657. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [started before and continued on] 17 February 
657. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [started before and continued on] 17 February  *
My dear Rickman
I have ordered the Magazines  & think Symmonds slow in getting them ready.  The Chancellor has been ill & invisible for three weeks – I call daily & duly at his door, but I must preface your papers with a note, as God knows when he will vouchsafe another audience. Of course I give him the books – it is enough that you give me leave so to do. At the years end, he will not be able to say he has got nothing by me – if he studies your lucubrations he will learn more than he already knows.
This removal of Mr Abbott will it remove you to England?  of course – unless he nominates you to some post as the best legacy he can leave the country. The Speakers Secretary  has a very pretty house annexed to his office, which looketh to the Thames, near Westminster Bridge. I should willingly shake you by the hand in London – but growl confoundedly at passing six months without you among the Patricians  – & without employment – for of course I cannot remove many books for so short a stay. I am not well. neither this place, nor this climate, suit me.
Your have received John Woodville.  I retain my first opinion. it is delightful poetry badly put together. an exquisite picture in a clumsy frame. Margaret is a noble girl – the other characters not so well conceived. A better imitation of old language I have never seen – but was the language of the serving men ever the language of nature? Lamb has copied the old writers – I suspect that they did not copy existing characters. those quaint turns of words & quainter contortions of thought never could be produced by ignorant men. the main incident of the play – (the discovery) is too foolish – the effect produced too improbable. Withal so beautiful is the serious dialogue that it more than redeems the story. most I like the concluding scene.
I am half amused & half provoked by the civilities which my Secretaryship procures me. & receive them with an accurate sense of their value. I on my part also am more civil perhaps than usual. my wish is to get abroad, & I am old enough never to kick away the stone which I may want to step upon. abroad I must go – so says my head & my whole intestinal canal & my inclination. Lisbon of course is the place desirable. I would compound for Madrid. it is a hateful city – & only its books can atone for a bad situation both as to earth & heaven. If in October however I see no near chance of a legation Southward – as the world will be before me I shall seriously think of taking root in Portugal, & seriously labour to get money enough for a land journey from Bilboa or St Sebastians thro Biscay to Madrid & thence elbow out of the straight road to Toledo & Cordova. These speculations <plans> you see are post-obit speculations for the natural death of my office may be calculated upon.
Did I tell you how Burnetts Tutorship is like my Secretaryship – a happy sinecure. that his pupils have both eloped, & that he receives his salary for eating & drinking with Lord Stanhope, & talking late after supper?  the Historians ambition is gone by – a passion for the utilities has succeeded, & we have given him the new title Professor of Mathematics. the Lord who is of <not only> a good man, but a very clever one, has many mechanical inventions to bring forward of which I suppose some one will fall to the share of Burnett & so make him lazy for life by a valuable patent. He is as happy as the Great Mogul. Of the other George I have more doleful tidings. Mary Lamb & her brother have succeeded in talking him into love with Miss Bengey or Bungey or Bungay; but they have got him into a quagmire & xx cannot get him out again, for they have failed in the attempt to talk Miss Bungay or Bungey or Benjey into love with him.  this is a cruel business. for he has taken the infection, & it may probably soon break out in sonnets & elegies.
Wednesday 17. Feby.
I have got the Magazines home to day, written an Index to all your aliases, & sent them to the Chancellor[Corry] with a recommendatory epistle. You will at some time or other I hope collect those papers into a volume, their extensive circulation could not fail of producing great good, & at present they must necessarily be little known. They are merged in the Magazine, which has not character enough to be in request – & the Readers cannot possibly pay that attention to scattered papers under a dozen signatures which they would do to the volume of one author, where they would feel a consistancy & continue continuousness of opinions. A six shilling volume would contain them, or they might be printed at a cheaper & more serviceable price. now – three Magazine volumes must be purchased – & in decorum the first also. but the neat article is what is wanted. they that buy beef must buy bones – tis however xxx only in Portugal that they throw in bare bones to make weight.
Cottles Methodist.  Some of the Sect in Bristol took its irony as sober serious opinion, & declared that the Author of such a wicked poem ought to be burnt!
I have tried vainly at an epitaph. 
Edith continues exceedingly unwell.  she has now been confined to the house nearly a month. I must think of removing her from London, however inconvenient.
* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: R.S./ Feby 17th 1802
MS: Huntington Library, RS 21. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Orlo Williams, Lamb’s Friend the Census-Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), pp. 74-76 [in part]. BACK
 The Commercial, Agricultural and Manufacturers Magazine, which Rickman had edited until 1801. BACK
 Rickman’s employer, the politician Charles Abbot (1757–1829; DNB), Chief Secretary for Ireland 1801-1802, The Speaker 1802-1817. Abbot took up his new post as The Speaker on 10 February 1802. BACK
 Rickman did indeed follow Abbot, and later in 1802 accepted the post of Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Commons. BACK
 The Irish, as followers of St Patrick, 5th-century patron saint of Ireland; but also a play on the word for Roman aristocrats. BACK
 Burnett had been employed as tutor to Charles Stanhope (1785-1809) and James Stanhope (1788-1825), younger sons of the controversial politician and inventor Charles (‘Citizen’) Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753-1816; DNB). The boys’ flight from their father’s house was described in a letter from Charles Lamb to John Rickman, [?1 February 1802], E.W. Marrs Jr (ed.), The Letters of Charles and Mary Anne Lamb, 1796-1817, 3 vols (Ithaca, NY and London, 1975-1978), II, pp. 49-50. BACK
 Dyer had fallen for the dramatist and novelist Elizabeth Benger (c. 1775-1827; DNB). Although nothing came of his passion, Benger and Dyer did have one thing in common: both were noted for their slovenly dress. BACK
 Cottle had published a pseudonymous satire, The Methodist (1801). It was reviewed as ‘entirely of the ironical kind, and is intended as a severe and biting satire against those who are not Methodists, particularly of the Established Church, and, above all, the Bishops. The author writes in the character of a zealous opposer of Methodists’, British Critic, 20 (September 1802), 320-321. Methodists in Bristol had taken the poem at face value and been suitably enraged. BACK
 Rickman had asked both Lamb and Southey to write an epitaph for Mary Druitt (c. 1782-1801), who is buried at Wimborne, Dorset. It does not appear that Southey undertook the task. BACK