3711.1 Robert Southey to John Rickman, 12 August [1821]

3711.1 Robert Southey to John Rickman, 12 August [1821] ⁠* 

Netherhall. Maryport. 12 Aug.

My dear R.

Poor Miss Betham is stark mad. [1] 

Is it your house, or your Population-Office which is in Manchester Buildings? – for I know there are offices there having been at the Carnatic Office. [2] 

I am here with Mrs S.  Edith & Cuthbert, visiting my fellow traveller Senhouse, & Edith & Cuthbert taking the opportunity of sea bathing. The first day the latter was introduced to the shore. his shoes & stockings were taken off, & he ran in to meet the waves, backward & forward, till there came a wave just high enough to upset him. The House is a very old one, built at all ages since Edward 2. [3]  in whose time part of it was standing. We sleep in a tower where the walls are nine feet thick. And here are good books which tempt me to a laborious sort of idleness. It was one of this family who preached the Coronation Sermon to Charles I. [4] 

Mr Alexander the Ventriloquist [5]  has been enquiring for me in London, with an introduction from a member of the Dutch Institute, [6]  whose wife has translated Roderick into the language of the Hogen Mogen. [7]  – A comical introduction altogether. It seems he is coming to Keswick, – on his way I suppose to ventriloquize at Edinburgh.

The Americans have made me a Member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, – the only literary honour they have to bestow. [8]  It is a good working society

God bless you



* Endorsement: RS to JR 12 Augst
MS: Huntington Library, RS 442. ALS; 3p.
Dating note: Dated from content. BACK

[1] Betham had been confined in an asylum in 1819. Although she was later released, her mental health problems continued and she was confined again in 1822. BACK

[2] Manchester Buildings, Cannon Row in Westminster was the former town house of the Montagu family, who had been created Dukes of Manchester in 1719. It had long been divided up into separate flats and houses. Since 1807, No. 11 Manchester Buildings had been rented by the East India Company, to house the Commissioners for Investigating the Debts of the Late Nabobs of the Carnatic. Southey had probably visited Manchester Buildings to call on his friend Sir Robert Harry Inglis, who served as one of the Commissioners between 1814 and 1830. Rickman had never lived in Manchester Buildings, but he had moved to new accommodation in Palace Yard, Westminster when he became first Clerk Assistant to The Speaker in 1820. This may have led Southey to be uncertain about his exact address. It is possible that part of Manchester Buildings had been rented to house clerks working on the census, which Rickman had organized since 1801. BACK

[3] Edward II (1284–1327; King of England 1307–1327; DNB). BACK

[4] Richard Senhouse (d. 1626; DNB), Bishop of Carlisle 1624–1626. He preached the sermon at the coronation of Charles I (1600–1649; King of England 1625–1649; DNB) on 2 February 1626. His text was: ‘And I will give unto thee a crown of life’, Revelation 2: 10. BACK

[5] Alexandre Vattemare (1796–1864), celebrated French ventriloquist who used the stage name ‘Monsieur Alexandre’. Trained as a surgeon, he was refused a diploma after making cadavers appear to speak. Between 1815 and 1835, he visited 550 cities with an act that involved him staging plays in which he voiced all the characters. In later life he developed the first system by which museums and libraries could loan items from their collections to each other. BACK

[6] Bilderdijk was a former President (1809–1811) of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Science, Letters and Arts (founded 1808). Southey’s election to the Institute as an Associate of the Second Class had been announced in 1817. BACK

[7] Katherina Bilderdijk, née Schweickhardt (1776–1830), Rodrigo de Goth, Koning van Spanje (1823–1824), no. 2701 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] The Massachusetts Historical Society (founded 1791) is the oldest historical society in the United States. It is based in Boston, and collects and preserves documents on American history. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Netherhall (mentioned 2 times)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)