1362. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 September 1807

1362. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 September 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

It is unusually long since you have heard from me, [1]  & during that interval I have been passing something like a grass-hoppers summer, – boating & mountaineering with various droppers-in. Bathing in the lake, – painting book-shelves, arranging & re-arranging the books upon them, & rather enjoying the sight of them than making much use of them. There are something more than two thousand volumes in the room, & I shall find place for about 500 more when they arrive. The rest must be lodged in another apartment. You will be well pleased to see their comely array, & the oeconomical manner in which we have contrived to save binding & yet give the unbound books a respectable appearance.

My idlest season however is not wholly unproductive. On the arrival of the expected parcel from Lisbon I lost no time in preparing a portion of the Cid for the printer, & have already received two proofs from them: which I am sorry they did not pass thro your hands. [2]  But as my plan is to add the essential notes in loco, – & reserve the discursive & supererogatory for the end, the sheet shall be sent to you by & by for your perusal & annotation before their after-crop of remarks be sent off. Section by section the references are placed in the margin, after the goodly fashion of old times, at the end of each, – & at the beginning in like manner the argument, or contents – The notes are numbered 1, 2, 3 &c in every book. I do not think any thing which can facilitate the readers progress has been overlooked.

Biddlecombe provokes me with his tedious delays. Whenever the wind blows with a wintry sound I think of my books & am tempted to let fly an execration at him for having detained them till the summer is over, & then doubled or trebled the risque of their voyage. [3]  Not to mention that there are many of which I am in want. – There are the little quartos in the cup-board below stairs xxxxx of the Jesuits letters from their various missions which contain matter to my purpose. Whether these little be Cartas Annuaes [4]  I am not certain. They are thinnish volumes, & rather in better binding than usual. Upstairs there is also a thick duodecimo entitled Vieira Lusitano, [5]  bound, & so lettered, if I forget not. I made when abroad an abstract of this singular poem, (the most interesting in the language, tho wholly neglected) which would produce five or six guineas in the Athenæum, [6]  but in transcribing it, the book ought to be at hand. When you have convenient opportunity consign these three books to Longman, for conveyance here.

A very pretty concluding chapter our wise Generals have cut out for the History of the River Plata! – I am glad of the evacuation of a country which none but fools would ever have dreamt of keeping & am consoled for the disgrace by recollecting how much of it rests upon the shoulders of Craufrd whom I abhominate for his babbling about fortifications & his admiration of Mack. [7]  There is also a great fitness in his being defeated & taken by a volunteer force. What is to become of Portugal? what of Brazil? – Beyond all question our policy should be to induce the Court to remove there. There is a danger that France may get possession of Lisbon, & send French troops to protect Brazil.

You have probably by this time received Palmerin. [8]  I doubt whether, having read Amadis, [9]  you will have patience to read it; – if you have, the progress of morals from the days of the one romance to the other will shock you as something curious.

Remember me to Mrs Rickman. I shall see her before the winter is expired, & rely upon her coming here next summer.

God bless you –


Sept. 22. 1807

I am glad to read of Tobins marriage. [10]  My God – cried George II when I read the paragraph to him a second time (he never hears anything the first) – why I thought to have had her myself! – Yet it appears that he never saw the Lady, – & if he had certes she is better off with an eyeless <blind> husband than a brainless one.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 22 Sept. 1807
MS: Huntington Library, RS 117. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished BACK

[1] Southey had last written to Rickman at the beginning of August; see Southey to John Rickman, 8 August 1807, Letter 1351. BACK

[2] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish was published by Longmans in 1808. It comprised translations from the Crónica particular del Cid (1593), with additions from the Crónica de España of Alphonso the Wise (1541) and Romancero e Historia del Cid (1632). The printer was William Pople. BACK

[3] Having decided to stay at Greta Hall, Southey was arranging for his books and other belongings which he had left with friends to be sent to him. BACK

[4] The Annual Reports made by Jesuit missionaries were a valuable source of information on the countries of Japan, and Southeast Asia. Here he is thinking of Portuguese volumes, perhaps from what was listed in the sale catalogue of his library as ‘Relacaon da Republica, que os Religiosos Jesuitas das Provincias de Portugal, e Hispana, &c. 2 vol. n. d. – Regulae, &c. Soc. Jesu, Antv. 1635, and others on the Jesuits together 7 vol.’. None of the Cartas Annuaes is listed as such. BACK

[5] O Insignie Pintor e Leal Esposo Vieira Lusitano, Historia Verdadeira, que elle Escreve em Cantos Lyricos (1780) by Portuguese painter Francisco Vieira (1765–1805). BACK

[6] The Athenæum, A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information. BACK

[7] In June 1806, with Spain, the colonial master of South America, under French sway and Britain’s enemy, a force under Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham (1762–1820; DNB) and William Carr Beresford (1768–1856; DNB), occupied Buenos Aires and held it until 14 August. On 3 February 1807 the attack was renewed when the British took Montevideo from the sea. In July a British attempt to retake Buenos Aires was repulsed with great loss of life. Brigadier-General Robert Craufurd (1764–1812; DNB), participated in the failed attack. Karl Mack, Baron von Leiberich (1752–1828), Austrian soldier, commander of the forces defeated by Napoleonic France at Ulm and Austerlitz. BACK

[8] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[9] Southey’s translation of the Spanish romance Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[10] On 7 September Tobin had married Jane Mallet (d. 1837) in London. BACK

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)