3545. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 27 October 1820

3545. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 27 October 1820⁠* 

Keswick 27 Oct. 1820.

My dear R.

Bedford has lately announced to me a silly resolution of carrying all letters unopened in his pocket, till he has leisure to answer them. The silliness of such a resolution will soon be found out. Meantime as this packet is of some consequence & requires to be opened without delay, may I request you to give it him, & tell him so. [1] 

Living at a happy distance from the great scene of insanity, if it were not for the newspapers I should not know whether we had a Queen or not. [2]  I think however that our Lords & Judges have gone far towards demonstrating the errors of our judicial forms by a reductio ad absurdum, – the object of those forms seeming now to be anything rather than getting at the truth. ––

This craft of the Law is one of the topics upon which I design to treat in my Dialogues. [3]  They shall come to you for censure before they go farther, as soon as I have them in readiness. My motto is a pregnant one from St Bernard, Respice, aspice, prospice! [4] 

My Uncle apprehends that the revolution in Portugal [5]  will end in annexing that country to Spain, & bringing the Spanish Government to Lisbon. This I think can only be accomplished by the farther revolution of abolishing monarchy in both countries, & breaking up or forming the peninsula (utrum horum mavis accipe) [6]  into as many federated republics as there were nominal kingdoms &c. [7]  And this I think the likeliest termination course of events. Not to be desired by us, considering the feverish state of Europe, – but what I should probably wish for, were I a Spaniard or a Portugueze.

I see a book advertised to day which is either a Welsh lie about Madocs descendants, or a Utopian fiction founded upon his story: I rather think the latter from the advertisement. [8] 

Remember us to Mrs R. & to my young fellow travellers–

God bless you



* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: Fr RS/ 27 Octr. 1820
MS: Huntington Library, RS 402. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 October 1820, Letter 3544. BACK

[2] 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. She had rejected compromise terms offered by the Cabinet and arrived in England on 5 June 1820. The House of Lords had begun to debate the Bill on 17 August, and what was effectively a trial of Caroline for adultery continued until 10 November. BACK

[3] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829), I, pp. 93–94 in particular. BACK

[4] ‘Look to the past, the present, the future’, words attributed to St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153). These words did appear on the title page [unpaginated] of vol. 1 of Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829). BACK

[5] An army revolt in Porto on 24 August 1820 had established a junta to run the country; it declared its intention of organising elections to a Cortes, which were held in December 1820, and demanded John VI (1767–1826; King of Portugal 1816–1826) return from Brazil, where the court had fled in 1807–1808. These events did not lead to Portugal being absorbed into Spain. BACK

[6] ‘Take whichever of those you prefer’. BACK

[7] Spain was a union of the historic kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, Leon and Navarre (and, more remotely, Asturias and Galicia) and retained many regional variations in law, taxation and local government. BACK

[8] The Courier, 25 October 1820, advertised New Britain, a Narrative of a Journey, to a Country so called by its Inhabitants, Discovered in Missouri. Together with a Brief Sketch of their History (1820). This was an anonymous novel, which described how the descendants of a group of sixteenth-century English colonists had been ‘discovered’ in Missouri. BACK

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