1879. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 4 March 1811 

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

1879. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 4 March 1811 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

The spirit moves me very strongly to throw all your overflowing hints into the form of a pamphlett, keeping the secret perfectly close between you & I & the publisher, so that it might have all the advantage of ‘whose can it be?’ to further its circulation & sale. While I had all the freedom which arises from writing anonymously {unknown as well as unnamed.} The best xxx {It might be in the} shape must be that of a letter to Perceval, showing in what manner he might become the greatest minister of any age or country, & thus every thing connected with the improvement of the British Empire might fitly be introduced, home & foreign politics, – the extirpation of the French language in our conquered colonies, – Ireland &c – & here we would advertise for our party of Englishmen, – which I have not been able to do in the reviewal. Pasley was {is} too full of matter to leave room for much addition after I had gone through his arguments. There will be a thundering conclusion – & I have knocked the husbanding politicians fairly on the head by the two grand illustrations of this system – in husbanding money, – by the Greeks of Constantinople, – & men by Prussia. Then comes our friend the Yogue to compleat the picture. [1] 

A pamphlett is but little longer than a long reviewal. It gives me full liberty, – whereas G. has always the Ministry before his eyes, & I have little doubt will sacrifice all my anti-Neapolitan arguments to our precious Treaty of Subsidy. [2]  Should it swell to a volume no matter. The manner will ensure the sale, – (the Quarterly proves that I have learnt how to write popularly in prose) – & these things are soon written when there is no labour of research or reading required, but you have only to pour out from a full mind. The plan of such things costs more than the execution. After you & I had talked over the matter it might be done presently.

You will not see me till the first week in May, & there is a long spell of work to be got thro by that time. This volume will outstretch the last by full 200 pages, tho not upon a more extensive scale of narration. Spanish events must occupy as much as they did. [3]  Parl. Proc. as much again, [4]  – & there is the Austrian war, [5]  Flushing [6]  cum multis aliis quæ nunc perscribere longum est, [7]  to boot. I am just finishing what seems to me a good account of the Basque Roads affair, collected with excellent pains from Gambiers Court Trial, & the N. Chronicle. [8]  And I have been so cautious in handling terms which I do not thoroughly understand that there is little possibility of any blunder, – however to guard against any, the proofs shall be sent to Tom. Lord Gambier is a good old man, & I do not like the him the less for his psalm-singing – I should be sorry to say any thing which could give him pain, – but the opinion which I have formed from a very careful examination of the evidence is that more could have done if Cochrane had had the command. Cochrane is a great man upon the seas, & must if possible be separated from the Burdettites in both in his own & the public feeling. We have no other man who can tread in the steps of Nelson. Why is he not employed? [9] 

It is said in the Lit. Panorama that the number of Local & Personal Acts past in the Session of 1809 was 192 “Also those not printed 112.” [10] xx Does this mean that the 112 were past also, or that they were brought before the House & did not pass? – for I thought all Acts were printed. by I Explain this to me in a single line, – that I may make no blunder in stating the sum of real business performed by Parliament. The List of Public Acts I shall add to the Appendix as a proper addition to the Documents for the year. [11] 

You are glad that the system of the Œconomists is not an English invention. [12]  For your comfort I have discovered that the Stone-Ships also are of French extraction. [13]  They were tried at Calais by the Duke of Burgundy [14]  in 1436, – where six of them were duly sunk. – At low water men & women came out of the town, – pulled them to pieces & hauled away the materials “to the great astonishment, says Monstrellet, of the Duke & his Admirals” – who were looking on & no doubt wondering that they should never have thought of the possibility of this before.  [15]  This is a noble article for the Omniana. [16]  Tell me who was the English xxxxxxxx {xxxxxxx inventor} of this grand project – that who was the First Lord at that time? – See the blessed effects of stripping history of all its circumstances. Our First Lords may be expected to read Hume, [17]  – & if this fact had found its way into xxx Hume, the nation would have been saved 100,000 £!

God bless you


March 4. 1811.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 4 March 1811
MS: Huntington Library, RS 168
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). Southey’s review (which Rickman had assisted him with) 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. For the conclusion, and ‘husbanding money’, see Quarterly Review, 5, 435–437. The ‘Yogue’ was renamed ‘the Hindoo devotee, who sits with his hands before him in the same position of devotion for weeks and months together, husbands his muscles till he loses the use of them!’ (p. 436). Southey’s review of Pasley did not become a pamphlet. BACK

[2] 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. The Treaty of Alliance between Britain and Sicily (1808) included a provision that Britain would pay Sicily £300,000 p.a., backdated to 1805. BACK

[3] For Southey’s account of events in Spain, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 470–574. BACK

[4] For Southey’s narrative of Parliamentary proceedings, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 1–353. BACK

[5] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 600–659, detailing Austria’s defeat by France in 1809. BACK

[6] The siege and capture of Flushing by British troops was part of the ill-fated Walcheren campaign of 1809. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 660–692. BACK

[7] ‘With many other matters that it would be tedious now to write in full’. BACK

[8] The Naval Chronicle, published since 1799. BACK

[9] The controversy surrounding the Battle of the Basque Roads in April 1809. Although they achieved some success, the British fleet failed to destroy the French navy completely. Captain Thomas Cochrane, later 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), who had led a highly effective fireship attack at the start of the battle, accused his commanding officer, the evangelical Admiral James Gambier, Baron Gambier (1756–1833; DNB), of being reluctant to pursue the attack and thus achieve a complete victory. Cochrane was also an MP with a reputation for exposing abuses of office, and, in the weeks after the battle, he pursued his campaign against Gambier via parliamentary speeches. Gambier demanded a court-martial at which he was exonerated and, by implication, Cochrane was convicted of libelling a superior officer. Whilst Gambier received public thanks from parliament for his actions in the battle, Cochrane was not permitted to rejoin his ship for a few months. When he received new orders to serve in the Mediterranean, Cochrane refused and went on half-pay, devoting his time to exposing abuses in the Admiralty. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 364–379. BACK

[10] The Literary Panorama, 6 (1809), col. 1272. BACK

[11] See Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), Appendix, viii–xvi. BACK

[12] Modern economic theory can be traced to France as well as Britain, for instance in the work of Francois Quesnay (1694–1774). BACK

[13] There had been a plan in 1804 to block the French port of Boulogne with stone ships. The First Lord of the Admiralty at the time was John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent (1735–1823; DNB). BACK

[14] Philip III, ‘the Good’ (1396–1467), Duke of Burgundy, and leader of the attack on English-controlled Calais in 1436. BACK

[15] Thomas Johnes (1748–1816; DNB) [trans.], The Chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet, 4 vols (Hafod, 1809), III, p. 185. BACK

[16] See Southey and Coleridge, Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores, 2 vols (London, 1812), II, pp. 31–32. BACK

[17] David Hume (1711–1776; DNB), author of a monumental History of England (1754–1762). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013