3618. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 27 January [1821]

3618. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 27 January [1821] ⁠* 

My dear R.

I trouble you with my last inclosure for the printer. [1]  In the course of a fortnight you will receive the book. The hexameters have nothing uncouth in their appearance, the type being adapted to their longitude rather than to the size of the page; – & for their effect upon the ear, it must be a stubborn prejudice that maintains its ground against them. But a good pelting shower of abuse I shall have, sans doubt: – having with some ingenuity contrived to give matter, or pretext, of offence to all parties, like a very Ishmaelite. [2]  For I have neither placed Pitt nor Fox among the Worthies of the late reign, & you may easily guess how that sin of omission will be resented. [3]  Then in the Preface I have a passage by no means weakly worded, which my worthy friends Lord Byron & Moore will take to themselves, as a set part off in part, against some obligations due to them. [4]  And I have written a Dedication to the King, with some doubt whether it may be proper to print it, in point of form, because it touches upon the state of the Press; & if this should be thought to look as if I were appointing myself one of the Kings Counsellors, – I have given a discretionary power of throwing it behind the fire. [5]  But if there be no informality in it, it will set the Whig-&-Jacobite swarm in motion. These villains cannot hate me more than they do, & I will lose no opportunity of making them feel me. They shall find me by far the most formidable of their antagonists. There is a page about the Opps. (in the Peninsular War) now lying in the proof before me, which you would enjoy. [6] 

Mrs R. shall have more Journal shortly, a quicker supply of it. [7] My daughter Edith is at this time transcribing something else for you; – I think it will amuse you, but you will see that it is not intended to be shown to an Irishman, & that it comes prudently in a hand writing which no person can recognize [8] 

God bless you


27 JanyKeswick.


* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: Fr RS./ 27 Jany 1821
MS: Huntington Library, RS 407. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 231–232.
Dating note: Year from endorsement. BACK

[1] For A Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[2] Southey compares himself to the biblical Ishmael, Genesis 16:12: ‘ his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him’. BACK

[3] ‘The Worthies of the Georgian Age’, A Vision of Judgement (1821), Canto 10, included neither Fox, the hero of the Whigs, nor William Pitt (17 59–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806, hero of the government’s supporters. BACK

[4] A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), ‘Preface’, pp. xvii–xxii, where Southey denounced ‘the Satanic school’ of poetry without naming any one poet. This was, as far as Byron was concerned, Southey’s response to the suppressed ‘Dedication’ to the first two cantos of Don Juan (1819), which had lampooned Southey mercilessly. BACK

[5] Southey here refers to A Vision of Judgement (London, 1821), ‘Dedication’, pp. [v]–viii. However, the earlier draft of the ‘Dedication’, in Huntington Library, San Marino, HM 2733, shows Southey had intended to be more controversial and urge that ‘adequate remedy should be applied to that intolerable licentiousness of the press … either by the vigorous application of existing laws or by the enactment of such new ones as the suspension of the abuse may render necessary’. Southey had submitted the ‘Dedication’ to Grosvenor Bedford and asked him to consult Herries on its propriety, Southey to Grosvenor Bedford, 22 January 1821, Letter 3614. BACK

[6] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 55–58, contained a vigorous denunciation of the Whigs for seeking peace with France. BACK

[7] Edith May Southey was transcribing Southey’s travel journal of August–September 1819, later published as Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[8] Possibly the ‘Fragment of Milesian History’ intended for Chapter 1 of the ‘history’ of Dr Daniel Dove, which later became The Doctor (1834–1847). It was published in John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 362–370. It was a parody of ancient Irish history. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)