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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1872. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [20 February 1811] ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

You have sent me a copious supply – but Gifford as you all ought to allow Pasley [1]  as much room as Pitt. [2]  By the bye that book was written by the other Giffard – John the Pamphleteer, [3]  not William of the Baviad. [4] 

I have it under the hand of Wynn that any new Ministry must recall our troops from Spain & Portugal, – to which I replied by praying he might stay out of place as long as he thought so, & prescribing Pasley. [5]  – Your account of Frank Moore running with news from the War office to the Chronicle [6]  was also told me by Gifford, who very properly gave him the appellation of ‘half-traitor.”

When I read L Goldsmiths [7]  book about France the impression it made upon me was that he was sent over by Buonaparte to further his purpose here God knows by what other means, but specially by publishing such outrageous & absurd stories against him, as should give his good friends a plea for disbelieving any thing against a man who had was so palpably calumniated. For instance that B. when at the military college poisoned a woman who was with child by him; [8]  – that {this} is a lie I know, because I know happen to have a person resident in the same town, [9]  at whose house B. was in the habit of visiting, & from whom I learnt that his character was exactly what you would suppose, very studious, & very correct. That it must be a lie is obvious, because such things could x could not be done with more impunity in France than in England, wheels being in use there, & to say that it might have been concealed, leads to the obvious question, if so {then} how came L Goldsmith to know it? – A still grosser & more ridiculous story is that B. makes his poison by giving arsenic to a pig, & tying the pig up by the hind legs, & collecting what runs from his mouth, [10]  which is his agua porco-topi tofana. [11]  Now the man is no fool, & it is not possible that he can believe this himself, or that he can suppose it can be believed by any person of common sense. For what purpose then can he publish such lies?

If he be the rascal which I take him to be, his newspaper [12]  I think has already shows what the main purpose is for which he has been sent over. – To put the Bourbons into Buonapartes hands. He recommends a Bourbon to be sat at the head of the army in Spain, – a Bourbon to land in France. Now there can be no doubt that this is what B. would above all things desire, & I verily believe this is what this double-died renegade [13]  is aiming at.

I have Leckies book, [14]  – excellent matter put together in so provoking a form that you are tempted at first to throw the volume down. Coleridge knows well, & ought to have brought forward the main matter of his book immediately on his return from Malta. By the bye Coleridge knows Pasley too, & might introduce you to him.

Should the reviewal [15]  prove longer than Gifford can admit, – (he will go to the utmost limits for me sans doubt) – I think the best plan will be to curtail the commercial & financial details, & keep them for a second xxxxx sermon, (a text may easily be found) in which again to preach up a Crusade, according to the true Pasleyan faith. This faith should be preached in all places on every opportunity. If Coleridge ever did what he ought to do, he would set the Courier to trumpet it. My Register is as much to the same tune as could be expected, & I shall take care to make it perfectly orthodox as it proceeds. The D of York & the plaguey proceedings which grow out of the enquiry, [16]  Christian Curwen [17]  &c – have hung hang like a mill stone about the neck of the volume, tho I have done my best to relieve it. These things will swell it to {about} two hundred page beyond the extent of the former year {volume}, [18]  – taking in also the Austrian war [19]  among the extraordinaries of the year. But it will be better than the last, & will I doubt not, establish the work in such a sale, as to make it produce considerable effect upon the public opinion.

A name is waiting for the Gr. & Gr. party, [20]  – & I think, as they are two wooden idols we might borrow one sufficiently apt from the Gre-gres of the xxx Negroes. If this were {set} afloat in the Courier it might take.

I am glad that the discovery of xxxx Binghams roguery [21]  has redeemed Sussex from the imputation of something too {so} much like Irish xxxx barbarity, as to make me feel very uncomfortable when I saw the first story – here is an impromptu on the clearing up of the mystery –

The i & the a should be read a & i
In that Gentlemans name, – & I’ll tell you for why; –
Because as for Bingham we then should read Banghim
The name will go glibly in rhyme when they hang him.




* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsements: RS/ Febry 1811; Circa 20: Feby 1811
MS: Huntington Library, RS 166
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 305–306 [in part]. BACK

[1] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), whose Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810) had been sent to Southey for review. His article was deemed by Gifford to be ‘perfectly incorrect and dangerous’ with the result that the version published in the Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–457, was much altered by Croker, in consultation with Gifford and Murray; see Jonathan Cutmore, The Quarterly Review Archive. Southey did not just prescribe Pasley to Wynn, but also to the readers of the Edinburgh Annual Register, who were informed: the Essay was ‘a book which ought to be in the hand and the heart of every Englishman’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 345 n*. BACK

[2] William Pitt (1759–1806; Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806; DNB). BACK

[3] The newspaper editor and politician John Giffard (1745–1819; DNB). BACK

[4] William Gifford’s satire The Baviad, first published in 1791. BACK

[5] Pasley had served in Spain and therefore had much to say in his Essay on the conduct of the war in the Iberian peninsular. BACK

[6] Francis Moore (1767–1854), Deputy Secretary at War and brother of the general Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB). BACK

[7] Lewis Goldsmith (c. 1763/4–1846; DNB), The Secret History of the Cabinet of Bonaparte (1810). BACK

[8] The Secret History of the Cabinet of Bonaparte (London, 1810), p. 74. BACK

[9] Mrs Keenan, née McKinnon (dates unknown), the wife of John Keenan (fl. 1780–1819), portrait painter, whom Southey had met in Exeter in 1799. BACK

[10] The Secret History of the Cabinet of Bonaparte (1810), p. 173 n.*. BACK

[11] i.e. the porcine version of aqua tofana, a strong poison reputedly widely used in Naples and Rome in the late seventeenth century. BACK

[12] Goldsmith had launched a Sunday newspaper, the Anti-Gallican Monitor, earlier in 1811. His backers were rumoured to include supporters of the exiled French monarchy and the British government. BACK

[13] Goldsmith had previously produced pro-French, pro-Napoleonic propaganda. BACK

[14] Gould Francis Leckie (1760–1850), An Historical Survey of the Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, For the Years 1808, 1809, 1810: With a View to Explain the Causes of the Disasters of the Late and Present War (1810). Leckie had run a farm in Sicily in 1800–1807 and advocated Anglicizing Sicily and similar islands in order to increase British trade. BACK

[15] Of Pasley’s Essay. BACK

[16] In 1809, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), had been forced to resign as commander-in-chief of the British army in the wake of allegations that he had profited from office trafficking. After a lengthy investigation, the charges were found to be unproven. It had, however, become apparent that his former mistress Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB) had received money from individuals keen for her to use her influence with the Duke, and that the Duke himself had known of her actions. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 109–301. BACK

[17] In 1809 the MP for Carlisle, John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), had introduced a Bill for ‘“better securing the independence and purity of Parliament, by preventing the procuring or obtaining seats by corrupt practices, and likewise more effectually to prevent bribery”’. Southey’s account is in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 249–281. BACK

[18] Ballantyne was concerned enough about the length of the historical section to insist that Southey explained himself to the readers in a prefatory note; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 2.1 (1811), [v]–vi. BACK

[19] See chapters 24–27 of the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 575–659, on the defeat of Austria by France in 1809. BACK

[20] The Whigs, led by Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; DNB), Prime Minister 1830–1834; and the followers of William Grenville, Foreign Secretary 1791–1801, Prime Minister 1806–1807. ‘Gregres’ were idols of wood and clay in West Africa. BACK

[21] The offences for which Bingham was arraigned were summed up in the title of a pamphlet: The Trials of the Rev. Robert Bingham, Curate of Maresfield in Sussex, On a Charge of Sending an Incendiary Letter, and of Setting Fire to His Dwelling-House (1811). Southey’s conviction of Bingham’s ‘roguery’ could be in response to the report of the case in The Times (5 February 1811), which claimed to provide firm evidence of the clergyman’s guilt. (Southey could also have been concerned by Bingham’s involvement in the enclosure of tracts of Ashdown forest in Sussex.) The Bingham case attracted great publicity and, as reported in the Monthly Magazine, 31 (April 1811), 395, it was claimed that: ‘The means taken to influence the public against him by the most scandalous falsehoods, and the treatment he met with in prison, render this one of the most diabolical conspiracies on record’. For condemnation of The Times’ reporting see the Political Register (4 May 1811), cols 1104–1110. Bingham was, however, acquitted on both counts. BACK

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August 2013