2956. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 25 March 1817

2956. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 25 March 1817⁠* 

My dear Harry

You & Turner were right in your judgement, – & it would have been well if I had followed it – but it was impossible to suspect that such downright perjury would be employed against me. [1]  – What Wynn has done with my letters to Wm Smith yet I know not, [2]  – & in truth am beginning to care little about them, – for The only thing which could rouse me to any real exertion would be to discover that the impression upon my mind of having read of Winterbottoms death some time ago is not mere fancy. As he was a Dissenting Minister at Plymouth, before his imprisonment, Cottle may be able to ascertain this for me & to him I have applied. [3]  It would seems far less impossible that some ‘damned soul’ [4]  (of whom Montague has no doubt enough in his employ should have personated him than that he should have committed in the first instance so villainous an act & then deliberately taken a false oath to justify it. But enough of this.

Senhouse & I take our places in the mail for London on Tuesday 15th of April – that is this day three weeks, – consequently if no accident should occur you may expect me at a reasonable hour on Thursday morning. He picks me up at Warcop, whither I go on Saturday the 5th.

Love to Louisa & Mrs Gonne

God bless you


25 March


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 28 MA 28/ 1817
Seal: black wax, with ‘S’, ‘In Labore Quies’ motto below
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 4. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A reference to Southey’s Jacobin drama Wat Tyler, which he had written in 1794 and sent to James Ridgway (1755–1838) and Henry Symonds (1741–1816), radical booksellers, for publication; see Robert Southey to Edith Fricker, [c. 12 January 1795], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 123. Ridgway and Symonds did not publish it and it remained in manuscript until a pirated publication, designed to embarrass the now anti-Jacobin Southey, appeared in 1817. Having taken advice from Rickman, Wynn and Turner, Southey launched a suit in Chancery in order to gain an injunction suppressing the publication, on the grounds that it breached his copyright. The matter was complicated because Southey’s ownership of the copyright was brought into doubt when William Winterbotham swore an affidavit in which he declared that Southey had, when visiting Newgate prison, where he, Ridgway and Symonds were all confined, given him and Daniel Isaac Eaton (1753–1814; DNB), the radical publisher, the manuscript to do with as they liked. When the case was heard in the Court of Chancery on 18–19 March 1817, Southey lost his application for an injunction. BACK

[2] Smith had denounced Southey in the House of Commons on 14 March 1817 in the debate on the Seditious Meetings Bill, condemning ‘the settled, determined malignity of a renegado’ and comparing Southey’s arguments against radical views in the Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 227 with those expressed in Wat Tyler (1817), Act 2, lines 103–112. In reply, Southey had written two letters which he originally hoped to publish in the Courier: Southey to William Smith, 17 March 1817 (Letter 2943) and Southey to the Editor of the Courier [19 March 1817] (Letter 2946). These two letters were sent to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, on 17 and 19 March 1817 (Letters 2944 and 2948), for him to forward to the newspaper. In the event, Wynn’s absence from home led to a delay in his receiving the letters. By the time he did so, the public debate had moved on and Southey therefore decided not to publish them in the Courier, but instead to incorporate them into his pamphlet A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817). BACK

[3] This letter is not extant; Winterbotham, however, was very much alive. BACK

[4] A ‘damned soul’ was someone paid to commit perjury. BACK

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