Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

948. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 6 June 1804 ⁠* 

Wednesday June 6. 1804. Keswick

Dear Rickman

Here I am at length – at least all that remains of me – the skin & bone of Robert Southey, including his blood & brains, being now at rest & moreover egregiously hungry. the flesh which has {been} expended in stage coaches & in London streets will soon be replaced. Dulce est actorum meminisse – laborum  [1]  will not so fully conclude the line as my meaning wishes. labour enough I had, but there are other things besides my labour in London to be remembered – more pleasurable in themselves, but not making such pleasurable recollections because they are to be wished for again.

However I found excellent society awaiting me at home. Florian de Ocampo [2]  & Ambrosio Morales, [3]  – 13 of the little quartos bringing down Spanish history to the point where Prudencio de Sandoval [4]  takes it up & where I also begin the full tide of narration. Morales was the correspondent of Resendius [5]  into whose works you once looked, & was like him an excellent Latinist & a patient, cautious, martyr-murdering antiquary. a excellent weeder of lies wherever they were to be found. In company with them came the four folios of the Bibliotheca Hispanica. [6]  there is offered a portrait of the last King, so exquisitely engraved & so exquisitely ugly that I know not whether it be most honourable to Spain to have advanced so far in the arts or {disgraceful} to have exercised them upon such a fools face. I am sure Duppa will laugh at his Catholic majesty, but whether an interjection of admiration at the priest, or the laugh (which is the next auxiliary part of speech to the Ohs & Ahs interjectory) will come first is only to be decided by experiment.

The Edithling is very strong & very large – so as to be wondered at. she is eke also main ugly; her profile strongly resembles mine & gives hope of nose enough hereafter.

You will read the Mabinogion, [7]  concerning which I ought to have talked to you. In the last – that most odd & Arabian-like story of the Mouse, mention is made of a begging scholar which helps to a date. [8]  but where the Devil did the Kimbri [9]  get the imagination that could produce such a tale! that enchantment of the baron harping by the chair from heaven is in the violent spirit of the Arabian xxxx Nights. [10]  I am perfectly astonished that such fiction should exist in Welsh. they throw no light on the origin of Romance – every thing being utterly dissimilar to what we mean by that term. but they do open a new world of fiction, & if the date of the language should be fixed about the 12 or 13 century, I cannot but [MS torn] the mythological substance is of far earlier date, very probably brought from the East by some of the first settlers or conquerors – If William Owen  [11]  will go on & publish them I have hopes that the world will yet reward him for his labours. Let Sharon make his language grammatical, but not alter the idiom in the slightest point. I will advise him about this, & xxxx being about to send him off a parcel of old German or Theotistic books of Coleridges – which will occasion a letter.

Remember me thankfully to your Aunt – & add Ediths thanks also, taking a part in them yourself, thanks partaking of this mysterious nature of the orthodox Trimourtee. [12] 

God bless you


Have the goodness to send the Poor Abstract [13]  to Jn Theodore Koster Esq Liverpool – & also occasionally such other Reports as thinking men ought to have. One of the Cow Pock Pamphlets [14]  would also be well bestowed upon our Apothecary here Mr Edmondson – a very skilful man, & of unusual science for one in his situation. the people here begin to suspect that the Cow Pock produces Nettle Rash. this last having become as terrible a scourge to the children as the itch is in Scotland. they are probably wrong – but the damnd eruption is certainly more common than it has ever been before remembered.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ June 6:/ 1804
MS: Huntington Library, RS 58
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 288–290 [in part; misdated 1802]. BACK

[1] The Latin translates as ‘remembering acts of labour is pleasant’. BACK

[2] No. 3557 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Florian de Ocampo (1499?–1555?), Coronica General de Espana, con las Antiguedades de las Ciudades de Espanae Opusculas de Ambrosio de Morales (1791–1793). BACK

[3] Ambrosio de Morales (1513–1591): a historian who in 1574 became chronicler of Castile and continued Ocampo’s Crónica General de España to the date of the union of Castile and Leon under Ferdinand I (1017–1065; reigned as Emperor of Spain 1056–1065). BACK

[4] Prudencio de Sandoval (1553–1620), a pupil of Ambrosio de Morales, continued the Crónica General de España down to the year 1079. No. 3781 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Sandoval’s Historia de los Reyes de Castilla y de Leon (1615). BACK

[5] No. 3446 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was L. A. Resendius (1498–1573), De Antiquitatibus Lusitaniæ (1790). BACK

[6] Gerhardus Ernestus de Franckenau (1676–1749), Bibliotheca Hispanica Historico-Genealogico-Heraldica (1724). BACK

[7] Southey was reading a translation of the Welsh romances dating from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, collected in fourteenth-century Welsh manuscripts and known as the Mabinogi. Some of these were published in the journal edited by William Owen Pughe, The Cambrian Register (1796, 1799), where they are entitled The Mabinogion, or Juvenile Amusements, being Ancient Welsh Romances. Southey seems to have been loaned a manuscript translation which he was circulating among his friends. BACK

[8] The begging scholar and the mouse appear in the story entitled ‘Manawyddan Son of Llyr’. BACK

[9] The Cymbri, an ancient tribe, conjectured by some early nineteenth-century scholars to have descended from the Picts, who supposedly conquered Wales, Cornwall and Britanny after the fall of the Roman empire. BACK

[10] The story Southey read in manuscript does not appear in the Cambrian Register. BACK

[11] During his later years Pughe was chiefly occupied in preparing a full edition of the Mabinogion; but although the Cymmrodorion Society in 1831 voted £50 for the publication of this work at Denbigh, it never appeared (DNB). BACK

[12] The trimourtee of Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva was thought to be a Brahminic equivalent to the Trinity. BACK

[13] The Poor Law Abstract of 1804. Its full title was ‘Abstract of Returns Relative to the Expense and Maintenance of the Poor’ (printed by order of The House of Commons, 1804). BACK

[14] Southey refers to one of the many pamphlets produced on behalf of Edward Jenner (1749–1823; DNB) as part of his campaign to popularise vaccination with cow pox serum to protect against contracting smallpox. He could have in mind Jenner’s 1801 pamphlet The Origin of the Vaccine Inoculation. BACK

About this Page

Published @ RC

August 2013