1344. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 10 July 1807

1344. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 10 July 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Biddlecombe

I was in hopes to have heard ere this from you that you had rid your house of all the incumbrances left by me at Burton, – & from Rickman that they had been fairly embarked for their place of destination. Let me beg of you to forward them to him with as little delay as you can, – for he keeps my other things waiting that they may all be shipped together, & of some of the books thus detained I am in great want. Indeed they are essential to a book which is going to press very shortly.

You ask me if I know any thing of your late member Herbert. [1]  I have met him twice in London, but he said little. His books, I have seen, & that is all, – by what I hear both of him & them, he is a man of rare learning, yet in his writings rather apt to make a display of what he has acquired than to go on acquiring more. He has been too solicitous in his writings to show that he is no lover of liberty, & in the house <his speeches> that he is a lover of the slave trade, for me to think of him at all favourably. There is a long article of his in one of the Edinburgh Reviews upon Engl prosody [2]  which I thought a thoroughly good-for-nothing one. – Your present member Sir H. Mildmay [3]  does not seem to make out a clear story about his house.

To days post brings us the news that the Russians are treating – I have long been expecting this; & am not very sorry for it. [4]  It is not from foreign support that any permanent benefit can be conferred upon Germany. A thorough revolution will one day break out in that country, which is beyond comparison the most enlightened in the world, – Arminia will be the watchworded – Electors Emperors Kings & Kinglings will be burnt up like stubble in the fire, & then, & not till then, will the continent of Europe be emancipated. Old Klopstock [5]  will do more towards emancipating his country than all the Archdukes born or unborn.

We I suppose are now to have the old cry of invasion, – the ministers will after a while make peace rather than make themselves unpopular by imposing fresh taxes; – & then if Bonaparte live two or three years we must begin again. Meantime the spirit of the Westminster Electors out of doors [6]  & of Lord Cochrane in, [7]  give me some hope of seeing much good done at home.

I am truly glad to hear that your mother continues to enjoy life so well. Edith joins me in remembrances to her. remember us also to Mr Coleman [8]  – & believe me

Yours very truly

Robert Southey –

Keswick. July 10. 1807.


* Address: To/ Charles Biddlecombe Esqr / Burton/ near Ringwood/ Hampshire
Endorsement: Southey
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ JUL13/ 1807
Watermark: T BOTFIELD
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] William Herbert (1778–1847), MP for Hampshire 1806–1807. A lawyer, classical scholar and, from 1814, a clergyman, Herbert was the author of Ossiani darthula, a small volume of Greek and Latin poetry (1801). In 1804 he published part 1 of his Select Icelandic Poetry, Translated from the Originals with Notes. Part 2 followed in 1806 (DNB). BACK

[2] In the Edinburgh, 6:12 (1805), 357–385, Herbert severely criticised William Mitford, An Inquiry into the Principles of Harmony in Language, and of the Mechanism of Verse, Modern and Antient (1804). BACK

[3] Sir Henry Paulet St John-Mildmay, 3rd Baronet (1764–1808). His father and grandfather had also been MPs for the area, the baronetcy having been created for the former as a reward for political services in 1772. BACK

[4] Having fought against France since 1806, as part of the Fourth Coalition, Russia endured defeat at Napoleon’s hands at Friedland on 14 June 1807. Following this, it made peace with at Tilsit on 7 July 1807, becoming France’s ally. Napoleon had routed the Prussian army, Germany’s main military force, in autumn 1806. BACK

[5] Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803), the German poet whose epic Der Messias (1748–1773) founded a new national school of poetry. BACK

[6] The Westminster electors of spring 1807 had voted in the radical Whig Sir Francis Burdett 5th Baronet (1770–1844; DNB) despite his refusing to pay bribes and to lavish gifts and entertainment upon them. BACK

[7] In parliament the newly elected Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), became a radical MP and critic of corruption and nepotism in the navy and in the government. BACK

[8] An acquaintance of Southey’s from his residence at Burton in 1797 and 1799. BACK

People mentioned

Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

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