3768. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 19 December 1821

3768. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 19 December 1821⁠* 

19 Dec. 1821

I have just got thro Stradas Decades, [1]  & learnt a great deal from them. There are few books which a military man might study with more advantage.

The foundation of two evils was laid in these Dutch wars, – French preponderance, & English republicanism. [2]  Puritanism also owes in great measure its growth to them.

The Prince of Parma [3]  (a man of consummate military genius) was the first General who perceived the advantage of religious discipline in an army. I think Gustavus [4]  imitated him in this point, & Cromwell [5]  Gustavus.

The poverty of the Spanish Government when most flourishing has surprized me. They might again & again have recovered the whole of the Low Countries if they had employed a little larger force, or kept the force which they did employ in good order & good humour by paying them regularly

There are several cases parallel to what happened to us at Bergen op Zoom, [6]  where in spite of the fortifications the town was surprized, & the t assailants after having overcome all the military difficulties were driven out by a window & street resistance.

I am now going to look thro Aitzema, [7]  – a Dutch historian whose work includes the history of Europe & of all other parts of the world with which the powers of Europe had any intercourse at that time, from 1620 to the first years of William 3. [8]  It consists of eleven folios, each containing as much as three of Rushworths volumes; [9]  abounding like his in state papers, but connecting them by a full & regular narrative, – & in point of merit about half way between Rushworth & Thuanus, [10]  as much above the former as below the latter – Here I shall find a great deal concerning Cromwells times.

We are living in perpetual storms. I think we have not two days together of calm weather since August. The thermometer is hardly below the temperate point, & the pansies, polyanthus, & primroses are in blossom. So much rain has never in my memory fallen within the same course of time. Yesterday we had a long thunder storm, & a great deal of hail.

We are going on well. My eldest daughter makes such good progress in drawing, that she will make an excellent fellow traveller in that respect. Bertha reads Ovid [11]  with me. The younger ones [12]  come forward as could be wished, & Cuthbert thrives to my hearts content – Remember us to Mrs R.

God bless you



* Endorsement: RS to JR 19 Dec./ 1821
MS: Huntington Library, RS 418. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 291–292. BACK

[1] Famiano Strada (1572–1649), De Bello Belgico Decades Duae 1555–1590 (1651). BACK

[2] The Dutch struggle for independence from Spain that lasted from 1566 to 1648. Southey suggests that this war weakened Spain and led to the rise of France to the position of most powerful European state, and that the successful establishment of the Dutch Republic, with its predominantly Calvinist religious make up, encouraged English republicanism and nonconformity. BACK

[3] Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma (1545–1592), Spanish Governor in the Netherlands 1578–1592. BACK

[4] Gustav II (1594–1632; King of Sweden 1611–1632). BACK

[5] Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB). BACK

[6] The unsuccessful British assault on the Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom on 8 March 1814. BACK

[7] Lieuwe van Aitzema (1600–1669), Sakem van Staet en Oorlogh in ende Omtrent de Vereenigde Nederlanden (1655–1671). Southey possessed a later edition and continuation of 1669–1699, no. 214 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] William III (1650–1702; King of Great Britain 1689–1702; DNB). BACK

[9] John Rushworth (1612–1690; DNB), Historical Collections of Private Passages of State (1659–1721). BACK

[10] Jacques Auguste de Thou (1553–1617), Historia sui Temporis (1620). BACK

[11] The poet Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC–AD 17/18). BACK