3096. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 17 March 1818

3096. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 17 March 1818⁠* 

My dear R.

As soon as your Returns arrived last night I fell to work upon them, & dispatched that portion forthwith; the second part having been pruned of what was extraneous, & received its addenda, is now on the table before me, packed & directed, wanting only its seal, & will be at the Admiralty (the channel thro which it reaches Gifford) some few minutes before you receive this. [1]  There is a note to G.C.B. under the same inclosure, properly worded, & in all likelihood on Monday or Tuesday he will transmit the proofs to you.

I am finishing the paper which was laid aside to make room for this. [2]  It relates to the means of improving the lower class, calling for vigilance in the magistrates & parish officers with respect to ale houses, – & speaking a good word in recommendation of the stocks. [3]  Upon the subject of education there is no choice in this stage of society: – it is a ground which if you do not occupy the enemy will; – if you do not sow wheat, he will sow tares: – Scotland was, a hundred & fifty years ago what Ireland is at present, & education has made the difference. You can no longer have contented, unoffending & submissive ignorance; – let us therefore take the people in childhood & teach them what to believe. [4]  I proceed to the prisons, to enforce your doctrine there, & expose the folly & mischief of suffering known criminals to escape punishment by the quirks quibbles & informalities which Lawyers hold sacred. [5] 

This I shall follow by a third paper upon the middle class, to point out where the real overplus of population exists, & the great change which has been effected in the constitution of society by this redundance of educated & half-educated persons. [6]  Here again I shall preach upon the necessary of colonization, – which is as necessary to the security of the state, as bleeding to an apoplectic subject: & then, passing to the condition of women, I shall look at your old papers upon that subject, which I think we have now the means of bringing forward to advantage. [7] Murray [8]  at this time outsells the Edinburgh, & it is a great thing to write for readers who are disposed to assent to every thing you say.

It is well that you have got thro the measles, – an evil which we have to encounter, – Edith is the only one who has had this disorder: I look to it with some apprehension, having lost a sister in it.

If Brougham fails it will be for want of money. [9]  He has none himself, – & Curwen has none, then John Christian being kept always poor by the innumerable bastards whom he has to support, – this is actually the case. [10]  Lord Thanet [11]  comes down with 4000 £, & this I am told is all upon which B. can reckon, – so that it is doubted whether he can come to a poll. Yet some of his agents talk largely, & his mob at Kendal have shown their readiness to go to any lengths. They had very nearly murdered one of the most respectable gentlemen of the county. [12]  You are right about the taint in the family, – it is from this that B. acts, from impulse, passion, & the total absence of any principle, for I know, that even his friends never supposed him to have any, but looked upon him as ready for the best bidder. This indeed is the clue to the E–Review politics. [13]  They set out ‘open to all parties”, coquetting with Mr Addington, [14]  & Anti Catholick (if I mistake not.) They thought <afterwards> that the Gregres [15]  were the stronger side, & therefore took a decided part with them

The style Hansardic is truly characteristic [16] 

Canning should use that scourge of his more frequently. [17]  To be sure it was a tremendous dressing. You seem also to have a good man in the Solicitor General. [18]  He however ought to go on with prosecutions, till he checks the press, or makes the necessity of new laws for that purpose palpable to the common sense of the country.

God bless you


17 March 1818.


* Endorsement: RS/ 17 March 1818
MS: Huntington Library, RS 335. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 179–181. BACK

[1] Rickman had returned drafts of his and Southey’s joint article ‘On the Poor Laws’ (published in Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308) which Southey was now sending to press via Bedford. BACK

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

[3] ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 82–84, called for a reduction in the number of ale houses; Southey also lamented that the stocks were no longer used (82), suggesting they might be a suitable punishment for public gambling on Sundays (101). BACK

[4] Education was the main focus of ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818); Southey declared ‘Give us an educated population … taught to fear God and honour the king, to know their duty toward their fellow-creatures and their Creator …’ (97). BACK

[5] ‘On the Means of Improving the People’, Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 113–116, dealt with prison reform; 116–117 condemned legal loopholes that allowed criminals to escape justice. BACK

[6] Southey made this point in ‘British Monachism’, Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102 (at 91), but did not make it the subject of an article. BACK

[7] ‘British Monachism’, Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 59–102 (at 90–102). BACK

[8] i.e. the Quarterly Review outsold the Edinburgh Review. BACK

[9] 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. 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. BACK

[10] John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), MP for Carlisle 1786–1790, 1791–1812, 1816–1820, and MP for Cumberland 1820–1828. Rumours of his extra-marital affairs were commonplace in the Lake District, but the real cause of his financial difficulties were increasing costs and declining profits in his collieries. His liabilities at his death exceeded £100,000. BACK

[11] Sackville Tufton, 9th Earl of Thanet (1769–1825; DNB), the largest landowner in Westmorland to support the Whigs, and Hereditary High Sheriff of Westmorland 1786–1825. BACK

[12] In 1818 the Westmorland constituency was contested for the first time since 1774, when the chosen candidates of Lord Lonsdale were opposed by Henry Brougham. The whole campaign had been marked by disorder. According to The Times, 17 February 1818, Lonsdale and other gentleman of his party were, at the hustings in Kendal on 11 February, ‘much bespattered’ by missiles hurled by a drunken mob. On 21 February, John Fleming (c. 1769–1835) of Rayrigg Hall, Rector of Bootle 1814–1835, was injured in the election violence. BACK

[13] The politics of the Edinburgh Review (1802–1929), the main Whig quarterly journal. BACK

[14] Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; DNB), Prime Minister 1801–1804, Home Secretary 1812–1822. BACK

[15] Southey’s term for the Whig supporters of William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Lord Grenville and Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764–1845; DNB). BACK

[16] i.e. of the letter that Luke Hansard (1752–1828; DNB) had sent in March 1818, concerning Robert Lovell, whom Rickman had sought to place in his printing office. For the letter, written in Hansard’s extraordinary style, see Orlo Williams, Lamb’s Friend the Census-Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), p. 205: ‘Mr. Hansard has perused and reperused with much pleasure Mr. Southey’s classical and biographic sketch of Robert Lovell; a sketch equally honourable to the gentleman by whom it is drawn, as it is creditable to the gentleman who is the subject of it. So far as can at present be observed of Robert Lovell’s progress in the printing-office, Mr. Southey’s interesting trait is not overdrawn; and if the young man perseveres in the variety of trying scenes ever attendant upon a parliamentary business late and early, chiefly early hours, some cramfull to overflowing, then standing still (but yet in awaiting) and then to another overflowing of diversities, still waiting and giving instant attention Mr. Hansard will then have fair opportunities even though Lovell be but a young man and a new hand but just come into camp Mr. Hansard will have fair opportunities, which he shall gladly seek for and as gladly embrace, of coming up to Mr. Southey’s and Mr. Rickman’s kind and solicitous wishes.’ For Lovell’s reluctance to take the job, see Southey to John Rickman, 14 March 1818, Letter 3091. BACK

[17] Probably a reference to Canning’s speech on 11 March 1818, defending the Indemnity Bill, which prevented prosecution of government officials for their actions under the suspension of habeas corpus in 1817–1818. BACK

[18] Sir Robert Gifford (1779–1826; DNB), MP for Eye 1817–1824, Solicitor-General 1817–1819, Attorney-General 1819–1824, Lord Chief Justice 1824, Master of the Rolls 1824–1826. BACK