advantage in all respects the more he is known. – This reading is not gratuitous, for I am to review the book.

Longman sent me Mullers Universal History. [6]  A surprizing work, – tho I found him inaccurate in knowledge & in views in the xxx points where I am competent to judge. – Have you seen Fearons Sketches of America? [7]  It is very amusing to see a man who hates all the institutions of his own country, compelled to own that every thing is worse in America, & groan while he makes the confession, – too honest to conceal the truth, & yet bringing it up, as if it were got at by means of emetic tartar, sorely against his stomach. I wish I were not too busy to write a careful review of this book.

Did I tell you concerning Morris Birbeck [8]  that he sunk 8000 £ by a speculation in soap, – & was Lord Onslows tenant, which said Lord O, indited upon him this epigram,

Had you ta’en less delight in
Political writing
Nor to vain speculations given scope,
You’d have paid me your rent,
Your time better spent,
And besides, – wash’d yon hands of the soap. [9] 


* MS: Huntington Library, RS 363. AL; 3p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 333–334 [in part; misdated 1 January 1818].
Dating note: Dating from content. BACK

[1] Southey’s review of Thomas Fosbrooke (1770–1842; DNB), British Monachism; or, Manners and Customs of the Monks and Nuns of England (1817), Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102, dealt extensively with the need for communities to provide support for single women (90–102). In particular (96–101), it praised the work of Lady Isabella Lettice King (1772–1845; DNB), who founded the Ladies’ Association at Bailbrook House, near Bath, in June 1816. This provided a home for orphaned gentlewomen with no income. BACK

[2] The first savings bank, which accepted and paid interest on small cash deposits, was instituted by Henry Duncan (1774–1846; DNB) in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire in 1810, and the movement spread rapidly. BACK

[3] Chapters 42–44 History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 603–879 were the last three chapters of this work. However, Southey was still working on Chapter 39, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 442–504. BACK

[4] Southey’s review of the second edition of William Coxe, Memoirs of John Duke of Marlborough, with his Original Correspondence; Collected from the Family Records at Blenheim, and Other Authentic Sources. Illustrated with Portraits, Maps, and Military Plans (1818–1819) appeared in Quarterly Review, 23 (May 1820), 1–73. BACK

[5] John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722; DNB), soldier and politician. BACK

[6] Johannes von Müller (1752–1809), An Universal History: in Twenty-Four Books, Translated from the German (1818), no. 2010 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The book was published by Longman. BACK

[7] Henry Bradshaw Fearon (c. 1793–1842), Sketches of America. A Narrative of a Journey of Five Thousand Miles Through the Eastern and Western States of America (1818). Fearon was a Unitarian and a radical, but was not uncritical of America. His book was reviewed, vituperatively, by John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB) in Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 124–167. BACK

[8] William Gifford had reviewed (in a very hostile fashion), in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 54–78, the recent writings of Morris Birkbeck (1764–1825; DNB). Birkbeck came from a Quaker family based in Westmorland and was a radical. Leaving his farm, he travelled to France and published Notes on a Journey through France (1814). In 1817 he emigrated to Illinois, bought public land there and in 1818 established a new town—Wanborough. His Notes on a Journey in America from the Coast of Virginia to the Territory of Illinois (1817), a book designed to inform would-be emigrants, and notable for its radical views, went through eleven editions in two years. However, Birkbeck faced claims that he had emigrated to America without settling his obligations as a tenant of an estate at Wanborough, Surrey, which he leased from George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow (1731–1814; DNB). BACK

[9] Southey sent this anecdote and rhyme to John Murray on 18 December 1818, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Five, Letter 3220, and they were incorporated into a note to John Barrow’s review of Henry Bradshaw Fearon, Sketches of America. A Narrative of a Journey of Five Thousand Miles Through the Eastern and Western States of America (1818), Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 124–167 (161–162). BACK

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