771. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [8 April 1803]

771. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [8 April 1803] ⁠* 

Dear Rickman

We are all bustle & business & brown paper & cords & packages. Tom has been appointed to the Galatea [1]  (not the Mercury [2]  as the newspapers have it) & is this day setting off. he is probably first Lieutenant – & if we must go to loggerheads will start with a fair chance of mending his fortunes.

You will not see me in London so soon as I had at first resolved. I can come up to better advantage in the autumn. this is a good reason, & moreover I wish that cursed La Gripe [3]  to be completely extirpated before lest I should fall into his clutches again.

Septuagints [4]  ought to be more common, for the reason you have given. but you misreckon upon the possible price at which they could be sold. Unless School masters sanction them & adopt them, school boys would not buy them, & nothing but a great school sale could cover the expences. all printing is of course dear in proportion to its closeness, & crowded Greek would be God knows what per sheet, treble – or six fold the English price. I have let my Greek sleep so long that perhaps it may never be awakened – yet I must read Homer again & again. I mean to hunt the Byzantine historians for facts of manners & such corollaries as may be gleaned – & there must be something in Nonnus [5]  which might be useful in writing upon Hindostan – to all this, bless the old Editors! their Latin will help me, & I have yet Greek enough to verify all that concerns me. – Elmsley whom you saw at my rooms, is editing Sophocles at Edinburgh. [6]  I am glad he is doing any thing, tho the stock of human knowledge will be but little increased by any corrections of the metre of a Greek chorus. Elmsleys very complete knowledge of the language will one day be applied to some better purpose. it is a great thing to break the ice. facilis descensus! [7]  – printers ink has a bird-lime quality of sticking to the fingers.

Danvers is much obliged to you for putting his letter in so fair a way of reaching its mark. – I have not written to Lamb – & am sorry for it – but in fact I know not how to mention his sister, & cannot write without mentioning her. in all cases madness is a dreadful affliction – & in this instance it is peculiarly dreadful. [8] 

You are going to Lewes – I wish it were to Portsmouth. the Lt of H. M. S. Galatea would be very glad to see you on board.

God bless you –


Good Friday.


* Endorsement: Apr 8 1803
MS: Huntington Library, RS 34. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 310-311. BACK

[1] HMS Galatea, a 32-gun Royal Navy frigate, bound for the West Indies. BACK

[2] HMS Mercury, a 28-gun Royal Navy frigate, serving in the Eastern Atlantic. BACK

[3] The influenza epidemic of 1803, which had been especially virulent in England and France. BACK

[4] A Greek version of the Old Testament, written in Alexandria (3rd-1st centuries BC). BACK

[5] Nonnus (4th-5th centuries AD), Greek poet and author of the epic Dionysiaca. BACK

[6] In later life, Elmsley edited several of Sophocles’ (c. 497-406 BC) plays, including Oedipus Tyrannus (1811) and Oedipus Coloneus (1823). BACK

[7] Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 BC), Aeneid, Book 6, line 126: ‘descent is easy’. BACK

[8] Mary Lamb had been taken to an asylum in Hoxton on 29 March. She was back home with her brother by May 1803. BACK

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