3579. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 8 December 1820

3579. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 8 December 1820⁠* 

My dear R.

I hope the Char will prove good, – the best manufactory this place affords & the only one worthy of exportation. Two small pots were sent as more convenient than one of the larger size, this article not being like certain kinds of cheese, the better for its bulk. [1] 

If you read Sir Ch. Wolseleys wise letter to Lord Castlereagh you would notice Landors name very oddly mentioned as the one person (Sir C being the other) who had the best means of knowing what the Queens conduct was, at Como. [2] Landor has sent me a letter for the newspapers disclaiming any association with this mischievous blockhead. He has also sent it to Dr Parr, [3]  who I hope will suppress it, as I shall do, tho for other motives. Landor with his usual precipitance, believes the lies concerning Ompteda & the Milan Commission, [4]  with which the Italian papers are filled, by an obvious management; & his letter is written under that belief, – tho as for the Q. he says of her (to me of course & not to the public this) that her tongue is one firebrand & her tail is another.

But of Sir Ch. he says in the private part of his letter – (& it is worth quoting, to show you that this Sir C. is rogue as well as fool) “I admire the impudence of Wolseley. He attempted to defend the whoredoms of the Princess, but never hinted a thought of her innocence, when I constantly represented her what all Italy knows her to be, – not indeed with legal proofs, (such are almost impossible in similar cases) but according to all appearances, year after year.’ [5] 

The very elements are in a strange state, – the papers tell us that the thermometer at Paris is below zero, – & here it is above temperate & has been for the last week: we have rain & wind, but such tepid gales, that Cuthbert crows for pleasure when he feels them playing about his head.

I have been working at my Poem for the last ten days, led on daily by the hope of finishing it, & daily finding it prolonged as the thread unravelled be unrolled before me. [6] 

God bless you


8 Dec. 1820.


* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: Fr RS./ 8 Decr. 1820’
MS: Huntington Library, RS 404. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 218–219. BACK

[1] The char is a fish found in Lakes Windermere and Coniston; potted char was (and remains) a local delicacy, often served for breakfast at inns. Cheeses of large size usually ripen faster than smaller portions, hence the common belief that they intrinsically tasted better. BACK

[2] Sir Charles Wolseley, 7th Baronet (1769–1846; DNB), radical. A public meeting in Birmingham on 12 July 1819 had elected him ‘legislatorial attorney and representative’ for the town. In April 1820 he was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment for sedition and conspiracy for a speech he had given at Stockport on 28 June 1819. He had written from prison to Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh (1769–1822; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1812–1822, offering to go to Italy and collect information concerning Queen Caroline (1768–1821; DNB), who was facing a Bill of Pains and Penalties that would have dissolved her marriage to George IV on the grounds of her adultery. Not receiving a reply, Wolseley had published the letter in The Times, 11 October 1820, noting his acquaintance with Caroline when she lived at Como in 1817 and stating he could obtain information ‘that no Englishman but myself and a Mr. Walter Landon, who is now in Italy, can have the opportunity of knowing.’ Southey saw the letter and transcribed it for Landor, who responded by sending a letter to The Times and writing to Southey, asking him to insert the letter in the Courier as well. The Times published Landor’s letter on 4 December 1820; in it he insisted ‘whatever I may have heard relating to the Queen, I know nothing positive, and never made a single inquiry that either could inculpate or acquit her in the cause now pending’. BACK

[3] Landor had sent the copy of his letter for The Times to his friend and mentor, Samuel Parr (1747–1825; DNB), clergyman, schoolmaster, writer, Whig and supporter of Queen Caroline. BACK

[4] Friedrich August Philipp von Ompteda (1772–1819), a Hanoverian diplomat, had been instructed by George IV to obtain evidence of Caroline’s adultery when she lived in Italy in 1814–1815. He had collected a great deal of gossip, but found no decisive proof. George IV had also instructed John Leach (1760–1834; DNB), MP for Sleaford 1806–1816 and his legal adviser as Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall 1816–1820, to set up an investigation in 1818 to gather evidence against Caroline. Leach sent two commissioners to Milan in September 1818–March 1819 to try and interview as many potential witnesses as possible. BACK

[5] Landor to Southey, November 1820, John Forster, Walter Savage Landor, a Biography, 2 vols (London, 1869), I, p. 467. BACK

[6] A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

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