3047. Robert Southey to John Jebb, 6 December 1817

3047. Robert Southey to John Jebb, 6 December 1817⁠* 

Keswick, Dec. 6. 1817.


A volume like yours needs no other introduction than its own merits. [1]  I received it last night, and rejoice to see such topics treated in a manner so judicious, so forcible, and so impressive. You are treading in the steps of the great and admirable men by whom our church has been reformed and supported; and those who are to come after us will tread in yours. Unless I deceive myself, the state of religion in these kingdoms is better at this time than it has been at any other, since the first fervour of the Reformation. Knowledge is reviving as well as zeal, and zeal is taking the best direction. We stand in need of both when evil principles are so actively at work.

I am writing the Life of Wesley in such a manner as to comprise our religious history for the last hundred years. [2]  It is a subject which I have long meditated, and may God bless the labour. Perhaps you can give me some light into the reasons why Methodism should have made so little progress in Ireland, where the seed seems to have fallen upon a most ungenial soil, though it was scattered with abundant care. In Scotland its failure may be explained by the general respectability of the Scotch clergy, the effect of education, the scattered population, and the cold and cautious character of the people. Is the jealousy with which the Romish priests watch over their deluded flocks sufficient to account for its failure in Ireland? If so, why was not Quakerism equally unsuccessful?

I will not apologise for asking your opinion upon this subject. Even if we were not both fortunate enough to possess the same valuable friends, we are now known sufficiently to each other; and men of letters, who hold the same faith, and labour, though in different ways, for the same cause, are bound together by no common ties.

Believe me, Sir,

With sincere respect.

Your obedient servant,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 285–286. BACK

[1] Jebb had sent a presentation copy of the second edition of his Sermons, on Subjects Chiefly Practical; with Illustrative Notes, and an Appendix, Relating to the Character of the Church of England, as Distinguished both from other Branches of the Reformation, and from the Modern Church of Rome (1816); no. 1504 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[2] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)