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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1319. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 9 May 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

The proof was precisely to pattern; [1]  – in that form it always returns, & in that form must come for the future – as I trust the book will be finished before the Tantara-raras [2]  meet. Thank you for your query concerning tea kettles. I had begun also to ink over the xxx xxxxx alteration about Novels – till luckily I remembered again what was in my mind when the sentence was written. – that Novelas is xx a common word in Spain, implying what Mr Phillips calls Nouvellettes, & what I would call Novelets, – short stories such as Mrs Behns [3]  or Marmontels. [4]  The civil law does not prevail in Spain, tho they have had great civilians still it is so well known that but for their circumstances, I should have made the correction.

I have a letter from Biddlecombe, – he lays the neglect upon Coleman, [5]  – who I know never neglects any thing. No matter for that the excuse indicates a sense of fault, – & he promises that C. will forthwith forward them. He says something about your resenting his telling some news you sent him, – in a manner as if he were apologizing to you thro me.

You have upset my meaning of the word Prude, & left me without a word to express it. [6] 

My stock of contemporary observation is not half exhausted in these three volumes. The part allotted to travelling for the sake of verisimilitude has taken up too much of the book, tho it brings in many things in a sort of dramatic order. It is because such books as this have not been written that we are reduced to glean scraps of knowledge concerning other ages: whether I may succeed in obtaining a good temporary sale remains to be seen, – but I am sure the book will increase in value as it grows old, – upon that score for which you rightly value the old periodicals. Some months ago I began to mark in all English books which I had occasion to read all passages relating to this home-history, &, by my own hand in idler minutes, & Ediths before Herbert made his appearance – transcribed a bundle of some size, – each extract on a separate little leaf: some twenty years hence, if I live so long & can afford to risk the expence I will sort them into due order & print them as contributions to English History. This way of reading I well remember you taught me, & I believe nothing of any possible application to any thing in the xxxx bounds of my knowledge ever now escapes me.

Palmerin & D Manuel (never Don to the surname – that would be like Sir Smith instead of Sir Sidney) – are likely to make their appearance at the same time. [7]  This may prevent suspicion, as they who suspect may naturally enough think I could not have been doing so many things at once. – The Cid goes next to press, [8]  – if my {certain} books from Lisbon arrive, about in time to begin with the new Parliament. I appear in quarto, & xxx this is to be looked upon x as the commencement of my historical career, [9]  – tho I shall not say as much. The whole materials of my introduction have been long since written & only require arrangement.

I have now 124 pages of Palmerin to revise or rather translate – 20 being a few days work. that done my way is plain before me, & if my fraternity of copy rights do not purchase me then full leisure for history & nothing but history, they will be a very unlucky family. The small edition of Madoc. is on the point of publication. [10]  Of the date I hear nothing; no new in these cases being bad news. When I did hear which was when in London, my net profits were 3–17–1 – not many shillings more than it had cost me in the postage of proof sheets. – When you come you shall see about the quarter part of another Thalaba, the Curse of Kehama, [11]  long since written. You could tell with what satisfaction I feel the time so near of hand when I shall have nothing to delay me from what I most delight in. My book upon Brazil & Paraguay will I think open the eyes of all who read it, & show them the utter & unutterable absurdity of dreaming of conquests in South America. [12]  Oh God what a sett of wretches are all our politicians! how ignorant! how presumptuous & how mischievous! Painters & shoemakers & Pin-pointers have all professional diseases which carry them off. I would halters were epidemic among the Tantara-raras. [13] 

I knew Arbuthnot [14]  as Consul at Lisbon. his father had been a Calico-printer, & he was ashamed of this – enough to show the man. He wants [MS torn], & Duckworth [15]  I suppose wants bottom. Shocking shocking work – but what can be expected when fools are sent out as Embassadors! Arbuthnot has certainly a very diplomatic simper upon his face, & is very much the gentleman – a phrase which generally indicates that the person so praised is nothing else.

God bless you


Saturday May 9 1807.

Pack up in the waggon box – if you see it – a duodecimo French volume in blue paper covers lettered I think Mahomet Zoroastre Confucius – it is a companion to the three by Pastoret, & not xx a bad book, so little so as to be wonderful for a Frenchman. [16] xxx to my Cid preliminaries will contain a view of the Mohammedan system in its consequence – ergo –  [17] 


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr./ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAY 12/ 1807
Endorsement: RS./ 9 May 1807.
MS: Huntington Library, RS 112
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had been corresponding with Rickman regarding the proofs of his Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807); see Southey to John Rickman, 29 April [1807] (Letter 1312) and 4 May 1807 (Letter 1317). BACK

[2] Southey’s disparaging term for the noisy MPs in the House of Commons. Tantara-rara, Rogues All was the title of a 1786 play by John O’Keeffe (1747–1833; DNB); see The Dramatic Works of John O’Keeffe Esq., 4 vols (London, 1798), III, pp. 349–90. ‘Tantara-rara, Fools All Fools All’ was also a popular song from Henry Fielding’s (1707–1754; DNB) play The Lottery (1732). BACK

[3] The short stories, or novellas, of Aphra Behn (1640–1689; DNB) include The History of the Nun: or, the Fair Vow-Breaker (1688) and The Dumb Virgin: or, the Force of Imagination (1700). BACK

[4] Jean-François Marmontel (1723–1799) wrote a series of Contes Moraux from the 1750s. BACK

[5] Unidentified, this was an acquaintance of Southey’s from his residence at Burton in 1797 and 1799. BACK

[6] Writing to Rickman about Vasco Lobeira (d. 1403), Southey had told him ‘His Princesses are prudes’; see Southey to John Rickman, 4 May 1807, Letter 1317. BACK

[7] Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze and Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish were both published in 1807. BACK

[8] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, from the Spanish was published in 1808. BACK

[9] Southey had originally intended to include these materials in the Introduction to his ‘History of Portugal’, which was never completed. BACK

[10] Madoc appeared, from the firm of Longman, in a cheaper duodecimo edition in 1807. BACK

[11] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801); The Curse of Kehama was published in 1810. BACK

[12] Southey’s History of Brazil was published in three volumes from 1810–1819. BACK

[13] See note 2. BACK

[14] Charles Arbuthnot (1767–1850; DNB), Tory diplomat and politician, Consul and Charge d’Affaires in Portugal 1800–1801 and in 1807 ambassador to the Ottoman empire. BACK

[15] Sir John Thomas Duckworth, 1st Baronet (1748–1817; DNB), naval officer, commanded in 1807 an expedition to subdue Constantinople, carrying Arbuthnot with him as the diplomat charged with negotiating with the Ottomans. Arbuthnot fell ill and Duckworth, lacking the troops and marines necessary, returned without attacking the city. BACK

[16] Listed as a single item in the sale catalogue of Southey library was Claude-Emmanuel Joseph Pierre, Marquis de Pastoret (1755–1840), Zoroastre, Confucius et Mahomet Comparés (1787) – Sethos, Histoire ou Vie tirée des Monumens Anecdotes de l’Ancienne Egypte (1768), &c. &c together 9 vol. BACK

[17] The letter ends suddenly here. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013