1371. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 5 October 1807

1371. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 5 October 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

Duppa’s father was a man of some property, who was resident either in or near Leominster, in Herefordshire; his family is I believe very distantly connected with my own, I having heard Bishop Duppa claimed as kinsman on my mother’s side, – a relationship of which I am not very proud, holding the said Bishop to have had a hand in the manufactory of the Eikon Basilike. [1]  Duppa has two elder brothers the one a clergyman in good circumstances; the elder a country gentleman I believe – he himself by the late death of his father inherits some small independence, – little, but enough for an independant man.

I have known him since the Installation at Oxford, in 1793, where he was introduced to me by his relation & my nearest & dearest friend, Edmund Seward. Of his Education I can tell you little, – it was in this country & I suspect not very good. He learnt the art of engraving from Heath [2]  I believe, – but never practised it as a trade, – went abroad & continued there for three years, – & since his return has published those heads, his Subversion of the Papal Government, & his life of Michael Angelo. [3]  – I guess his age at from 5 to 7 & 30. Carlisle has known him longer than I have & can probably tell you more of his history previous to his going abroad.

He knows the Arts well, & loves them disinterestedly; – they have been his pursuit rather than his profession. Whatever is connected with them he has studied seriously, – anatomy in particular & I believe he has a good knowledge of xxxxx other branches of science.

Medriociter we must rank his classical knowledge. [4]  to this he never makes any pretensions; – & if he would not aim at style, he xx he would, like another good friend of ours, write better. Now I know nothing more, & all this amounts to very little; – of his soundness, & his knowledge of what odd things there are in the world which make him so pleasant a companion, you know as much as myself. – Elmsley told me long since of a marriage engagement pending, between him & Miss Page, [5]  – a xxx cousin of the Bedfords, who lived with them. I should be glad if it was carried into effect. The Lady is an acquaintance of mine, suitable to him in age. & one whom, for her thoroughly happy temper I like so well, that it would give me pleasure to hear she had found a comfortable home before the total wreck & ruin of that family takes place, as it must do upon the death of Grosvenor, which is, I very much fear to be expected. [6]  Very likely it is this engagement which makes him wish for the situation in request. Would it be of any use if Wordsworth were to interest his brother <for> xxx him, he being of authority at Lambeth? [7]  If so, lose no time in telling me.

I have received lately several works of the ex-Jesuits, concerning South America. This body of men seem to have been useful to the last, & to have employed their old age, cruelly as they had been treated, in leaving all their knowledge to posterity. Among them is a famous catalogue of all existing languages, by Hervas, originally published by him in Italian in 1784, but now greatly enlarged & extended in Spanish, his native language tongue. [8]  It is to be followed by grammars & vocabularies, – the whole treasure of their missionary school. From this catalogue I have collected some curious facts respecting S America, – among others the singular one that none of the languages there have any affinity to those spoken in N America. He believes in the tales of Atlantis, & thinks this half of the new world was peopled from thence, & so originally from Africa, – his proofs of the latter fact are from etymology, – which cannot be appreciated till his vocabularies appear; – of the former, the chain of soundings, from Brazil to Africa. The Araucans [9]  speak a language more excellently artificial than any other even than the Greek: & in some of the islands off their coast the language is Spanish adapted to the Araucan grammar. – The Mexicans & Peruvians (like the Romans) spread their language with their arms, & consequently each extended over a prodigious extent of country, – thus greatly facilitating the conquests of the Spaniards. But the Jesuits found it better to learn the savage dialects of the different tribes than to teach them Spanish, – for this obvious reason, that thus they kept them to themselves. This Paraguay hist. will be very curious, never yet having been touched upon with decent impartiality.

I have collected the titles of many other works relating to S America, which I will send for to Italy whenever I can find out how to do it.

I wish this may be true about Portugal & Brazil, – but doubt it. [10]  If it should, my book will be worth something in the Row.

Thank Mrs R. for her good wishes, I have about four days work only to finish the body of the Cid. [11]  The notes & introduction are more than half done. I go soon to reviewing, & think of appearing in London as soon as that shall be over, – probably in January: – or perhaps may wait a few weeks to see the arrival of a son or daughter – expected about that time.

God bless you


Oct 5. 1807.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr./ Harting/ near/ Petersfield/ Hampshire/ Single
Endorsement: RS./ 5 Octr. 1807
Postmark: E./ OCT 8/ 1807
MS: Huntington Library, RS 118. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 20–22 [in part]. BACK

[1] Brian Duppa (1588–1662; DNB), Bishop of Winchester, and favoured cleric of the royal household of Charles I, whose spiritual meditations as execution approached were published as Eikon Basilike, The Pourtrature of His Sacred Majestie in His Solitudes and Sufferings (1649). Duppa is not thought by modern scholars to have had a hand in the book’s authorship. BACK

[2] James Heath (1757–1834; DNB), engraver of illustrations for many literary works. BACK

[3] A Selection of Twelve Heads from the Last Judgment of Michael Angelo (1801), A Brief Account of the Subversion of the Papal Government in 1798 (1799) and Literary Works of Michael Angelo Buonarotti, with His Poetry and Letters (1806), the latter including translations by Southey and Wordsworth. BACK

[4] Duppa was seeking preferment to a post at the British Museum vacated by the death of Horace Bedford. BACK

[5] Mary Page (dates unknown). BACK

[6] Southey’s fears were prompted by the recent death of Bedford’s brother, Horace, and a liver complaint from which Bedford had been suffering; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 January 1807, Letter 1255. BACK

[7] Christopher Wordsworth had influence as a chaplain at Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, because he had tutored the Archbishop’s son Charles Manners Sutton (1780–1845; DNB). Wordsworth’s son John (1805–1839; DNB) was born at Lambeth, where Christopher was granted the living of St Mary’s in 1816. BACK

[8] Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro (1735–1809), Catalogo de las Lenguas de las Naciones Conocidas (1800–1805). BACK

[9] The Indian nations that dominated what is now the central part of Chile. They fought successfully against conquest by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and against subjugation within independent Chile for much of the nineteenth century. Southey praised them in his ‘Song of the Araucans During a Thunder Storm’, published in the Morning Post, 1799. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), V, Selected Shorter Poems, ed. Lynda Pratt, pp. 372–374. BACK

[10] That the royal family of Portugal would take the court to Brazil to escape Napoleonic conquest of the mother country, thus giving Southey’s History of Brazil greater currency with the publishers of Paternoster Row, London. This came to pass on 29 November 1807, when a British squadron escorted the Prince Regent and the Queen, his mother, across the Atlantic. BACK

[11] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 2 times)