761. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 20 February 1803

761. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 20 February 1803 ⁠* 

Dear Rickman

The books are at your service. Seldens I bought because Corry wanted to know something about Tithes [1]  – but by the time I could find the book he had forgotten his enquiry, & my memorandums (admire the English-Latin & singular plurality of that word –) for a paper on the subject are now folded in the blotting paper whereon I write. May [2]  you probably recollect by his Supplement to Lucan, a work of no common merit. his English poems are quite Lucanic in style, & he caught the politics as well as the poetry of the Spanish Republican. they are both good as books, but in price both flocci, nauci, nihili, fili. [3] 

The Borja in my list you have sent under his princely title of Esquilache. [4]  I am stupified with reviewing, & have at least thirty guineas worth to finish & send off by the end of the month to Arthur Aikin. Some of the Voyages have compelled me to learn something, & a book which a Scotchman (Mackenzie) [5]  has written to say he has demonstrated the non-existence of a N. West passage, has half convinced me that it actually does exist, for his facts directly contradict his inference. he goes to latitude 99 – sees the sea – & whales in it – & comes back & says he has disproved the NW passage. Quomodo Diabolus  [6]  do the whales bear him out?

From the Memoirs of Lord Walpole shall I send you a choice Flos Coxeiana? [7]  how Louis 15  [8]  behaved when he heard that Fleury [9]  had retired in disgust. the extract is from an official communication – “the King said nothing, but with the greatest appearance of concern in his countenance, suddenly left the room & went to his own closet, where, to avoid company coming to him, he retired to his garde-robe, & set himself upon the close-stool in a very sullen & melancholy posture.” [10]  The French cannot caricature – else what a subject!

I should like to know what you think of Despard [11]  & the conspiracy. Wynn who was at the trial thought it had deeper roots than were discovered. & that the accomplices were many. the evidence rather made me imagine that Despard had been amusing himself with talking treason. of planning what might-be, treasonable castle-building, that he had been playing with a halter till he was caught in the noose. I could have sentenced him for <found him guilty as> a fool not as a traitor.

William Taylor is editing a Norwich newspaper [12]  which will annoy Mr Wyndham [13]  he wanted me to live there & undertake the office. but if I ever chose drudgery of that kind it should not be for a country paper

In a week I clear off my reviewing. in three more finish Amadis, [14]  & as soon after as may be will come up to finish my preface, carry home my work, & receive my wages. If you look in the Morning Post [15]  you will sometimes see sundry indifferent verses, value one guinea per hundred according to the print reckoning of six score. There are some notions floating about in my brain which may perhaps come to something good of that kind. – In Hamiltons [16]  fire I lost – a whole sheet of invaluable criticism – consumed as he told me “in the late tremendous fire which destroyed the whole of my extensive premises.” what is worse I was going to ask for my account; he being my debtor some thirty guineas. I xx <am sorry for> him – & like the Dutchman I do pity myself!


yrs truly

R. S.

Sunday 20 Feby. 1803


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS/ Feb. 20. 1803
MS: Huntington Library, RS 32. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 212-213. BACK

[1] John Selden (1584-1654; DNB), lawyer and historian who was a moderate Parliamentarian during the English Civil War. His The Historie of Tithes (1618) is not in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; Southey may have given his copy to Rickman. BACK

[2] Thomas May (c. 1596-1650; DNB), writer and historian, was a more extreme Parliamentarian who supported the declaration of a Republic in 1649. Translations of Lucan’s Pharsalia, with the Continuation by Tho. May (1657-1659) is no. 1830 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. The Roman poet Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (AD 39-65) was born in Spain and known for his republican views. BACK

[3] i.e. nothing. BACK

[4] Francisco de Borja, Prince of Esquilache (1577-1658) Las Obras en Verso (1754), no. 3236 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Alexander Mackenzie (1764-1820; DNB), Voyages from Montreal to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans (1801). Reviewed by Southey in Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 18-30. BACK

[6] The Latin translates as ‘How the Devil’. BACK

[7] The Latin translates as ‘Coxeian flower’. William Coxe, Memoirs of Horatio, Lord Walpole (1802). Reviewed by Southey, Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 599-601. BACK

[8] Louis XV (1710-1774, King of France 1715-1774). BACK

[9] Andre-Hercule de Fleury, Bishop of Frejus (1653-1743). He was Louis XV’s tutor and became his chief minister 1726-1743. BACK

[10] William Coxe (1748-1828; DNB), Memoirs of Horatio, Lord Walpole (London, 1802), p. 106. BACK

[11] Edward Despard (1751-1803; DNB) was tried and executed for treason on 21 February 1803, after being found guilty of trying to organise a revolution in 1802. BACK

[12] William Taylor’s newspaper, The Iris, had begun publication on 5 February 1803. Taylor had offered Southey the editorship in December 1802. BACK

[13] William Windham (1750-1810; DNB), Secretary at War 1794-1801 and MP for Norwich 1784-1802. The Iris was strongly opposed to Windham’s exercise of his political influence in Norwich. BACK

[14] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[15] Southey had started to sporadically contribute poems to the Morning Post again. His most recent publications were ‘A True Ballad Of A Pope’, Morning Post, 4 February 1803 and ‘Ballad From Gongora’, Morning Post, 19 February 1803. BACK

[16] Samuel Hamilton (fl. 1790s-1810s), owner of the Critical Review 1799-1804. BACK

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