696. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 24 July 1802

696. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 24 July 1802 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

Your letter seems to hint at an employment quite incompatible with my inclinations & talents & pursuits. [1]  there is no employment, if I rightly apprehend you, for which I am less fitted. I have learnt too irregularly to teach with method. besides tasks of this kind so teaze & tire the mind that it becomes unfit for anything. the common business of the world may be done with the eye & the hand – while the brain sleeps; – but in this – tis the horse in the mill – effort without advancing.

I forgot to ask whether – & you have not mentioned if certain boxes of books were deposited at your house the day of your departure? my flock must be gathered together. I shall look out a house about Richmond & settle myself as soon as circumstances permit our removal. I have caught some little calculation from you, & find that whatever makes me lose time from my history [2]  is a loss upon the balance, so I shall wash my hands & sit down steadily to that one pursuit.

The Cartas eruditas e curiosas [3]  if I forgot x mistake not are in one volume – the letters of men of learning in Spain under the Philips. or they are Feyjoos (& this I believe is the right recollection) – in neither case have they any relation to the French work [4]  which is made up from the Cartas annuaes [5]  – a rare & precious collection. I have only one volume in Portugueze [6]  – one in Italian – & two (the Japanese letters) in Latin. [7]  to collect the whole is a work of time, research, difficulty & expence. there is a long road to travel before these guides become necessary. I am now busy with John [8]  the father of Prince Henrique the discoverer, who by the by was half of English blood tho of Portugueze fabric, & filling up my prolegomena de Mauris [9]  from D’Herbelot & Cardonne [10]  collated with the Spanish & what Arabian accounts are in Xtian or Heathen language. here was a noble cargo of Monastic History awaiting me – Cistertian, Seraphic, Dominican & Jesuit – twenty folios. these old gentlemen meant only to illuminate their own Convents – but the light shines upon the passers by. the number of Bedlamite stories they contain is quite wonderful. Set up two convents in London for the both sexes – & you will knock up the private madhouses.

We have little stirring – except that King is inventing diseases for dogs, cats, rabbits & guinea-pigs – & curing them in the humanum genus [11]  – not however including bats & whales with Linnæus. [12]  In syphilis the treatment is so uniformly successful that old Fracastorius ought to get out of his grave & write another poem. [13] 

I will trouble you to receive the salary for me – I am not in want of money – but it may save Mr Corry trouble to take both quarters at once – at the same time make my respects to him suitably. the remittance you sent from Ireland had so near an escape (something like it at least – for the next letter you wrote never reached me –) that it has taught me caution. I will therefore beg you to procure bank-post-bills for it – but do this at your leisure.

Letters cannot reach me on the hill in time to be answered by return of post. they come here about four – which is the hour of the Mails departure.

Danvers desires to be remembered. his Mother grows more & more feeble – still she enjoys herself – but the body is almost worn out. I have caught something like a family feeling towards her & shall miss her sadly. Did you see Harry & William Taylor on their return? Harry I find likes England better than he did before he went to France. – the Bishop gave us a flying visit lately – from George the first I have a letter with stronger marks of the Dyer than any you have ever beheld. Eye hath not seen, nor hath heart conceived [14]  any thing so admirably original. – The Edgeworths have made the amende honorable [15]  for Castle Rackrent by an Essay upon Bulls. [16]  many a man who sins with a good grace makes an awkward figure at repenting.

yrs truly

Robert Southey.

July 24. 1802. Kingsdown.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: R Southey/ July 24/ June 24./ 1802
MS: Huntington Library, RS 24. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 279-280. BACK

[1] Rickman had probably suggested Southey take up a post as a tutor. BACK

[2] Southey’s uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[3] Benito Jerónimo Feijoo (1676-1764), Cartas Eruditas y Curiosas (1742-1760), no. 3297 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. They were in 5 volumes, not one. The period of ‘the Philips’ lasted from the reign of Philip II (1527-1598, King of Spain 1556-1598) to Philip V (1683-1746, King of Spain 1700-1746). BACK

[4] Possibly Histoire de ce qui passé au Royaume du Japon en 1625-6-7 (1633), no 1337 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Collections of annual reports sent by Jesuit missionaries to their superiors. BACK

[6] Fernando Guerreiro, Relacam Annual das Cousas que Fizeram os Padres da Companha de Jesu nas partes da India Oriental em Alguas Outras da Conquista deste Reyno nos Annos de 1607 & 1608 (1611), no. 3484 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. He later acquired the two volumes covering the years 1601-1602 and 1604-1605, no. 3483 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Possibly: Avvisi del Giapone e di Cima, 1582-3-4. 6 & 8 (1586), no. 1080 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; Epistolae Japanicae de Multorum Gentilium in Variis Insulis ad Christi Fidem per Societatis Jesu Theologos Conversione (1569), no. 1005 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; and Emanuel Acosta (dates unknown), Rerum Oriente Gestarum Commentarius et Epistolarum Japonicus (1572), no. 6 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] John I (1357-1433, King of Portugal 1385-1433). His wife was Philippa of Lancaster (1360-1415; DNB) and their third son was Henry ‘the Navigator’ (1394-1460). BACK

[9] The Latin translates as ‘of the Moors’. The Prologue to Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’ dealt with the period of Islamic domination before the 12th century. BACK

[10] Barthelemy d’Herbelot de Molainville (1625-1695), Bibliotheque Orientale (1697); Denis Dominique Cardonne (1721-1783), Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne sous la Domination des Arabes (1765). BACK

[11] i.e. the human race. BACK

[12] In his Systema Naturae (1735), the taxonomist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), classified bats as four-footed mammals and whales as fish. BACK

[13] Girolamo Fracastoro (Fracastorius, 1478-1553), physician, scholar and poet. His epic Syphilis sive Morbus Gallicus (1530) was the derivation of the name for syphilis. The Pneumatic Institute treated syphilis with nitrous acid; see Thomas Beddoes, A Collection of Testimonies Respecting the Treatment of Venereal Disease by Nitrous Acid (1799). BACK

[14] An adaptation of 1 Corinthians 2: 29. BACK

[15] i.e. a satisfactory apology. BACK

[16] Southey was mistaken: Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849; DNB) was the author of Castle Rackrent (1800) and Essay on Irish Bulls (1802); she did not co-author them with her father Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817; DNB). BACK

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