873. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 23 December 1803 *
Dec. 23. 1803
Some translations from Camoens by a Lord Strangford  have reached me in the course of business, & I shall be enabled to make a two guinea job of them if you will send me down by coach the originals in five duodecimo volumes,  bound, without any ornament on the backs which is rather unusual for Portugueze books. I want this edition & not an unbound one in three volumes  which is also in your house, because it has more matter & some useful criticism & notes. With them I should be glad also of Mickles Luisad  – a quarto in boards – but I am not certain whether or no it be in your possession or among the books still at Biddlecombes, from whom I shall be glad when you have recovered them.
Now as this implies charge & trouble of conveyance to the coach, & as I shall ere long stand in need of another supply for better purposes, it may be as well if you have leisure to pack off a parcel per waggon at the same time. In this I would have the Chronica del Rey D Joaõ 3.  in four small quartos well bound after their manner. Commentarios do Albuquerque  4 volumes common Spectator size – they were in the bookcase to the right of the fireplace. the volumes of that twenty-tomed Historia Genealogica which contain the Provas (documents) I forget whether four or six in number, but rather think four.  & for Madoc  omnia opera  Sharonica,  Saxon as well as Welsh, with my Pierce Ploughman,  a book which will materially help me to delineate the moral history of Europe before the Maritime Discoveries changed every thing. And now that I am on the subject of my books let me mention the few at Dublin – I do not know Roes  direction – George I can obtain it from Robert Cottle who is at Hoares the banker  – & if you will write xxx cum potentia frankande  that will be the shortest way – & have them sent to you – for I shall not want them here, & my resting place at last must be within reach of some public library.
I am about a curious review of the Mission at Otaheite.  Capt Burney will find his friends rather roughly handled for I look upon them as the most degraded of the human species – they have convinced me that Moses went the right way to work with the Canaanites,  & induced me to think it probable that the Spaniards did less evil in Hispaniola  than we suppose. Coleridges scheme to mend them is by extirpating the Bread Fruit from their island, & making them live – by the sweat of their brows. It always grieves me when I think that you are no friend to colonization. my hopes fly farther than yours – I want English knowledge & the English language diffused to the East & the West & the South.
Can you get for me the Evidence upon the Slave Trade as printed for the House of Commons?  I want to collect all materials for speculating upon the negroes. that they are a fallen people is certain – because being savages they have among them the forms of civilization. It is remarkable that in all our discoveries we have never discovered any people in a state of progression except the Mexicans & Peruvians. that the Otaheiteans are a degraded race is proved by their Mythology which is physical allegory – ergo the work of people who thought of physics. I am very desirous to know whether the Negro Priests or Jugglers be a cast – or if any man may enter the fraternity; & if they have a sacred language. We must continue to grope in darkness about early history till some strong-headed man shall read the hieroglyphics  for us. Much might yet be done by comparison of languages. some hundred words of the most common objects – sun moon & stars – the parts of the body the personal pronouns – the auxiliary verbs &c if these were collected as occasion could be found from every different tribe, such languages as have been [MS obscured]if fluent we should certainly be able to trace to their source. In New Holland  language is said to be confluent – every tribe – & almost family – having its own. but that Island is an odd place – coral above water & coal – new birds beasts & plants, & such a breed of savages! it looks like a new country, if one could tell where the animals came from. Do you know that the Dodo is actually extinct? having been beyond all doubt too stupid to take care of himself. the learned Shavius  found part of one in the Museum. There is no hope of recovering the species unless you could get your friend the bridge-maker  to sit upon a ganders egg.
God bless you.
The Brig  has been so succesful since my Whelp of a brother left her that his share of prize money, only as a foremast man would have exceeded 300 £. so Tom tells me – who is now first Lieutenant & going out with convoy to the W Indies.
* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS/ Dec 23:/ 1803
MS: Huntington Library, RS 48
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), II, pp. 243-244 [in part]. BACK
 An Abstract of the Evidence Delivered Before a Select Committee of the House of Commons: in the Years 1790 and 1791; On the Part of the Petitioners for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1791). BACK
 Thomas Telford (1757-1834; DNB), civil engineer. A close friend of Rickman’s, the two were at this time members of parliamentary commissions on the Caledonian Canal and Highland Roads and Bridges. BACK