3168. Robert Southey to William Wilberforce, 16 July 1818

3168. Robert Southey to William Wilberforce, 16 July 1818⁠* 

My dear Sir

I have just received a letter from Mr Koster, the father. With regard to the Consulship at Maranham, it appears that no complaint has been made of the Consuls conduct (Mr Hesketh [1] ) by the Court of Brazil, – that he has made some excuse for his abrupt departure without leave, & it is supposed that he may manage to keep his appointment without residence.

There is no Vice Consul, or Government agent of any kind at Paraiba which is an improving settlement, under a public spirited Governor [2]  who is anxious to encourage the trade, & would no doubt be much gratified by the appointment of a British V Consul to that port. This office, if it could be granted him, would at once serve & suit Henry Koster, the ships there pay no consulage at present & the appointment would interfere with no one. [3]  “He does not ask for any salary, but would be satisfied with the usual contribution on the ships & their cargoes, whatever that might come to; & his emolument might be limited, like that of the other Consuls, in case the amount should ever exceed a certain sum, the surplus to go to the Contribution fund as at other places. I am very sanguine (it is Mr K. who speaks) that if Mr Wilberforce would condescend to ask for such an appointment it could scarcely be refused, it would cost H. M. Government nothing, it would be a small additional object of patronage to the foreign Secretary of State, [4]  & perhaps if my son was found to deserve it, he might be considered in the way of promotion in case of vacancy. It would be a great source of consolation & happiness to me to see him once fairly placed in that line of Government service, however humble the situation.”

I am sorry that you are not in this delightful country during this delightful season. We are enjoying a real, honest, old fashioned summer, such as summers were forty years ago, when I used to gather grapes from my grandmothers chamber window. Warm weather for polemical writing, – & yet little as such writing is to my taste I have been employed in it for the last week. Brougham with his usual indiscretion thought proper to attack me from the hustings; it was wholly without provocation; I had taken no part whatever in the election, & every thing which he said of me was absolutely false. So I am giving him such a castigation as he never had before, & which it is to be hoped may last him for his life. [5] 

Believe me my dear Sir

truly & respectfully yours

Robert Southey.

Keswick. 16. July. 1818


* Endorsement: Mr Southey. H Koster/ Brougham Warfare
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: R. I. Wilberforce and S. Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce, 5 vols (London, 1838), IV, pp. 384–385 [in part; undated]. BACK

[1] Robert Hesketh (1789–1868), Consul in Maranhao 1812–1832, Consul in Rio de Janeiro 1832–1852. The Koster family had informed Southey that Hesketh had fled his post after a local romantic entanglement and had mobilised Southey to campaign for Henry Koster to receive the Consulship; however Hesketh remained in post at Maranhao. BACK

[2] Tomas de Souza Mafra (dates unknown), Governor of Paraiba 1817–1819. BACK

[3] John Theodore Koster suggested that his son would not require a salary as Consul – he would be paid a share of the charges which Consuls levied on British merchants’ trade, in return for their services. Any excess over a certain amount would go to the British Contribution Fund, a charity set up by British merchants in Portugal – an arrangement in place for British Consulates in Portugal and Brazil. BACK

[4] Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh (1769–1822; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1812–1822, was ultimately responsible for the appointment of Consuls. BACK

[5] On 30 June 1818 Brougham, campaigning for the parliamentary seat of Westmorland against the candidates favoured by Wordsworth’s patron, the Earl of Lonsdale, was reported to have attacked Southey and Wordsworth at the hustings. Southey did not publish his response at this time, but parts of it saw print, without mention of Brougham’s name, as a ‘Postscript’ to the second edition of Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)