1897. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 6 April 1811 

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

1897. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 6 April 1811 ⁠* 

April 6. 1811

My dear Rickman

I am surprized by what you say about the Quarterly, – rather more at the gross mismanagement of the than at the thing itself. [1]  For if our doctrines did not suit the Review, that ought to have been discovered before Murray was put to the expence of printing the article; or you & I to the trouble of revising the proofs. – I perceive the number is published, & the next post will probably bring me bring me letters from Gifford & Murray – they are both somewhat over civil in their manner of complimenting, – & upon this case they must take care to be civil enough. – The first thing I shall do upon receiving formal notice of the suppression, – will be to demand back the MSS. or in preference {a set of} the printed sheets, if Murray has had the sense to preserve a fair impression, & then I shall hand it over to Longman – upon trial for his British Review. [2]  Where if Pasleys book be not already pre-engaged it will have a fair chance, especially if I xx xxx give L. reason to suppose that xxxxxx {if he} xxx insertion {of} this article to please me, I will occasionally write one to please him. I was applied to to take a leading part in that Review, & refused as being pre-engaged to the Q. But if they give me any just cause of offence I shall go to the other shop; or perhaps give up the trade altogether, now that it is no longer necessary to my subsistence. The Register [3]  gives me a sufficient income, & as much work as ought to be spared from the opus magnum. [4] 

I am sorry to say my years work is yet far from completion. Last years vol. fell short of 460 pages, – this will run to 700, – a precious addition of labour. [5]  I have full six weeks work before me, work as hard as I can had it been no longer than the hist. of 1808 it would have been finished a month ago.

– This Pasley affair sticks in my gizzard; – it comes of ministerial patronage. Gifford will not insert any thing that is not to the taste of the men in power, – & they never like to be dictated to. You may be sure it has been submitted to Canning for his opinion, – & in this respect ins & outs are all alike. Tis a comfort that I have the Register to myself, & can say what I please there.

Thank you for your information. La Peñas [6]  conduct has perplexed me, because he was a tried man. – The business has given occasion to more villainy on the part of Whitbread [7]  & the Gregres, [8]  for which in due time I will take due vengeance.




* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 6. April 1811
MS: Huntington Library, RS 171
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The first paragraph deals with Southey’s ongoing resentment at the handling of his review of Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). Southey, who had been supplied with information by Rickman, used this as an opportunity to attack the government. The finished article had been 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. In a letter to Southey of 11 April 1811, Rickman claimed: ‘I had no idea that the Quarterly Review was ministerial’ (Orlo Williams, Lamb’s Friend the Census-Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), p. 155). BACK

[2] Longmans’ The British Review and London Critical Journal, which ran from 1811–1825. Southey did not contribute to it. BACK

[3] The Edinburgh Annual Register. BACK

[4] The ‘great work’, possibly a reference to Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819), or his unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

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

[6] The Spanish commander Manuel La Peña (fl. 1808–1811), whose actions at the Battle of Barossa (5 March 1811) had resulted in his being court-martialled and relieved of his command. For Southey’s belief that La Peña was the victim of disagreements between the British and Spanish generals and governments, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 297. BACK

[7] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 295–296, reported Samuel Whitbread’s (1764–1815; DNB) speech of 1 April 1811 in the Commons denouncing the Spanish army’s conduct at the Battle of Barossa and provided Southey’s view of the matter. BACK

[8] 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

Published @ RC

August 2013