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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1110. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 4 October 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Rickman

You will wonder at my long silence. the fact is that I have been either living out of doors, or in a crowd of company for the last three months. This morning I set out with Elmsley for Edinburgh, within three weeks I shall return, & shut myself up for the winter.

Ask Davy for me whether bones burnt under ground in quick-lime are as good a manure as pounded bones, or if they lose any thing by being so consumed. You will perceive that if the mechanical labour can be thus saved, it would be of much consequence. I shall be glad to receive an answer to this query, that I may transmit it into Devonshire to the querist. [1] 

I have written in the Courier about the prize money, & the Courier now says that I have been misinformed, for the sailors are to have the same share as in all former cases. Misinformed I certainly was not. can you tell me whether the measure has been really given up, for if not I will renew the attack. [2] 

I have in consequence of my Uncles advice determined to return to Portugal in the spring. Edith seems unwilling to accompany me, & must do as she pleases. tho it is my wish to take her & remain abroad three years – or for an time indefinitely longer. [3]  But at any rate I go, meaning to visit the Northern provinces, to collect the Statistics of the country, & compleat my historical materials. [4]  It will employ me five months to review my last {xxx} for the last time, & to get Espriella published. [5]  As soon as these jobs are done I shall move, take London in my way to Bristol. & embark from thence in a Portugueze vessel, which now carries papers at about half the packet price.

The Story of my Lectureship is all nonsense. [6]  you may be assured that I shall never accept of any such office, if it were offered to me. I have some knowledge of Sharp, who is one of the leading men, & thro him may perhaps set them upon doing some good hereafter.

You know Burnett is in Keswick – but you may not know that he is returned – in love with a Polish Princess. his plans you probably have heard from Lamb – & I have now no time to proceed. Should you write within a fortnight direct to Mr Laings Bookseller [7]  – Edinburgh. I shall be heartily glad to get back, & still more so to sit quietly down to work –

farewell

RS.

October 4. 1805.


Notes

* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 4 Octr. 1805.
MS: Huntington Library, RS 79
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Probably Southey’s recent correspondent Robert Hurrell Froude (1770/71–1859; DNB), Church of England clergyman of Dartington, South Devon, and later Archdeacon of Totnes. BACK

[2] In December 1804, the naval ship HMS Amelia, of which Thomas Southey was a lieutenant, had captured the Spanish brig Isabella and the ship Conception, both laden with wine and brandy, and the ship Commerce, laden with cotton. It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ships and cargo captured in armed conflict, but in this case the prize money was contested because the ships were captured before war was officially declared. Southey took up his brother’s cause to have his share reinstated in The Courier which published a paragraph supporting the sailors’ claim to the prize-money on Saturday 24 August 1805. This was followed by a longer defence of their position in The Courier on 31 August 1805 under the title ‘Indemnification to the Spanish Merchants’. A ‘reply from a Spanish merchant’ appeared in The Courier for 6 September 1805. Southey’s response, that the prize money was being withheld from the sailors in a measure that was ‘impolitic, ungenerous and unjust’ was published in The Courier of 25 September 1805, p. 2. This was refuted by an editorial article in The Courier of 28 September 1805, where it was stated that there was no truth in Southey’s assertion. BACK

[3] Southey did not make his intended trip to Portugal as Edith did not wish to go and he did not want to be separated from her; see Southey to Edith Southey, 14 October 1805, Letter 1112. BACK

[4] Southey was working on a ‘History of Portugal’ which was never completed. BACK

[5] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[6] During 1805 Richard Sharp was involved in planning the London Institution for the Improvement of Science and Literature (established 1806); it was here that it was rumoured Southey would be a lecturer. BACK

[7] William Laing (1764–1832; DNB), Edinburgh bookseller and publisher. BACK

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August 2013