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

1876. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 27 February 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby 27. 1811.

My dear Rickman

I must divide your materials. The utmost limits to which a reviewal speciali gratiâ  [1]  may extend will not suffice for more than the corroborant statistics, – the summary of the book with a few extracts of such matter as cannot be abbreviated, – & a thundering Philippic at the close, with Gods vengeance upon the husbanding system. [2]  All your last importation will make an admirable article per se, to which any Burdettite  [3]  pamphlett, – or indeed any political pamphlett be the side what it may, will supply a text. It will have better effect as a seperate discussion, – for in literary warfare two blows tell to more effect than one. – The greater part I shall send off to Gifford at the same time with this, & give Murray his direction about the proofs. I am afraid the Sicilian part will be a stumbling block. [4]  The Quarterly took xx a very wrong course in its first number about Sicily, letting Robert Walpole [5]  contradict Leckie, [6]  – for which Leckie exposed him grievously. [7]  And I am afraid that having once gone wrong Gifford will be for preserving consistency at the expence of every other species of fitness. However I have ventured to write plain truth, & if he strikes it out of the Quarterly in it shall go into the Register, – where at any rate in 1810, I mean to give a full exposition of Neapolitan villainy [8]  from Leckies book & Coleridges knowledge of the subject.

I think the bill about freehold property [9]  was Wynn’s – who certainly is no Jacobin. Your objections to it are fatal. About the criminal law I agree with you in the main, – & see no harm in the frequency of pardons, – but I would have the punishment of death taken away from {some} cases in which it is usually inflicted, – coining & forging. because there ought to be a strong line of distinction drawn between offences against the moral & {& those} against xxxxxx conventional law: & many, if not most of those who suffer for their offences would be good colonists. – No man should be hanged who is pitied at the gallows: the feeling of vengeance is necessary to sanction & sanctify punishment. Our puny moralists are for seperating them! & hanging men upon a supposed expediency, not because they ought to be hanged.

Your arguments are irresistible upon these beggarly reforms to which Perceval pitifully lends himself, & which actually deserve to be hooted down. [10]  Let us once begin to conquer & we shall hear no more of such nonsense!

Spain has suffered a heavy loss in Romana & Albuquerque, [11]  – both great men, – who possessed the entire confidence of those the troops & were fully worthy of it. – Oh that I were but Prime Minister incog over the Ministry for one half year! just to land one army in Biscay & another in Catalonia, – one to clear the North of Spain, the other the South, – while Lord Wellington was demolishing Massena! [12] 




* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 27 Febry 1811
MS: Huntington Library, RS 167
Unpublished. BACK

[1] ‘By special favour’. Southey is referring to his review of Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). 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. BACK

[2] The idea that Britain should ‘husband’ its resources rather than engage in expensive warfare on the Continent of Europe. BACK

[3] A pamphlet supporting the Radical ideas of Sir Francis Burdett. BACK

[4] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB) had questioned whether British conduct to Sicily had been unwise and had suggested Britain should have ‘taken possession of Sicily for ourselves’, Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (London, 1810), pp. 171, 163. Southey undoubtedly agreed with this, making the interventionist case in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 99. In contrast, the published version of Southey’s review of the Essay, which had been rewritten by Croker, in consultation with Gifford and Murray, dismissed Pasley’s ideas as ‘fraught with dangerous principles’ (Quarterly Review, 3 (May 1810) pp. 429–431). BACK

[5] Robert Walpole (1781–1856; DNB), classical scholar, clergyman and traveller in the Near East. Son of Robert Walpole (1736–1810), Envoy to Portugal, 1771–1800. BACK

[6] Walpole wrote the attack on Gould Francis Leckie (1760–1850), An Historical Survey of the Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, With a View to Explain the Causes of the Disasters of the Late and Present War (1808), in Quarterly Review, 1 (May 1809), 405–419. BACK

[7] Leckie responded with A Letter to the Rev. R. Walpole, in Answer to His Criticisms on the State of Sicily (1809). BACK

[8] Southey disliked the Bourbon monarchy, which had been expelled from Naples by the French and had survived in Sicily because of British support. Its main sins in his eyes were its reactionary nature and its unwillingness to wage war against the French. Southey had to wait until Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 422–437 to express his views. BACK

[9] In 1807 Wynn had been co-sponsor of the Freehold Estates Bill, which proposed to allow the landed estates of people who died insolvent to be used to pay debts they had contracted. The Bill was defeated. BACK

[10] Samuel Romilly (1757–1818; DNB) was regularly introducing bills to reduce the number of offences that carried the death penalty. Not all members of the government were opposed to these measures. On 27 February 1811, Romilly introduced petitions from calico printers asking for the death penalty to be abolished for the crime of stealing from a bleaching ground, and this measure passed, with government acquiescence. On 4 March 1811, the government appointed a committee to look into building more prisons, partly as an alternative to the death penalty. BACK

[11] The Spanish general Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761–1811); and the Spanish military commander, Jose Miguel de la Cueva, 13th Duke of Alburquerque (1774–1811). For Southey’s account of the latter’s final months as ambassador in England, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 296–297. BACK

[12] Andre Massena (1758–1817), commander of the French Army in Portugal 1810–1811. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013