2941. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 14 March 1817]

2941. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 14 March 1817]⁠* 

My dear R.

I would fain believe, because I would fain hope, that Messrs Examiner, [1] Cobbett & Co – are in a fair way to a longer confinement than the suspension Act [2]  in its present foolish state would have inflicted. But I have not ceased thro such channels as I possess, to press upon Ministers the necessity of silencing them either one way or the other, & the great impolicy of losing time. – They give me credit for producing effect by what I have written, – would that I could see the effect of upon themselves of what they have supprest. It is however something to know that the advice reaches them, & that they think well enough of the adviser to flatter him pretty liberally.

My present theme is “the causes which make men discontented under such a government.” [3]  And I mean to draw Broughams picture. [4] 

This Manchester affair [5]  will do some good, & indeed I believe that most persons who have any thing to lose are beginning to open their eyes. – Duppa says he has no objection to an Imprimatur. [6]  If we had to chuse between it, & a press in the present state, I should call out for a Licenser; – but things I hope are coming will not come to this extreme: but of two evils it would certainly be the least.

God bless you



* Address: J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: RS./ 2 March 1817
MS: Huntington Library, RS 311. ALS; 3p.
Dating note: Dating from content, and close verbal similarities to Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 14 March 1817, Letter 2940.

[1] The Examiner was the weekly newspaper edited by Leigh Hunt 1808–1821. BACK

[2] Habeas corpus had been suspended for a year from 4 March 1817, allowing the government to imprison people without trial. Leigh Hunt was not interned but Cobbett fled to America to avoid the possibility of imprisonment. BACK

[3] Southey’s ‘Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection’, Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 511–552. BACK

[4] Southey attacked Brougham in passing in the ‘Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection’, Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 543–544 but no full-scale portrait of Brougham was included in the published article. BACK

[5] On 10 March 1817 about 5,000 men met at St Peter’s Field, Manchester in order to march to London and petition the Prince Regent about distress in the cotton industry. The meeting was broken up by soldiers from the King’s Dragoon Guards and 27 of the leaders were arrested. BACK

[6] In the Catholic Church, once a censor had examined a book and found it to contain nothing to ‘harm correct faith or good morals’, it could be awarded an ‘imprimatur’ by the Church authorities, which was effectively a declaration that the book could be published. Duppa would have seen this system at work in the Papal States when he studied art at Rome in the 1790s. BACK