3420. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 18 January 1820]

3420. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 18 January 1820] ⁠* 

My dear R.

Thank you for the various Bills. [1]  They will do something, & afford good foundation for something more efficient when it is wanted, – or rather when more effective hands shall be at the helm.

I am sorry for the fire at New Lanark, [2]  & not pleased at the ground which was taken for scouting the poor Projector in Parliament. [3]  It looked too much like seeking for an excuse to get rid of the motion instead of rejecting it upon broader grounds; – for if the want of religion were all, that might surely be supplied when by the parties who direct the experiment to be made. Not that the question is fit for Parliament. But I should like well to see a wealthy parish form such an establishment for its paupers

It is a good thing to see that the necessity for colonization seems now to be admitted as undeniable. [4]  I remember when Lord Liverpool protested against any such policy, & held up America as a warning. [5]  This too is a step gained. – I shall take the first opportunity of xxxxxx recommending Irish Catholic Emigrants to go to Brazil. We might afford the K of Portugal [6]  as many cargos of that live stock as he would chuse to send for: & it would be a delightful place for them, the government being so laineant, as an Irish Gentleman once said of the Papal Government, that you may kill a man in the streets, & nobody takes the laist notice of it. [7]  A sort of Paradise this for a wild Irishman, especially too as it is the native land of the potatoe, & there is no law against distillation.

Remember me to Mrs R. & the children.

God bless you


Mr Eastons [8]  letter is indeed a curious proof of the proficiency of the learned Gaelics in their own language.


* Endorsements: Fr/ RS./ Jany 1820; Jany <30> 1820
MS: Huntington Library, RS 386. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 174–175 [in part].
Dating note: Dating from content; this letter is a reply to one sent by Rickman to Southey on 15 January 1820 and therefore was written c. 18 January 1820. BACK

[1] Possibly copies of the ‘Six Acts’ passed in December 1819 to curb radical agitation. BACK

[2] A major fire at New Lanark, the textile factory and model community run by Robert Owen (1771–1858; DNB), on 26 November 1819 destroyed No. 3 Mill, devoted to mule spinning. BACK

[3] Owen had been campaigning since 1817 for a scheme whereby paupers would be settled in communities on land acquired by the state or local parishes. These ideas were debated in the House of Commons on 16 December 1819, after Owen’s friend, Sir William de Crespigny, 2nd Baronet (1765–1829), MP for Southampton 1818–1826, moved to refer the matter to a Select Committee. Brougham spoke in favour of the motion, but Nicholas Vansittart (1766–1851; DNB), Chancellor of the Exchequer 1812–1823, condemned it on the grounds of Owen’s rejection of orthodox Christianity. After this opposition from the Cabinet, the motion was lost 141–16. BACK

[4] There were no fewer than six different state-aided emigration schemes in 1815–1826 to Canada and the Cape of Good Hope, including a grant of £50,000 in July 1819 to send 4,000 settlers to South Africa. However, the government was reluctant to commit large funds at a time of pressure on the budget. BACK

[5] It is not clear which speech of Lord Liverpool’s Southey is referring to here; Southey may be alluding to the Passenger Act (1803) and its subsequent amendments, which raised the price of transatlantic fares by increasing the regulations on passenger ships. BACK

[6] John VI (1767–1826; King of Portugal 1816–1826). BACK

[7] Southey heard this story from Smithson Tennant (1761–1815; DNB); see Southey to Thomas Southey, 23 May 1800, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Two, Letter 527. BACK

[8] Rickman and Southey had employed W. Easton (dates unknown) to translate a Gaelic inscription on a monument at the Well of the Seven Heads, Glengarry, that they had seen 16–18 September 1819, Journal of a Tour in Scotland, ed. Charles Harold Herford (London, 1929), pp. 200–201. BACK