2873. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 6 December 1816

2873. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 6 December 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 6 Dec. 1816

My dear Sir

I duly received your letter from Milan, & by the following post Messrs Hoares [1]  remitted to me 70 £, of which Clarke [2]  has received 50 £, being what he thought sufficient. I did not tell him what sum was in my hands, – but said he might have what he wanted; – I fear he is very much embarrassed, – Mrs Smail [3]  (that I think is your house keepers name) could get of him only a few shillings at a time, & when we saw her last, which was after he had received the money, she had obtained but a small part of what was due to her. She was desired to say that if he had <not> money in his hand he might have more by applying to me for it, – this I thought better than paying her at once (which I would otherwise have done,) – because that would have been interfering with Mr Clarke & might have hurt him. This was some week or ten days ago, & we have not seen her since, – so she has probably been paid. – Mr Clarke was informed yesterday of my intention of writing by this days post, – last night it blew a tremendous gale, & he came up this morning with the welcome assurance that no injury had been done on the island; – & this was all he had to say. I have not been on the island this year, & indeed but once upon the Lake, – so little favour did the weather tempt us to such excursions. – No change has taken place in this neighbourhood since you left England: when you hear that we have had a plentiful crop of summer visitors, & a scanty one of every thing else, you have the history of Keswick for the last six months.

You my dear Sir will have much to tell us when we meet, – not indeed of the Anthropophagi & men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders [4] , but of countries where all institutions have been put out of joint; all orders jostled by others, & public & private happiness destroyed during a whole generation. And the first news which you will find on your arrival is that a tolerably bold attempt has been made to confer upon us all those blessings at home, & that the tricolor flag has been hoisted in London. [5]  By good fortune there was such consummate folly on the part of the incendiaries, that there was no serious danger; & if Government take advantage of this overt act to suppress seditious meetings, & make transportation the punishment for seditious libel, – there will be great reason to rejoice that the crisis has been thus accelerated. If they do not act thus, instead of proving critical, it will be only a symptom of a more general & violent eruption. It is more than four years since I distinctly pointed out the danger in the Quarterly Review (No 16) – & in the Edinburgh Register, – & I have touched more than once upon the same momentous topic during your absence. [6]  – You will find much real distress in the country, & the reformers (more suo [7] ) doing every thing in their power not only to exaggerate but to aggravate it. No folly was ever greater than the cry for retrenchment. The main evil arises directly from an enormous diminution of public expenditure, a customer of 50 millions having been taken suddenly left the market. [8]  Can stupidity go farther than to recommend spending less as the remedy! – One striking instance of this oeconomy occurs to me – the ministry were obliged to reduce the military establishment by discharging 10,000 men whom they wished to have kept in arms. What is the consequence? there was already a want of employment for the numerous hands whom peace inevitably threw out of work, & here were ten thousand men mor sent to a in increase the number of those a so instead of paying them for as soldiers you must support them as paupers, – & you have them in the mob instead of in the ranks. The country is in a very critical state, – & yet I think there are bright prospects before us. My mind is full of this subject. –

Senhouse made us a morning call last week from Sir Frederic Vanes, [9]  – & I have promised to pass a few days with him in January. Calvert goes on as usual, & his [MS torn] worse than usual, I am not sure whether his corn is in yet. Miss Barker has finished the outside of her house. – My fellow traveller Mr Nash, who made the Waterloo drawings for me [10]  spent the summer with us, – & made some delightful portraits of all the children. Should you have half an hour to spend in London there are things in his portfolio which would remind you of Keswick, & the Doctor will take you to his lodgings in George Street, Hanover Square. We have also had the younger Westall here, who went as draftsman with Flinders in his voyage of discovery. [11]  There is some hope of his settling at the Lakes, & a very great acquisition he would be to us. The Beaumonts [12]  remained here till November.

I have been stationary the whole year, – except a short visit to Lowther, whither I went with Sir Watkin & his brother Charles Wynn. Among our strangers we have had Lord Spencer, [13]  Lord Darnley, [14]  the Duke of Brescia, [15]  the King of Prussias Librarian, [16]  & – the two Secretaries of the Bible Society [17]  cum multis aliis quos nunc perscribere longum [18]  est. I was thrice upon Causey Pike this summer, & succeeded in getting Mrs Southey & the Senhora there with Sara, Edith & Bertha. Mrs Coleridge would not be persuaded to go & has been upon the stool of repentance ever since. The Ladies carted it to the foot of the mountain, & we had a cold dinner by the beck side when we came down – it was one of the most delightful of these excursions. – You may trace me in the Quarterly upon La Vendee & the State of the Poor, – Ali Beys Travels, & the Foreign Travellers in England. [19]  But my main summers work has been upon the History of Brazil [20]  of which the second volume will be published in January. And now my dear Sir remember us all most kindly to Mrs Peachy &

believe me very sincerely yours

Robert Southey

We shall be truly glad to hear of your safe arrival in old England.


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ Post Office/ Dover
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 8 DE 8/ 1816
Seal: black wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. ALS; 4p.

[1] C. Hoare & Co., Peachy’s bankers. BACK

[2] Thomas Clark (dates unknown), a Keswick nurseryman, who rented some of the land around Greta Hall. He was in severe financial difficulties and was made bankrupt in March 1817. He was undertaking work for Peachy in connection to his property Derwentwater Island. BACK

[3] Mrs Smail (dates unknown), unidentified beyond the information Southey provides here. BACK

[4] Othello, Act 1, scene 3, lines 144–145. BACK

[5] A political rally held at Spa Fields, London, on 2 December 1816 had been used by a small group of revolutionaries to try to try to storm the Bank of England and the Tower of London. A horizontal tricolour flag of red, white and green, an adaptation of the French revolutionary tricolour, was displayed at Spa Fields and much commented upon. BACK

[6] ‘Inquiry into the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356, where Southey warned of the dangers of revolution, especially from the radical press (341–343); Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 229, on Jacobinism in the ‘lowest’ levels of society; Southey returned to these themes in his articles ‘On the Poor’, Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235, and ‘Works on England’, Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574. BACK

[7] ‘In their usual manner’. BACK

[8] Here Southey returns to his argument in ‘Works on England’, Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 537–574 (566). BACK

[9] Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, 2nd Baronet (1760–1832), a landowner whose seat was at Hutton-le-Forest, near Penrith. He was a Whig and MP for Winchelsea 1792–1794, Carlisle 1796–1802, and Winchelsea 1806–1807. BACK

[10] Seven sketches made by Nash at the Waterloo battlefield were engraved for Southey’s The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[11] Matthew Flinders (1774–1818; DNB), commander of a voyage to Australia in 1801–1803. BACK

[13] George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758–1834; DNB), bibliophile, patron of literature and leading Whig – he was Home Secretary 1806–1807. BACK

[14] John Bligh, 4th Earl of Darnley (1767–1831; DNB), landowner in Kent. BACK

[15] Unidentified. BACK

[16] Samuel Heinrich Spiker (1786–1858). An English translation of his account of his experiences in Britain was later published as Travels through England, Wales, & Scotland, in the Year 1816, 2 vols (London, 1820). His meeting with Southey was described on I, pp. 269–272. Naturally, Spiker was most interested in Southey’s library. BACK

[17] The British and Foreign Bible Society, founded in 1804. One of its secretaries was Southey’s old acquaintance, Joseph Hughes (1769–1833; DNB), who from 1791–1796 was classical tutor at the Bristol Academy and Minister at Broadmead Baptist Church. Hughes toured extensively with the Society’s other secretary, the Anglican clergyman, John Owen (1766–1822; DNB), promoting the Society’s work. BACK

[18] ‘With many others whom it would now take too long to list.’ BACK

[19] Southey’s article on a series of French works about the revolutionary war in the Vendée appeared in the Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 1–69; his ‘On the Poor’ appeared in the same issue, 187–235. In Quarterly Review, 15 (July 1816), 299–345, he reviewed Domingo Badia y Leblich (1766–1818), Travels of Ali Bey in Morocco, Tripoli, Cyprus, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, and Turkey, Between the Years 1803 and 1807 (1816). His review of ‘Works on England’ appeared in the same issue, 537–574. BACK

[20] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK