3373. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 29 October 1819

3373. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 29 October 1819⁠* 

My dear R.

Thank you for the Parl: Procs. [1]  I send you up a second Cumberland Address for Lord Wm Gordons [2]  signature. The first (which was from my mint, & which you may have seen in the papers as given with Mr Broughams comment at the Kendal meeting) [3]  has been withdrawn, to make that Mr Wallace might substitute a lathery composition of his own. [4]  Meantime comically enough, the first has been (inter nos) shown both to the Prince, – & to the Cabinet, – & pronounced to be the best which had yet been sent forth. It had however been weakened at the conclusion, which as it originally stood was thus – ‘trusting that if the existing laws be insufficient to curb the audacious spirit of blasphemy & treason, new ones xx will be adapted, consistent with the tenour of the Constitution & adapted to the exigencies of these distempered times.

Lord Somervilles [5]  death will give me some trouble, – whether it will give me any thing else Heaven knows. Part of the property which he derived from his Mother [6]  was entailed upon my father & his heirs. Lord S. sold this some years ago, & I have now to recover it if I can. The elder line of the Southeys is extinct in him, – the name had been so for three generations. The whole property which he inherited from his mother was about a thousand a year; but how much of this I can claim is to be gathered from the meaning of a will, [7]  which has been pronounced to be one of the most unintelligible that ever came into a Court of Law.

By this time I trust you have received the completion of my Opus Majus. [8] 

God bless you


29 Octr. 1819


* MS: Huntington Library, RS 375. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 151–152. BACK

[1] The official Report of Parliamentary Proceedings, usually known as Hansard, after its publisher, Luke Hansard (1752–1828; DNB). BACK

[2] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), son of Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon (1720–1752). He owned the Waterend estate on the west side of Derwentwater. BACK

[3] A County Meeting for Westmorland was held at Kendal on 21 October 1819 to protest against the authorities’ actions at the ‘Peterloo’ meeting in Manchester on 16 August 1819, which led to eleven deaths. Brougham was present, and read out and denounced the rival pro-government Loyal Address for Cumberland which Southey had written (though Brougham was unaware of its author). Brougham remarked that the Address ‘is very long indeed, and extremely dull’, and described its authors as ‘fawning sycophants’ who had produced a ‘slavish’ document, Morning Chronicle, 26 October 1819. The entire address written by Southey had been leaked to, and printed by, the Morning Chronicle, 23 October 1819. BACK

[4] Thomas Wallace (1768–1844; DNB), MP for various seats 1790–1828, including Cockermouth 1813–1818, member of the Board of Control 1807–1816, Vice-President of the Board of Trade 1818–1823, created 1st Baron Wallace 1828. He had inherited Carleton Hall, near Penrith. The second Address from Cumberland was published in Morning Chronicle, 29 October 1819 and was notably circumspect in its reference to events at ‘Peterloo’. BACK

[5] John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB), agricultural reformer and third cousin of Southey, had died on 5 October 1819. This produced a further round of legal tangles over the Fitzhead estate in Somerset, which Somerville had inherited. BACK

[6] Elizabeth Cannon Lethbridge (d. 1765); her mother was Mary Southey (1704–1789). BACK

[7] The will of John Cannon Southey (d. 1768); he was Mary Southey’s older brother and thus the great-uncle of Lord Somerville. John Cannon Southey’s and Mary Southey’s mother, Mary Cannon (1678–1738), was co-heiress of the Fitzhead property. BACK

[8] The third volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK