3077. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 14 February 1818]

3077. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 14 February 1818] ⁠* 

My dear R.

I received the beginning on Monday, [1]  & sent off the end the following night, – which if it does not save much time, (a little it will save) may prevent impatience. To have the proofs sent thro you would plainly indicate the author, – because they always come franked from the Admiralty, [2]  – that pretext therefore is not available. The end I shall be able to send you in time for it to travel back, on account of delaying the beginning for till the printed Parl: Proc: may license its departure. You will see that all which I have done is to put in a little garnish, of no more use than the ornaments on a Twelfth Cake. [3] 

What I had prepared is now on my desk in the shape of 30 printed Quarterly pages, & about as much ms. as would make 20 more. Of all this I have engrafted scarcely two pages upon your matter, – about five more are rendered useless. The rest with a new beginning, a little remodelling, & about ten pages in addition will form a xxxx paper for the next number, for which it will not be difficult to find a text, the subject being, the means of improving the people. [4]  And here I shall dwell upon that increase of the educated class, which has overstocked all the ways of life for which they adventurers were educated: the condition of women also in that rank will necessarily be included. – it Murray prints 12000 of the Review, [5]  – this is writing to a large number of readers, & a large proportion of them are disposed to believe what they read, however unable they may be to learn, mark & xxxx inwardly digest.

There is no necessity for noticing poor Sir E. B. [6]  – I made a little extract from Courtenay, in the form of a note I think. He advertises upon the subject now. [7] 

Whenever this reformation takes place (if they venture to make it) – a tub for the Whale would be an excellent thing, – another Joanna Southcott – or a Red Man, – or sending Sir Francis to the Tower. [8] 

How absurdly the men in power have has been used which Ministers had in their hands. They not only shut up fellows who might as well have been left at liberty to run their heads into a halter, but in the case of Evans they x arrested a man, whom even a London jury would have found guilty for his proposal of a Spencean Revolution. [9] 




* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: RS./ Feby 1818
MS: Huntington Library, RS 331. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 178–179 [dated February 1818].
Dating note: Dating from content, the letter was probably provoked by Southey learning of the Evanses’ petition (13 February 1818) to the House of Commons. BACK

[1] Proofs of Rickman and Southey’s article ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308. BACK

[2] Proofs of the Quarterly Review would be sent under Admiralty franks because John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB) worked there as Second Secretary to the Admiralty 1804–1806, 1807–1845; so if Rickman sent the journal any proofs directly they would arrive franked from the office of The Speaker, identifying Rickman as the author, rather than Southey. BACK

[3] A decorative cake traditionally made on Twelfth Night (6 January). BACK

[4] Southey’s article ‘On the Means of Improving the People’ appeared in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118. BACK

[5] In fact 14,000 copies of Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818) were printed and 13,000 sold. BACK

[6] Southey did not discuss Sir Egerton Brydges’ Arguments in Favour of the Practicability of Relieving the Able-bodied Poor by Finding Employment for them ... Addressed to the Committee on the Poor Laws (1817). BACK

[7] Thomas Peregrine Courtenay (1782–1841; DNB), A Treatise upon the Poor Laws (1818) was one of the works reviewed in ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 79–118. It was quoted briefly in a note in ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 287. BACK

[8] Various distractions of popular attention: Southcott’s supposed pregnancy with the returning Shiloh received great public attention in 1814; the occasional appearance of Native Americans in London always caused great interest; and in 1810 the confinement of Sir Francis Burdett in the Tower of London for libelling parliament had created a huge furore. BACK

[9] Thomas Evans (1763–before 1831; DNB), and his son Thomas John Evans (c.1798–?), were both detained without trial on 9 February 1817–20 January 1818, when habeas corpus was suspended, as part of the government’s actions against the Society of Spencean Philanthropists, several of whose members had been responsible for the abortive uprising at Spa Fields on 2 December 1816. Ironically, Evans had played no role in events at Spa Fields. Evans was the author of Christian Policy: the Salvation of the Empire (1816), which Southey had reviewed in ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 269–271; Thomas Evans’s petition, complaining of his treatment in prison, was read in the House of Commons on 13 February 1818. BACK