866. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 11 December [1803]

866. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 11 December [1803] ⁠* 

Dear Rickman

I take it for granted that my precious brother had procured his regular discharge – & said nothing about his reestablishment in the Suffisante because Tom tells me she is sent abroad. But a worse business has come out since. the young rascal has drawn two bills upon me, one for three pounds to pay a gunmaker – the other for 5–13 – I know not for what, – & moreover modestly sends me a taylors bill for two complete suits & a great coat of superfine cloth – to the tune of 11–16–3½ to convince me he says that he has not been extravagant. Of course I have protested his drafts & refused to pay his bills, & he & his Aunt & Mr Barham [1]  may manage the affair as they please.

All this I wrote to May by the last post. It is clear enough that he is completely adrift & that if he do not take to the sea he will go on as a sharper till he probably comes to the proper & customary termination of such a trade. I think he should be shipped off for some foreign station, or if he be too bad for the navy, for some long voyage. that he can turn out well is utterly impossible. I however must not omit doing all I can to put him in a fair way – as for embarrassing myself for him that I will never do. I have already incurred a debt to May by what I have done to help on Harry in the world – which will cost me the whole profits of Madoc [2]  to clear off.

These things however shall not give me any permanent vexation. they will needs irritate & inflame at first, but I have a stock of practical stoicism which has often stood me in good stead. You assigned a cause for the tone of my former letter which probably does exist but assuredly did not exhilirate me. it is to me far more a cause of fear than of hope. I would rather forego delight than hazard tranquillity.

I mean to publish Madoc next winter & to try to have the whole profits myself without letting the booksellers go halves. if you can get me some subscribers I know you will. a guinea for a quarto to be paid on delivery. But if this mode of publication sound or feel unworthily to you – tell me so – & my wares shall go to market. This will clear me with the world. I should have had money to spare but for such perpetual drains. Sic vos non vobis [3]  – Haud facile emergunt &c. [4] 

God bless you.


Sunday Dec. 11.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS/ Dec. 11/ 1803
MS: Huntington Library, RS 46. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 345-346. BACK

[1] John Foster-Barham (1763-1822), a wealthy merchant in the West India trade and partner in Plummer, Barham & Co. How Edward Southey had made his acquaintance is unclear. BACK

[2] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[3] ‘Thus you [do what is] not for you’. BACK

[4] Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis (late 1st-early 2nd century AD), Satires Book 1, no. 3, lines 164-165, ‘Haud facile emergunt quorum virtutibus obstat/Res angusta domi’. The Latin translates as ‘Difficult indeed is it for those to emerge from obscurity whose noble qualities are cramped by narrow means at home.’ BACK

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