1462. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [May 1808]

1462. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [May 1808] ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

Your good news came much sooner than it was expected. I shall not condole with you on the daughtership, because (tho it would be an error xxxxxx deserving of flogging to deny that the masculine gender is more worthy than the feminine) there are many things in which girls are preferable to boys. [1]  They begin to be useful just when boys begin to be troublesome, you have them longer for companions, & moreover <the cost of> a boys education is a girls fortune. Mrs Rickman I daresay is well satisfied with the sex, – or if she is not she will soon find cause to be so. Boys about a house are like an favourite dogs in the country, who come <into the parlour> xx with dirty legs, & then lie down upon the hearth to lick themselves clean, – they are always in the way, – & when out of sight ten to one but they are in mischief. Girls are like cats, clean & fit to be up stairs.

I brought with me from London an Italian life of Amerigo Vespucci, & a MS. Eulogy upon him in the same language, [2]  – which Lady Holland got from the author in Italy. Xxxx th With the life Amerigos Letters are published in Italian, & one letter added which never appeared before, & which I strongly suspect to be a Florentine forgery, for it in it he describes himself as having just invented the Lunar Observation. No satisfactory account is given of the MS. & the astronomy of the other letters is utterly unintelligible (I am no astronomer, – but it is admitted to be so –) Does the Capitaneus know anything about this? It is manifest that the Florentines are wilfully bent upon magnifying Amerigo into a great man, – & it is equally manifest to me, upon diligent perusal of his letters, that he is much more truly represented as a crafty one, who wished to appropriate to himself th the reputation which he had only a right to share, & that in no great ratio.

There is a book written not long since by a Majorcan to prove that his countryman Raymond Lully xxxxxxxx the xxxx invented the compass. [3]  I opened it with some expectations of finding something there, tho the needle is mentioned before Lullys time, – but I found a very nonsensical illogical worthless affair, – & what is very odd I found that the author of the book imagined the needle points South, on the other side of the line, & supposed that Lully foresaw this it.

I am glad to hear of Josephus & Clelia, [4]  – as the lost sheep occur to me I write them down on a slip of paper, meaning the first idle evening to send the catalogue to Biddlecombe, [5]  – & both these books are on the roll. There should be a map of the country of Tender(ness) in the latter, which is worth your looking at. Of the later French Romance this is the best specimen, being the very worst; – indeed more incomparably absurd than any person would suppose possible. I read it about sixteen years ago, at an age when I could afford time to read books which nobody else read, & had luckily brains enough to remember them when xxxx such reading came to be of use. I have six or seven of these Romances, & mean to make them pay interest for their carriage at some future time. – The books & prints from Burton will I dare say enable you to fill another tea box, – & when that shall be the case, Turner has a Catalogue of the Red Cross Street Library [6]  which I shall be glad to have inclosed, because there may be books there which I want, & from them they xxxxxx the books from that Library are allowed to be taken out, & might be sent me here.

The Monthly Review publicates me & Duppa as being one D Manuel & notices the book with civil non-conformistical dullness, [7]  – being civil to me wholly on the score of dissent. Duppa will perhaps make his disavowal in the next number, as he meant to do with respect to the British Critic, being a little more alarmed than became him at the imputation of ‘dangerous opinions.’ [8]  – The introduction to the Cid [9]  travels to London in the course of the week, & <as> the printers are all at a stand for want of work, they will make speedy work with it. – I announce Brazil in the next Athenaeum, [10]  & this is all I do with it as yet in the way of publication, – tho when paper will fall in price God knows. There are some other things which may possibly fall first.

Xxxxx xxx xxx George Dyer being Miss Bethams agent, I will beg him to settle the second part of the business of my picture; – that is to say – to request her convey it to you, – & I will beg you to get it xxxx (xxxx be of a xxxxxxx shape & size) – otherwise to have it put in a fitting frame – one of those flat – broad – shining – black frames, with a having a gilt rim round the picture. You will bring it with you – the sooner the better, & as soon as you have the picture I will send Miss B. a draft in payment –

The inclosed contains a great order for bacon, which it is in hopes will effect a junction with our unborn peas in good time for you who are a lover of bacon, but a blasphemer of Ham.

Remember me to Mrs Rickman, & her (to me anonymous) daughter.

God bless you



* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ May
MS: Huntington Library, RS 130. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 65–67.
Dating note: dating from JR’s endorsement BACK

[1] Rickman’s daughter was named Ann. She later became Mrs Lefroy, but her husband’s first name is unknown. BACK

[2] This eulogy, denying that Columbus discovered America and promoting the navigational and astronomical achievements of Vespucci (1451–1512), aroused great controversy. It was given by Florentine librarian Father Stanislaus Canovai (1740–1811) and published as Elogio d’Amerigo Vespucci che ha riportato il premio della nobile Accademia Etrusca di Cortona nel dì 15. Ottobre dell’anno 1788. Con una dissertazione giustificativa di questo celebre navigator (1788). BACK

[3] Antonio Raymundo Pasqual (1708–1791), Descubrimiento de la Aguja Náutica, de la Situacion de la América, del Arte de Navegar, y de un Nuevo Método para el Adelantamiento en las Artes y Ciencias (1789). Ramon Llull (anglicised as Raymond Lully; 1232–1315), a Majorcan philosopher whom Pasqual credited with discovering the compass needle on the grounds that it is mentioned in his Arte de Navegar (1295). BACK

[4] The History of Josephus, the Indian Prince (1696); Madeleine de Scudéry (1607–1701), Clelia, an Excellent New Romance: the whole work in five parts, dedicated to Mademoiselle de Longueville (1678). BACK

[5] This letter has not been traced. BACK

[6] Dr Williams’ library, then in Red Crosse Street, now in Gordon Square, London. BACK

[7] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807) was reviewed by the clergyman Christopher Lake Moody (1753–1815) in the Monthly Review, 55 (April 1808), 380–386. BACK

[8] Letters from England was reviewed in British Critic, 31 (March, 1808), 168–178. Southey and Duppa were named as its authors and the book’s Jacobinism attacked throughout. The following notice appeared in British Critic, 31 (April, 1808), 460: ‘We have received, through a friend, the most positive assurances from Mr. Duppa, that he had no concern whatever in the fabrication of the pretended letters of Don Manuella Espriella, of which we are happy to acquit him’ BACK

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

[10] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was announced in the Athenæum, 3 (1808), 567. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 1 time)