3081. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 February 1818

3081. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 February 1818⁠* 

23 Feby. 1818

My dear G.

Do you happen to have McKerrells (or what ever his name is) letters to Brougham [1]  – If so I wish you would send them to me viâ Rickman. Just now they would figure in the Westmorland election. – His mob at Kendal have shown greater ferocity than was ever remembered in that county before. [2] 

There are no other particulars about the Brussels books than that I bought them of Verbiest the bookseller, who was to send them according to the direction you gave me to Prince Esterhazy thro Rothschild. [3]  I am sure Verbiest is an honest man, – much more of a book-worm than a bookseller, but I suppose more suo [4]  he delayed packing them till the equinox & then waited till the winter should be over. You can learn when you see Nash, whether Mrs Vardon has written about them, & with what success. A little uneasy I am, – lest they should have been wrecked.

Bunbury has invited me into Suffolk to examine his papers concerning the War, [5]  & receive such information as his official situation & personal observation enables him to give. It is not impossible that this may draw me thither at the fall of the leaf, – & so from thence to town. So if you come here in the Autumn, peradventure I may go back with you.

God bless you


I am doing great things, & wish you were at hand to witness my progress.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer
Endorsement: 28 February 1818
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Robert M’Kerrell (1761–1841), a textile merchant and manufacturer in Paisley, had on 28 May 1812, given evidence to the House of Commons committee enquiring into the Orders in Council system, which enforced a trade blockade on territories controlled by France. The Whig opposition were campaigning for its repeal, on the grounds that it harmed British manufacturing. Brougham denounced M’Kerrell (though not by name) in the House of Commons on 16 June 1812, claiming he had told the committee that textile workers were overpaid and ‘oatmeal and water were good enough for Englishmen’. M’Kerrell denied he had said this and published an acrimonious exchange of letters between himself and Brougham in The Times of 20 July 1812. BACK

[2] A general election was imminent, though the House of Commons was not dissolved until 10 June 1818. It was already clear, though, that there would be a contest in Westmorland, which was dominated by the Lowther family, who were supporters of the government – the two sitting MPs were the brothers Henry Lowther (1790–1867), MP for Westmorland 1812–1867 and William, Viscount Lowther (1787–1872), later 2nd Earl of Lonsdale and MP for Cockermouth 1808–1813, MP for Westmorland 1813–1831 and 1832–1841. So complete was the Lowthers’ dominance that the last contested election in Westmorland had been in 1774. However, in January 1818, a committee of Whigs and smaller landowners had brought forward Henry Brougham to challenge the Lowthers – Brougham’s family home was Brougham Hall near Penrith and he could plausibly be presented as a local candidate. According to The Times, 17 February 1818, the Earl of Lonsdale and other gentleman of his party were, at the hustings in Kendal on 12 February, ‘much bespattered’ by missiles hurled by a drunken mob. BACK

[3] The consignment of books Southey had bought from Jean-Baptiste Ver Beyst (1770–1849), a famous bookseller in Brussels, in 1817. To assist in the books’ transit, Southey had enlisted the banker Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777–1836; DNB) and Prince Pál Antal Esterházy de Galántha (1786–1866), an Austrian nobleman and Ambassador to Britain 1815–1842. BACK

[4] ‘In his usual manner’. BACK

[5] Southey was writing his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). Sir Henry Bunbury had been Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies 1809–1816. BACK