2210. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 January 1813

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

2210. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 January 1813 ⁠* 

My dear R.

I trouble you with a packet pro Twopenny – it contains some papers upon a legacy business, [1]  which may probably find their way to you once more to solicit frankage to Bristol.

You may have seen in the last Quarterly that I took occasion of D’Israeli’s D’Israelish book to say something about the Wrongs of Authors. [2]  I wish some influencial member (as an American would say) would touch upon this when the foolish demand for copies upon Q Annes Statute comes again before the House. [3]  For if the law is to undergo any revision an opportunity would offer of rendering it a little less unjust to the parties who are most concerned.

Thank you for your great book [4]  & the Capitaneus for the Dutchman. [5]  I have made upon the state of the populace a paper, which tho not well-digested, is very likely to make people open their eyes, – if Gifford & his advisers will but let it alone. [6]  But they have a passion for cropping, & docking, & hogging & nicking, & all sorts of operations that xxx tend to disfigure & to debilitate. There is a broadside attack upon the Sunday papers, & a recommendation that for a second offence of state-libel, transportation should be the punishment. [7]  Hunt [8]  & Cobbett would be good subjects at Botany Bay.

Murray I see puts my name to the Life of Nelson: whether wisely or not he must be the best judge; I left it at his discretion. It will probably be out in the course of February. [9] 

Remember me to Mrs R.

Yrs truly


Jany. 22. 1813.


* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: Fr. R.S./ 22 Janry 1813
MS: Huntington Library, RS 196. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Probably connected to the exceptionally complex will of Cannon Southey (d. 1768). BACK

[2] Isaac D’Israeli, Calamities of Authors; Including some Inquiries Respecting their Moral and Literary Characters (1812), Quarterly Review, 8 (September 1812), 93–114. Southey had used the review to attack the existing copyright law, established in 1709, that ‘an author may retain or dispose of the property of his works for a term of eight and twenty years, after which it becomes common property’ (111). His argument for reform was followed by the proposal that the government establish an academy to provide employment for literary men and benefit individual and national interests (113–114). BACK

[3] The Statute of Anne (1665–1714, Queen of Great Britain 1701–1714; DNB), full title, ‘An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned’. Passed in 1709, it came into force in 1710 and is seen as the origin of copyright law. This law also required nine copies of all books (increased to eleven in 1801) that were listed at Stationers Hall to be donated to public and university libraries. This provision had been much more strictly adhered to since two legal cases in 1812, causing much annoyance to publishers and authors. BACK

[4] It is not clear what Southey is referring to here. Possibly Rickman had sent Southey some material from the 1811 Census, which he had organised. BACK

[5] Alexandre Esquemelin (1645–1707), De Americaeneche Zee Roovers (1678). Southey’s copy was no. 927 in the sale catalogue of his library, where it is described as ‘Presentation Copy from Capt. Burney’. BACK

[6] Southey’s review of Patrick Colquhoun (1745–1820; DNB), Propositions for ameliorating the Condition of the Poor: and For Improving the Moral Habits, and Increasing the Comforts of the Labouring People (1812), appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. Rickman had had some input, probably supplying notes and ideas. Gifford and his advisers did rewrite sections, much to Southey’s disgust. BACK

[7] This proposal did not appear in the published version. BACK

[8] The radical Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773–1835; DNB). BACK

[9] Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813), which appeared with his name on the title page. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013

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