3171. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 24 July 1818

3171. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 24 July 1818⁠* 

My dear R.

Thank you for the Salamanca plan, [1]  & the Bankrupt-Insolvent & Usury Report. [2]  The latter is a question which I do not understand, but because Jeremy Bentham [3]  is the great authority on one side, I am inclined to suppose the other must be in the right. Can you send me the report upon the Churches, – for I am about to take this as the text for a miscellaneous discourse upon Churches Cemeteries &c. [4] 

What Brougham effected in Westmorland [5]  was by dint of the true demagogue system, – lyin lying by word of mouth & thro the press with undaunted impudence & indefatigable perseverance. He has set on foot a sort of United Irish association to keep the county in a state of perpetual agitation, [6]  – Lord Thanet [7]  gave him this precious plan which he himself received from the late E Stanhope [8]  for the benefit of the people of Kent. [9]  On the other hand he has lost ground by his ill temper, – & is likely to lose more, for there will be some difficulty in paying the expenses of the struggle. He has no wealth on his side here. Lord Thanet gave 4000 £ – but that was gone presently. Lambton [10]  perhaps is foolish enough to subscribe largely, – still it is supposed that many bills will be left unpaid.

The mob feeling is as bad as it can be, here & every where else. Brougham invited the rabble at Kendal to meet him at Appleby, & thought to carry the day by a mob force. A Bristol schoolfellow of mine managed the business for the Lowthers & was quite a God send for them – his name is Gee, [11]  a man who is in his element in such a scene, & is quite willing when he cannot persuade his opponents to act fairly, to thresh them into fair dealing.

I am waiting for documents to fill up the history of B. various acts of slander in the H. C. [12]  The exposure will be of use in confirming the doubtful, & giving those persons who wish to leave his party a good reason for doing so. The Lowther interest is safe in Westmorland, but not in this county. [13]  These are petty considerations if they could be regarded singly. But it is part of the great system for breaking up every thing.

– I cannot help suspecting that Cochrane is gone to carry off Buonaparte. [14]  If so I hope the centinel will prove a good shot.

God bless you


July 24. 1818


* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
MS: Huntington Library, RS 346. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] At the Battle of Salamanca, Spain, 22 July 1812, an Anglo-Portuguese army commanded by Wellington, defeated French forces. Southey needed a plan of the battle for his History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[2] The Select Committee on the Bankrupt Laws reported in 1817 and 1818. The Select Committee on the Usury Laws reported in 1818 (ordered to be printed 28 May 1818). BACK

[3] Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832; DNB). His Defence of Usury (1787) condemned the existing laws restricting interest rates on loans. Since 1713 the maximum interest rate that could be charged was 5% – a provision that was not repealed until 1854. BACK

[4] Southey’s articles on ‘New Churches’, Quarterly Review, 23 (July 1820), 549–591, and ‘Cemeteries and Catacombs of Paris’, Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–98. The ‘report’ refers to events on 16 March 1818, when Nicholas Vansittart (1766–1851; DNB), Chancellor of the Exchequer 1812–1823, drew attention to statistics collected on the deficiency of Church of England places of worship and proposed £1,000,000 be spent on constructing new churches. This proposal was embodied in the Church Building Act (1818). BACK

[5] Brougham was a Whig candidate for the constituency of Westmorland at the general election of 1818. BACK

[6] When the poll closed for the 1818 Westmorland Election, confirming that Brougham had not been elected, a meeting of Brougham’s friends in the yard of Appleby Castle endorsed resolutions forming a ‘Grand Association to secure the independence of Westmorland and Cumberland’, i.e. to work to promote future Whig candidates. In the Westmorland Gazette of 18 July 1818, De Quincey described the Association as ‘nearer the compacts of Irish insurgents than anything yet witnessed among Englishmen and professing friends of the Constitution’ – comparing the Association to the United Irish rebels of 1798. Southey had probably received his information from De Quincey. BACK

[7] Sackville Tufton, 9th Earl of Thanet (1769–1825; DNB), the principal Whig landowner in Westmorland and financial backer of Brougham’s election campaign. BACK

[8] Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753–1816; DNB), radical peer and, like the Earl of Thanet, a major landowner in Kent. BACK

[9] In 1780 Stanhope helped organise in Kent a county association to promote political reform and to petition parliament. BACK

[10] John George Lambton, later 1st Earl of Durham (1792–1840; DNB), Whig landowner and colliery owner in County Durham, and MP for Durham 1812–1828. He had supported Brougham’s campaign in 1818. BACK

[11] Captain George Gee (d. 1827) of Wraxall, Somerset, who was renting Ivy Cottage at Rydal. He was the son of Thomas Gee, a Bristol merchant, and an old schoolmate of Southey’s in Bristol. He seems to have played an important backstage role in organising the Lowther family’s election contests in Westmorland in 1818, 1820 and 1826. As Southey implies here, one of his tasks was to organise physical force in the interests of the Lowthers. BACK

[12] Brougham had provoked Southey’s ire by, reportedly, attacking him at the hustings for the Westmorland election on 30 June 1818. Southey was dissuaded from publishing this retort to Brougham, which he modelled on his pamphlet A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M. P. (1817) and termed the ‘Tender Epistle’. The sections that were completed were published as a ‘Postscript’ (without naming Brougham) to the second edition of Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53. BACK

[13] 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, retained their seats in 1818. But in Cumberland the representation was shared between the Lowthers’ cousin, John Lowther (1759–1844), MP for Cumberland 1796–1831, and George Howard, Viscount Morpeth (1773–1848; DNB), MP for Cumberland 1806–1820, who were both returned unopposed in 1818. There had, though, been moves to adopt Southey’s bête noire, John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), MP for Carlisle 1786–1790, 1791–1812, 1816–1820, as a Whig candidate and he won the seat in 1820. BACK

[14] Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860; DNB), naval hero and radical MP for Honiton 1806–1807, Westminster 1807–1818. On 23 May 1818 Cochrane announced he was leaving the country. He accepted an offer to command the navy of the revolutionaries who were attempting to liberate Chile and Peru from Spanish control and arrived in Valparaiso on 28 November 1818. Southey suspected that his ulterior motive was to free Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; Emperor of the French 1804–1814, 1815) from confinement on St Helena. BACK