768. Robert Southey to John Rickman,
29 March 1803
Ni fallor ευρηκα  the origin of the Beguines.
In the 14th century a
society called the Fratres
vitæ communis was established at Deventer the capital of
Over-Yssel by Gerard de Groot,  which you
will easily see must be Dutch for Gerald the great. their
object was to live as nearly as possible after the manner of
the primitive Xtians, that is, upon a common stock. they
made no vow, but lived xxxx
in a community & supported themselves by their own
labour. to copy books was one of their chief employments.
the institution was approved, confirmed, & classed under
the rule of S. Augustine by Gregory XI  in 1376. this same Gerald
established a female community upon the same principle,
there were 14 xx houses of
these females in the Low countries – & surely these must
be the Beguines – but not a word more is said of the female
branch in the book before me, which is entitled Recherches
Historiques, Litteraires & Critiques sur l’Origine
de L’Imprimerie par le Citoyen P. Lambinet.  The
Calvinists it seems in the religious wars played the Devil
with the Fratres – what they did with the Sisters this
deponent sayeth not. Citizen Lambinet has provokingly given
a print of one of the Brothers to show his dress. the book
whence he has taken it, & to which he refers is what we
should look for. Histoire des ordres monastiques, religieux
& militaires par Heliot. Tom. 11 (2y. 11 or 2?) p 339.
This is one step gained. I will hunt all the
books of Travels in my reach to find more upon the subject.
the French plan which I inclose has some distant resemblance
to your scheme. indeed it is what a part of yours would be.
I begged it from a Lady  who had visited the
institution & spoke of the happiness & comfort
Danvers died yesterday of this cursed
influenza  –
which has gone thro my whole household. poor Charles feels
& governs his feelings as he ought, but it is a very
heavy & an irreparable loss to him – the breaking up of
all his habits of life. the property she has left is in the
Funds, & must be sold out. He desires me to ask your
opinion how they are likely to be affected by the present
politics – for it is of some importance to him now to be
helped out in his judgement, & we are all in the dark. I
look for war, but not for a consequent depression of the
Funds, because a good cause, & the unanimity of all good
men will make us fall to in good spirits. But if you can
lend him a little light upon this subject he will be very
much obliged to you.
I miss the good old Lady.
there is no other house where I am so intimate.
God bless you. a frank always excuses a short
letter – xx I should not
have sent off so short a one had it not been to ask this
question for poor Danvers.
March 29. 1803.
To/ John Rickman Esqr
Huntington Library, RS 33
Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert
Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965),
I, pp. 308-310. BACK
 The Latin and Greek
translate as ‘Unless I’m mistaken, I’ve found
 Geert Groote (1340-1384), founder of the
Brethren of the Common Life. This movement was not
connected to the Beguines, communities of lay women,
which had grown up in the 12th century. BACK
 Gregory XI (c. 1336-1378,
Pope 1370-1378). BACK
 Pierre Lambinet (1742-1813),
Recherches Historiques, Litteraires et
Critiques sur l’Origine de L’Imprimerie
(1799). For Southey’s review see Annual Review
for 1802, 1 (1803), 704-711. BACK
Helyot (1660-1716), Histoire des Ordres
Monastiques, Religieux et Militaires
(1714-1719). Southey acquired this, as a 1792 edition
appears as no. 1183 in the sale catalogue of his
influenza epidemic of 1803 claimed lives throughout
Europe, in particular in England and France. BACK