1336. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 26 June 1807

1336. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 26 June 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

The remark you made about Miltons prose is perfectly right: – so is not Don Manuel. [1]  he speaks as he would hear, it being one of the vulgar prejudices of those who in other things are not vulgar that Addison [2]  is our first prose writer: – that is they suppose the age of good prose began just at the time when it ended. In the same spirit Don M. calls Pope the great poet of the English. [3]  I have been careful not to give him any of my literary opinions. As the book now is, there is nothing in it which with good friends, good luck, good sense & good industry he might not have got at in 18 months – but the literature of any country is out of a foreigners reach till years have been devoted to the acquirement.


I have waited till the re-election of the Imperial Abbot [4]  was announced to acknowledge the arrival of the box & carpet. This evening when I meant to have written about my goings on, the inclosed letter from Tom has come to hand. – & as you will see – has vexed me. John May’s interest was with Markham, [5]  & of course is at an end. I will write to Wynn, [6]  but I believe xxx he can have none at present, – if Dickinson [7]  had been one of the Lords he would have removed Tom at a word from Wynn him. can you help him, in case his Amsterdammers (Haemorrhoids xx so called as Piles) should not bear him thro? – But I think they must, as he has them to a very serious degree.

I should tell you that I am fully satisfied Tom is not to blame. no man knows his duty better, & no man is more ready to do it, & he has done it most severely in his ship; – which was not half manned when he joined her & of the hands she had, scarcely any of them knew one rope from another. During the whole winter they had no master, the third Lieutenant laid himself up with the –– & my brother & the second were at it watch & watch, he being at the time ill with these fundamental evils, & with ague upon him. The old Court Martial will certainly go against him; – tho in that affair he was completely in the right, was thought so even by those who condemned him, & proclaimed so by Sir S. Hoods conduct immediately afterwards. [8]  And he must have been acquitted if it had not so happened that of the persons whom he would have called in evidence to justify him two were killed & the third taken prisoner in the interval between his arrest & trial.

The thing wanted, if you have any interest, is a very slight favour, nor can any thing be done till the event of the hospital examination is known. What that may be I will let you instantly know, – x perhaps it was needless to write xx to you till it was known. However meantime you can cast about in your mind & perhaps prepare the way for an application if any should be needful. Sir G. Beaumont who is coming to lodge next door, may likely enough have some Admiralty friends, – I will try them if it be necessary: I could also without any great impropriety write to Sotheby, [9]  – who being a man of fashion & having a brother an Admiral is likely to help a lame dog over the stile in such as case.

You will judge from Toms letter whether any thing ought to be done before I hear farther from him. It seems to me not. But he has evidently written in haste, – & I have been following the bad example.

God bless you


June 26. 1807.


* Endorsement: RS.
MS: Huntington Library, RS 114. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The fictional Spanish traveller in whose mouth Southey put his observations on Britain in Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[2] Joseph Addison (1672–1719; DNB). BACK

[3] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish, 3 vols (London, 1807), Letter 59, III, p. 110. BACK

[4] Charles Abbot, Speaker of the House of Commons and thereby a possessor of franking privileges; Rickman was his secretary. BACK

[5] John Markham (1761–1827; DNB): naval officer who was a member of the Board of Admiralty (1801–1804 and 1806–1807) and MP for Portsmouth (1801–1818 and 1820–1826). BACK

[6] No such letter survives. BACK

[7] William Dickinson (1771–1837), a fellow pupil with Southey at Westminster School, Civil Lord of the Admiralty, 1804–1806. Southey had asked John May if he could get his brother mentioned to Markham; see Southey to John May, 13 September 1806, Letter 1215. BACK

[8] In January 1805 Southey learned that Thomas Southey had been found guilty at court martial of contempt of a senior officer and dismissed his ship. The circumstances of the offence were such that Commodore (later Vice-Admiral) Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet (1762–1814; DNB), who was in command of the fleet in which his brother served, promptly appointed him to a finer ship, HMS Amelia, where he served for the remainder of his time in the West Indies. BACK

[9] William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), the poet and translator, whose brother was Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831). BACK