3519. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 31 July [1820]

3519. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 31 July [1820]⁠* 

My dear R.

Thank you for your letters, & for what may properly be called “ a new way of paying old debts,” – which leaves me however more & more a debtor. [1] 

Gen: Peachy has put into my hands some Reflections on the Spirits of the Times by Burges, a Norfolk Clergyman: [2]  Somewhat Burkish in manner, but it is English Burkishness. [3]  It is a book of great ability; the writer looks the danger full in the face, & represents it without fear, or any compromisings xxx of liberality & courtesy.

My spirits are good, & you know what an effect they have upon every mans political barometer. I think the evidence against the Queen [4]  will appear so convincing, – the facts against her so damning & damnable, – that the multitude who are really at present deceived into an opinion of her innocence, will be satisfied of her guilt, in spite of their own strong prepossessions, & then a reaction will take place, violent in proportion to the zeal with which her quarrel has been taken up. – There is at least good reason to hope that some such turn may happen. The rascally press will certainly bring about its own cure one way or other; – by becoming too bad to be borne, even by our Jobish [5]  administration, – or by occasioning such an explosion as will shake the whole fabric, & make all men who have any thing to lose cry out against it.

I am working steadily, & among other things making good collections de moribus. [6]  The history of manners ought not to be separated from that of literature.

We are going on well, thank God. Cuthbert thrives as we could wish him to do.

Our best remembrances to Mrs R.

God bless you


31 July.


* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: Fr RS./ 31 July 1820
MS: Huntington Library, RS 397. ALS; 3p.
Dating note: Year from endorsement. BACK

[1] In a letter to Southey of 21 July 1820 Rickman wrote off any further contribution by Southey to the expenses of their trip to Scotland 17 August–1 October 1819, asking Southey to look on the money (about £18) he had been required to outlay in fees for his honorary Doctorate of Civil Law at Oxford, awarded 14 June 1820, as payment of the debt. Southey’s phrase probably refers to Phillip Massinger’s (1583–1640; DNB) A New Way to Pay Old Debts (c. 1625). BACK

[2] George Burges (c, 1765–1853), Reflections on the Nature and Tendency of the Present Spirit of the Times, in a Letter to the Freeholders of the County of Norfolk (1819). Burges was Vicar of Halvergate 1812–1853 and Rector of Moulton 1813–1853. BACK

[3] After the manner of Edmund Burke (1729–1797; DNB), conservative politician and philosopher, who was Anglo-Irish. BACK

[4] Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), estranged wife of George IV. He had pressurised his Cabinet into preparing a Bill of Pains and Penalties to dissolve the marriage and deprive her of the title of Queen on the grounds of her adultery. BACK

[5] The Book of Job related the forbearance under many trials of its central character. BACK

[6] ‘of manners’. This project did not result in a book; the surviving notes that Southey put together were posthumously published as ‘Collections for the History of Manners and Literature in England’, Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 439–578. BACK