3396. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 3 December 1819*
My dear R.
Thank you for the Parl: Procs-  & the pamphlett. Badly as I thought of the Whigs, they have on this occasion shown themselves at once greater knaves & greater blockheads than I had expected. The measures of Government are much as I expected <looked for>;  – more efficient ones might have been carried without exciting more opposition. But ministers are safe from the current charge strongest ground that could be taken against them. – Why was not all this done three years ago, when there was the same reason for it?  – The eruption will be cured, – but the body will remain diseased. Of this I am convinced that all governments which must be considered as imperfect which do not keep in their own hands the direction of public instruction, & the control of the press. This has always been required in Utopian romance. 
I have been doing my task for the Court Fiddlers, – which goes inclosed.  And there is some danger that I may lose my labour, by having done it too soon. Whenever the King dies  I must do some thing more than task verses which are fit only to be befiddled. & this present alarm has made me think about it in earnest, that I may not be wholly unprepared. This will be an inconvenient interruption, – but I have planned something, which, ni fallor  is capable of some effect, – which will be a good deal out of the common, & in which I shall have an opportunity of speaking what in Dahomy would be called strong words. 
Giffords illness I app suspect was nothing more than his constitutional want of health, – some temporary exacerbation of an habitual disease. I find Government have set on foot a weekly paper,  – they would do better to frame such laws as would put a stop to many of those already in existence. An act against Sunday newspaper would have had much of this effect.
3 Dec. 1819.
* Endorsement: 3 Dec – 1819
MS: Huntington Library, RS 380. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 161–162. BACK
 A huge radical meeting was held at Spa Fields on 2 December 1816; a group of revolutionaries had used the occasion to lead some of the crowd in an attempt to storm the Bank of England and the Tower of London. BACK
 Southey’s duty as Poet Laureate was to produce a New Year’s Ode for 1820; a copy of his ode was enclosed in this letter; see Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 December 1819, Letter 3395. The poem was later published as ‘The Warning Voice. Ode I’ in The Englishman’s Library: Comprising a Series of Historical, Biographical and National Information (London, 1824), pp. 381–383. BACK
 Dahomey was a powerful West African kingdom; ‘strong words’ were words inspired by the gods. Southey’s knowledge of the kingdom probably derived from Archibald Dalzel (1740–1811; DNB), The History of Dahomey (1793), no. 893 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK
 Southey’s three ‘Inscriptions for the Caledonian Canal’, which he had visited with Rickman in August–September 1819: ‘Inscription for a Tablet at Banavie, on the Caledonian Canal’, Friendship’s Offering. A Literary Album (London, 1826), pp. –168; and ‘At Clachnacharry’ and ‘At Fort Augustus’, The Anniversary; or, Poetry and Prose for MDCCCXXIX (London, 1829), pp. 194–197. BACK