1088. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 26 July [1805]

1088. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 26 July [1805] ⁠* 

Dear Rickman

The inclosed letter to the Capitaneus  [1]  is to ask him to review Clerks Naval Tactics, [2]  which Aikin, honestly enough, will not put into ignorant hands.

There is among the small Portugueze quartos one whose parchment covers are very much cracked, & lettered longways in uncouth letters Epanaphoras Tragicas de D. Francisco Manoel. [3]  either thus, or with some abridgement of these words. If you can see this any time before Xmas xxxx send it or drop it at Longmans to be forwarded here, – for this good reason, Bowles the poet has manufactured a poem out of that worst of all possible books Clarkes Hist. of Maritime Discovery, [4]  – & has given the cock & a-bull story about Madeira which the said Clarke calls Alcofarados. [5]  Now that the whole story is a romance is clear enough from internal evidence, – & unless my memory play me falser than it is wont to do, there is no better authority than this work of D Franciscos which I believe to be nothing more than novelas founded upon history – or tradition. This can be ascertained from the book – I have no doubt myself about it, – but one must not proceed upon recollection & opinion only, open proof is to be had. And in reviewing Lisle Bowles, a good name for a small poet in Cumbria, [6]  I should like to supply the deficiency in my account of Clarkes miserable quarto.

This is, as you will guess, my idle season. I am peripateticating with Danvers, & getting xxxxxx <an appetite> for xxx xxxxx fireside repose, & friends in folio. – I have however hit upon a passage which seems to be worth something. Socrates Scholasticus L1. C.17. [7]  says that Manes xxx possessed the books of one Buddas, who invented a sort of amalgama of Egyptian & Xtian dogmas & went to preach in the East, calling himself the son of a Virgin. Buddas is so very like Buddha – or Buddha – <(who told the same story. of his generation)> that I am strongly inclined to believe this to have been the imposter whose doctrines have spread to China or Japan, are established in Siam & Ceylon, & retained in Hindostan because the Bramins tho they conquered, could not extirpate them. – You may see the passage in an old translation which I have of the Greek Ecclesiastical Historians. [8]  It is worth something, if the my speculation be at all probable, for it would knock down the whole fabric of Indian chronology, & xxxx make all their existing mythologies posterior to Xtianity.

I am even more pleased to see Lord St Vincent exposed than at the downfall of Ld Melville. [9]  Dundas is only a rogue, but that other fellow is black at the core. I know some wicked facts which came to me from Tom, thoroughly authenticated.

Sharon will wonder that I do not thank him for his book [10]  – but I want to read it first, & cannot do that till it comes. he once expressed a sort of intention of going on with the Hist. of England. I am more inclined to stimulate him to a Hist. of Wales, because English history after the conquest requires rather vigour of mind, than industry. At least the most important of the early reigns has been <so> well done by Lyttleton [11]  that little is left there for any industry to discover. But Wales is unbroken ground (Warrington is worth so little that it may fairly pass as such [12] ) & tho it be savage history still they are our own savages & we ought to know every thing about them.

God bless you –


July 26


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 26 July, 1805
MS: Huntington Library, RS 78. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] This letter has not survived. BACK

[2] The second edition of John Clerk (1728–1812; DNB), An Essay on Naval Tactics, Systematical and Historical (1804) was reviewed in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 756–760, but it is not known who the author was. BACK

[3] Dom Francisco Manuel de Mello (1608–1666), Epanaphoras (1675), no. 3515 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834; DNB), The Progress of Maritime Discovery, from the Earliest Period to the Close of the Eighteenth Century, Forming an Extensive System of Hydrography (1803) was reviewed by Southey in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 12–20. William Lisle Bowles, The Spirit of Discovery (1804) was reviewed by Southey in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 568–573. BACK

[5] ‘Francisco Alcoforado’, An Historical Relation of the First Discovery of the Isle of Madeira. Written Originally in Portugueze. Translated into French, and Now Made English (1675). BACK

[6] A good name there because ‘Lisle’ or ‘Lal’ is local dialect for ‘little’. BACK

[7] Socrates Scholasticus (c. 380–c. 450): Byzantine church historian, who recorded early church history in his Historia Ecclesiastica (c. 439). BACK

[8] Meredith Hanmer (1543–1604), The Ancient Ecclesiastical Histories of the First Six Hundred Years After Christ, Written in the Greek Tongue by Three Learned Historiographers, Eusebius, Socrates, and Evagrius (1636), no. 960 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (1735–1823; DNB), who was repeatedly attacked by William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB) for his naval administration in the years 1804 and 1805. Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742–1811; DNB), Secretary of State for War 1794–1801 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1804. From 1802–1805 Melville’s role as Treasurer of the Admiralty (1782–1800), was investigated by a Royal Commission for allowing the diversion of government funds to his personal accounts. On 9 April 1805 Melville was censured in the House of Commons for allowing the misuse of public funds. He resigned and impeachment proceedings were commenced against him. The articles of impeachment were delivered to the House of Lords on 9 July 1805. BACK

[10] Volume four of Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons was published in 1805. BACK

[11] George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton (1709–1773; DNB), politician and writer who published a History of the Life of Henry the Second (1767). BACK

[12] William Warrington (1735–1827), The History of Wales (1788), no. 2981 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

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