681. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 2 June 1802

681. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 2 June 1802 ⁠* 

June 2. 1802.

Dear Rickman

Now that my arrangements pro tempore [1]  are concluded, it is time to dispatch intelligence to my friends. You remember Danvers’s house. We have taken one in the same row − the whole − furnished − at a guinea & half per week. so much room is necessary as Edith expects to be confined in the course of the summer. [2]  the situation is good, & the almost next door neighbourhood of a friend every way desirable. this evening we take possession − I shall at least have leisure to do much here. after my thousand & one acquaintance in London I feel as secluded here as in a convent.

Our journey was cheap. four & twenty hours for three & twenty shillings. what a bargain if the coach had been as long again upon the road! I find some good books arrived for me from Lisbon. two of the oldest & rarest chronicles − the best book upon Abyssinia − & the whole monastic history of the kingdom & its colonies. [3]  these last will enable me to compleat the two three first centuries, & then I enter upon the splendid period aera of discovery. [4]  I wrote to one Simon Harcourt M.P. [5]  to send me a Portugueze Manuscript belonging to my Uncle, directed to you. should it arrive will you acknowledge its receipt by a line to him. it is the paper of which I published an abstract. [6] 

You will soon I hope be able to send me intelligence from the Chancellor. I left him a note the morning of our departure. I am well pleased that our connection should end − not but any foolish office is desirable with such a salary annexed − but I am weary of vagabonding about − & have now a pressing motive for settling. Nor can I & my books afford to be so seperated any longer. I should now be half a dozen times in the course of a day in your house, if the Devil would carry me there, or I could ride a broomstick. About the where of my abiding place there is little hesitation. Bristol has not enough society. for that Norwich is the best place − but the neighbourhood of London allows a readier intercourse of with booksellers − & in ceasing to be a Secretary I must become a Scribbler. My stay here − or at least Ediths − if it should please the Powers above to whistle me over to Dublin − cannot be less than four months − I expect that your definitive intelligence will enable me to commission John May to have his eye upon the small houses around Richmond, & secure me one at Michaelmas. He fixes me to that neighbourhood. One friend within a half hours walk is among the necessaries of life.

I met Poole here on his way to France − & desired that he would make Davy take him to you. he is a man whom you will like to converse with − for his pursuits have been chiefly agriculture & political oeconomy. he is self-taught, & his mind powerful, active & discriminating.

The Pneumatic Institution continues. the name should be changed [7]  − as they do little with the gasses − on account chiefly of the expence of experiments. Beddoes now chiefly supports it. Davys successor − King − a Swiss − is a very able man − with a hand of dexterity almost as convertible as yours. their patients are very numerous. they sometimes succeed in curing early consumption by the Caustic [8]  − & their treatment of syphilis rarely or never fails. [9]  − I forget whether you saw Beddoes. the old medical language fits his character admirably − he is of nature cold & dry. it is to be lamented that they have not pursued pneumatic experiments steadily. the gasses act so immediately & powerfully that they should appear to be great agents in medicine.

Do you know anything − that is have you ever thought anything about the production of mushrooms? I want to have a method discovered of producing them in great quantities − because they contain more nutriment than any vegetable substance − & appear to need no manure. & besides they are excellent in a hundred ways. The world wants some Epicure to turn Chemist − & give us a scientific book of cookery. I dream of a thousand things which I could do if settled in a house in the country with a garden.

direct Kingsdown. Bristol.

Danvershis Mother − & Edith all desire to be remembered

yrs truly

Robert Southey.

I direct with the old &c formula to Mr Abbot. [10]  correct me if this be wrong.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: R Southey/ June 2d 1802
MS: Huntington Library, RS 22. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 195-197; Orlo Williams, Lamb’s Friend the Census-Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), p. 81 [in part]. BACK

[1] The Latin translates as ‘for the time being’. BACK

[2] The Southeys’ first child, Margaret Edith, was born on 31 August 1802. BACK

[3] Chronica do Codestabre de Portugal Dom Nunes Alvarez Pereyra (1623), no. 3345 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; Fernão Lopez (c. 1380-1459), Chronica del Rey D. Joam I, de boa Memoria e dos Reys de Portugal o Decimo Composta (1644), no. 3349 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The other books Southey mentions cannot be identified. BACK

[4] Southey was working on his planned ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[5] John Simon Harcourt (1773-1810), MP for Westbury, Wiltshire 1800-1802. BACK

[6] The ‘very curious paper, written about 1740, by a Portuguese Secretary of State, and containing his plans for the improvement of Portugal’, summarised by Southey as ‘On the State of Portugal’ in Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol, 1797), pp. 407-463. BACK

[7] In 1802 the Pneumatic Institute was re-christened the Preventive Medical Institution for the Sick and Drooping Poor. BACK

[8] Thomas Beddoes, Observations on the Medical and Domestic Management of the Consumptive (London, 1801), Appendix III, pp. [94]-105. BACK

[9] See, for example, Thomas Beddoes, A Collection of Testimonies respecting the Treatment of Venereal Disease by Nitrous Acid (1799). BACK

[10] Rickman’s employer, Charles Abbot (1757–1829; DNB), The Speaker 1802-1817. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 3 times)
Danvers, Charles (c. 1764–1814) (mentioned 2 times)
Davy, Humphry (1778–1829) (mentioned 2 times)
Beddoes, Thomas (1760–1808) (mentioned 2 times)
Corry, Isaac (1753–1813) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)
Danvers, Mrs. (d. 1803) (mentioned 1 time)
Poole, Thomas (1766–1837) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Dublin (mentioned 1 time)