1994. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 6 December 1811

1994. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 6 December 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 6. 1811.

Of you I have heard from Dr Bell, – not for this very long while from you. – I am very busy upon the Register, [1]  & your friend Mr Legge [2]  who gave me two such excellent dinners, may possibly have it in his power to render me a useful service for this work. In the long discussion upon the Walcheren expedition Windham spoke “at length” – March 30th.  [3] – but he had lately offended the Reporters. & not a word of his speech can I find in Cobbetts Debates (the book which I use) [4]  – nor in the newspapers. Now if Mr Legge has that speech among Windhams papers, & will allow me to make an abstract of it, I should be very much beholden to him. The circumstance of giving a speech of such a man <which is> not to be found elsewhere, by accrediting the diligence of the writer & the means of information which he possesses would be of considerable use to the book. – If he will trust the papers to you, Rickman or Bedford will get them franked down, & they shall be returned in eight & forty hours. – I might very well spare myself this trouble which is pure matter of supererogation: – nor do would I do it for any other man but Windham, – xxx whose speeches, whether he was right or wrong, were always xxx ingenious. – Do not however ask Mr Legge if you see the slightest impropriety in the application, or feel the least unwillingness xxx to make it.

That article upon Bell & Lancaster will speedily be printed in a separate form, enlarged to about as much again as its present size. [5]  It will then form a compleat view of the subject, & be an xx authentick history of the rise & progress of a system which seems likely to produce a great & permanent amelioration of society. Dr Bell lodged here in Keswick for xxx three or four weeks, in which time we all, old as well as young, became very much attached to him. He has made me perfectly master of the subject in all its bearings. I dedicate xxx it to the Editor of the Edinburgh Review, – in terms of stinging sarcasm such as he deserves at my hands.

You see Brougham recommends my last years Register to the notice of Parliament; [6]  & it would not surprize me if this recommendation should be the means of introducing me to the Sergeant at Arms. [7]  This would bring me to town in the winter instead of the ensuing fall of the leaf; – any other inconvenience would be amply overbalanced by the celebrity which it would give to the book, & the credit which I should gain when called xxx upon to speak in my own behalf. Speak I should not, – having no confidence in myself of that nature, – solitary habits xxx have incapacitated me for speaking, but I should read a short paper every word of which would be equally well-weighed & weighty. – So if Broughams friendly hint produce its intended effect, it will not find me unprepared. It is curious that in the very note in which this man accuses me of an offence against the H of Commons, he brings a charge himself against the house, founded upon a direct falshood. “the House, he says, in an unlucky hour was pleased to resolve that the proposal of discussing a Members conduct implied an invasion of the Bill of Rights” [8]  – & he hopes that ‘this Resolution will soon be rescinded.” Wynn xxx assures me that no such Resolution was ever past, & that it was urged by no person except Mr Yorke, [9]  – almost every other member who spoke upon the subject expressly disclaiming it. – Brougham xxx attempt xx xx xx xx xxx in all his writings evinces a thorough disregard of truth. I have him upon the hip in Bells quarrel, & shall give him such a cross buttock as he has never met with before.

You wrote a note to me at Richmond from Manydown, saying that a parcel has arrived at Streatham directed to me. I suppose it was the copies of Madoc [10]  which were ordered there, – but perhaps it may have been the Anti-Jesuit book from Dublin, [11]  – which was sent at that time in an official frank, & of which I can obtain no tidings. Let me know if this be the case.

Our love to my Aunt & the Man & his brother. Winter is set in here, – it brings with it long evenings free from all interruption & enables me to make up for time lost during my grass-hopper days.


– There us a happy illustration in Dutch of the manner in which a metaphor to which we are accustomed in our <own> language comes out upon us in another tongue. We talk of a glass of spirits, & see nothing remarkable in the expression, – a Dutchman calls it a glass of ghosts.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Postmarks: [partial] 10 o’Clock/ DE 9/ 1811; E/ 9 DE 9/ 1811
Seal: Partial, red wax.
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[2] Hon. Heneage Legge (1788–1844), MP for Banbury 1819–1826 and one of the executors of William Windham’s (1750–1810; DNB) will. BACK

[3] Windham censured the Walcheren expedition in a speech of two hours on 30 March 1810. It was not reported because Parliamentary journalists objected to Windham’s attitude in a debate of 23 March 1810 on the exclusion of reporters from the Inns of Court – the boycott lasted until 10 April 1810. The Walcheren expedition was an unsuccessful British landing in the Netherlands in 1809. The plan had been to open another front in the war against Napoleon. Although there was little actual fighting, the British forces were severely depleted by a sickness quickly dubbed the ‘Walcheren Fever’. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 660–692. BACK

[4] William Cobbett had published an unofficial annual record of Parliamentary Debates since 1802. BACK

[5] Southey’s The Origin, Nature and Object, of the New System of Education (1812), an expansion of his advocacy of Bell in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. BACK

[6] A long aside in the Edinburgh Review, 18 (August 1811), 420–423n, had questioned whether the ‘virulent personal abuse … levelled at the most respectable members of the Legislature’ in the Edinburgh Annual Register was in breach of Parliamentary privilege and hinted that action against the author and publishers might be taken. In the event, the Edinburgh Review’s suggestion was not acted on. BACK

[7] Francis John Colman, serjeant-at-arms (i.e. the chief law enforcement officer in the Houses of Parliament) 1805–1811, died in Portugal on 12 December 1811. His successor was John Clementson (1780–1856), who served in a temporary capacity from January–March 1812, when the post went to Henry Seymour (1778–1844), who held it until 1835. BACK

[8] Edinburgh Review, 18 (August 1811), 416n. BACK

[9] Charles Philip Yorke (1764–1834; DNB), First Lord of the Admiralty, 1810–1812, in the debate in the House of Commons on 19 February 1810 on breach of privilege, which led to the imprisonment of the radical journalist John Gale Jones (1769–1838; DNB). Yorke justified the House’s actions by referring to the Bill of Rights (1689), which provided that Parliament’s actions could not be impeached or questioned. BACK

[10] The third edition of Madoc (1805). BACK

[11] Unidentified. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)