3374. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 30 October 1819

3374. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 30 October 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 30 Oct. 1819

I had a great disappointment yesterday in Mr Burns parcel: instead of containing a manuscript history of Para, its contents proved to be the Corografia Brazilica of Cazal, a copy of which you had previously procured. [1]  – The same package brought my third volume, – a welcome sight as you may well suppose. [2] 

Lord Somervilles [3]  death will give me some trouble, & may very probably lead me into a law suit, which of all things in the world I abhor the most. My poor Aunt Mary is all alive with hope. I have a letter from her by this post. She talks of different farms worth in all about a thousand a year, – but I have reason to believe from some enquiries which I made after John Southeys death, that the only part of the property which was entailed upon my father was some land about the house at Fitzhead, & that held only for a lease of 99 years, – about half of which term must be expired. Unluckily my extract from the will, with an opinion annexed to it, which Turner got for me from Mr Bell, [4]  is mislaid among my multifarious papers. I have written to know if the Doctor has one; – if he has not we must apply to Doctors Commons. [5]  Lord S. sold the property some years ago, but with respect to this part of it, the purport of the will is explicit, & my remedy would be an action against the tenant whoever he may be. Were I a single man I believe I should rather leave him in undis quiet possession, than disturb myself with the trouble & care which litigation must bring with it, – to say nothing of expences which I can very ill afford.

My Aunt Mary has found out that her grandmother was a relation of Locke, & bore the same name. [6]  She seems pleased with this, as supposing that it will gratify me to find so great a man in the family. But as I happen to agree with Stillingfleet [7]  concerning Mr Lockes metaphysics, – & with Dean Tucker [8]  concerning his politics, – all the respect I have for him is for his personal character. However it is pleasant to hear of somebody of some no xxxx between oneself & Adam [9]  who has left a name.

I have been passing a few days with Lord Lonsdale at Whitehaven. He is a remarkably obliging man, & I feel quite at ease in his family. There is a comical story about the Cumberland Address. [10]  It originated here, with my neighbour Calvert & myself. I sent it to Lord L. he came over to me immediately, suggested some trifling alterations, & then circulated it. I am so little known in this county that no suspicion was entertained of the hand from which it came, & Mr Wallace, [11]  who is very pompous, & farcically important, being hurt that such a thing should come from any body except himself, objected to the form of the address, & produced one of his own in its stead, which – he being a Privy Counsellor – was of course adopted, & the former one withdrawn. Meantime the first had gone to London, – had been shown I believe to the Prince, & I know to the Privy Council, & had then been pronounced to be the best which had yet appeared. – A more lathery composition than that which has been substituted you never read. At Lord L.’s desire I wrote a newspaper vindication of the first, [12]  & I am now, thro the same channel, & under the same signature of A. B. going to give that scoundrel Brougham a dressing such as he deserves, for the rascally manner in which he has misrepresented it [13] 

We [14]  are all in tolerable health. Love to my aunt and the Children.

God Bless you,



* MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 188. AL; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 152–154.
Note on MS: The closing part of the letter and signature are not present in the manuscript; the text of these is supplied from Warter. BACK

[1] Manoel Aires de Casal (1754–1821), Corografia Brazilica, ou Relação Historico-Geografica do Reino do Brazil (1817), no. 3252 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey had been sent this work by William Burn (1750–1821), an old acquaintance, whom he had first met in Portugal in 1796. BACK

[2] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[3] 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

[4] Possibly John Bell (1764–1836; DNB), barrister and at this time England’s foremost expert in equity law, had been asked for an opinion on the fantastically complex will of John Cannon Southey (d. 1768), which had caused the difficulties over the Fitzhead property. BACK

[5] The society of lawyers specialising in civil law, including wills and probate. See Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 26 October 1819, Letter 3371. BACK

[6] Aunt Mary’s grandmother (and Southey’s great-grandmother) was Anne Locke (b. 1675), who married Robert Southey (1670–1726). Anne Locke was believed by Southey’s Aunt Mary to be a relative of the philosopher, John Locke (1632–1704; DNB), though the precise relationship was impossible to disentangle. BACK

[7] Edward Stillingfleet (1635–1699; DNB), Anglican theologian and scholar, who defended orthodox Christianity against John Locke in Three Criticisms of Locke (1697). Stillingfleet also argued that Locke’s work led to the position that there was no non-physical aspect of the mind and that the mind was merely part of the body. BACK

[8] Josiah Tucker (1713–1799; DNB), Dean of Gloucester 1758–1799. His A Treatise Concerning Civil Government (1781) attacked Locke’s political views as likely to lead to democracy. BACK

[9] The first man in Genesis 1–3. BACK

[10] Following the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre of 16 August 1819, which led to eleven deaths, Whigs in Cumberland organised a County Meeting on 13 October 1819 to protest at the local authorities’ actions and send an Address to the Prince Regent. Southey drew up a conservative response – an Address to the Prince Regent denouncing the radicals and calling for curbs on the press. It was not proceeded with, and the government’s supporters in Cumberland produced a more moderate document. Southey’s Address, though not his identity as its author, had been printed in the Morning Chronicle, 23 October 1819. BACK

[11] 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. BACK

[12] See Southey to the Editor of the Cumberland Packet, [before 26 October 1819], Letter 3370. BACK

[13] A County Meeting for Westmorland was held at Kendal on 21 October 1819 to protest against the authorities’ actions at the ‘Peterloo’ meeting. Brougham was present, and read out and denounced the proposed pro-government Loyal Address from Cumberland, which Southey had written (though Brougham was unaware of its author). He 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. Southey responded with an attack on Brougham’s speech, [Robert Southey] to Henry Brougham, [before 6 November 1819], Letter 3381, published in the Westmorland Gazette, 13 November 1819, signed ‘VINDEX’. BACK

[14] The remainder of the letter text is supplied by Warter. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)