3376. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 31 October [1819]

3376. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 31 October [1819]⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Lord Somervilles death will I believe involve me in the cares & expenses of a law suit. [1]  The unlucky will which bequeathed the Southey property to him, & entailed part of it on my Father is one of the most ill-contrived ones that ever furnished work for the lawyers. Upon the death of John Southey I obtained Bells [2]  opinion, thro Sharon Turner; it was that I had good ground to claim a certain estate held for a term of 99 years. – But I have lost both the extract & opinion, – & moreover am very much in the dark about the value of what has been entailed. My Aunt writes to me in great hope, – she knows every thing about the property, – except the points of law, – & longs to show me the various farms, – which are worth about 1000£ a year. But I myself have no expectation of recovering the tithe of that amount. However I must enquire into the matter, & not lose any thing thro negligence.

The Cumberland Address which Brougham abused so manfully at Kendal, [3]  & commented upon more suo [4] like a liar wilfully misrepresenting it as he went on, was mine, – except the last paragraph. You may insert it in your Rejected Addresses. [5]  It was laid aside in complaisance to Wallace, [6]  who (not knowing from whom it came) substituted a verbose composition of his own. – Meantime the former one had been in high places, & been greatly approved there. Altogether it is a comical story. My name I believe has not transpired in the business.

Ministers I understand feel themselves strong, this I have no doubt means that they are sure of your support, & of that of the country gentlemen. Strength of their own they have none, – nor is there a man among them from whom any thing like decision could be expected, – except Ld Wellington. I wish the reins were in his hand. The main thing is to curb the press. Unless that be done every thing else is futile. Unless that be done, the total subversion of all our institutions is inevitable. It may be delayed a little while, but it must come, – & then farewell to the liberty of the press for ever. But if that were put under such restrictions as the state of the country requires, we should be safe. All other causes of danger are temporary, & will pass away; – or they may be remedied.

I hope you have received my huge volume. [7]  It came to me on Friday last. The size will frighten you.

God bless you


31 Oct. Keswick.


* MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] John Cannon Southey’s (d. 1768) fantastically complex will gave Southey some hope of inheriting property at Fitzhead after the death of his third cousin, and John Cannon Southey’s heir, John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB). BACK

[2] Possibly John Bell (1764–1836; DNB), barrister and at this time England’s foremost expert in equity law. 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). 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. The entire address had been leaked to, and printed by, the Morning Chronicle, 23 October 1819. BACK

[4] ‘in his own manner’. BACK

[5] Horace Smith (1779–1849; DNB) and James Smith (1775–1839; DNB), Rejected Addresses, or, The New Theatrum Poetarum (1812), supposedly a series of unsuccessful submissions for the £50 prize awarded for the best address to be recited on the opening night of the new Drury Lane Theatre. The book was actually a skilful pastiche of the styles of leading writers, including Southey. BACK

[6] 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

[7] The third and final volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). It ran to 950 pages. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)