3377. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 1 November 1819

3377. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 1 November 1819⁠* 

My dear Harry

I have a long letter from good Aunt Mary who expects that Lord Somervilles death [1]  has opened the way for me to a comfortable inheritance, longs to show me the different farms, & hopes that I shall have occasion to summon her to London – as the person best acquainted with the circumstances of Cannon Southeys will. My own persuasion is that what I am entitled to is so little as hardly to be worth contending for. The whole property she estimates at about 1000 £ a year: – I believe the remainder of one xxxxx estate, held for 99 years is all that was entailed upon my father. It was the most perplexed will that ever came before the lawyers. However I wish you would go to Doctors Commons, [2]  see the will, & obtain a copy of the whole, if necessary, or of such parts of it as concern the property devised to Lord Somerville & entailed, in default of his issue, upon the Southeys. Perhaps you had better call upon Turner on the way, & consult with him, – as xx xxxxxx if there <are> to be any law-proceedings I shall commit myself with perfect confidence to his directions. Lord S. I know sold the whole of his Somersetshire property, – some of it certainly with a bad title. But I will inclose my Aunts letter, that you may see what she says, & then you will know <almost> as much of the matter as I do.

If my Aunt sends the deed of trust for her money – for our signatures, do you give it to Bedford, & desire him if he cannot obtain an official frank for it to ask Rickman so to do. [3] 

Phillpotts has just sent me his Letter to the Free holders. [4]  It is very well written. Lambton seems to be doing all he can to earn for himself the character of the most intemperate man in the H. of Commons. [5]  As the Opposition used to wish for just so much national misfortune & disgrace as would bring them into office, so I could find in my heart to wish for just as much Radical Reform as would reach the roots of his property, – if the mischief could affect none but him & such as him. Concerning the immediate danger I have as few fears as any man. Government will have the active support of the Grenvilles, [6]  & the acquiescence of those whigs who are not beyond the reach of hellebore. [7] That xxx If there be an insurrection, which is likely enough, it will I think be presently quelled. What measures are intended by Ministers I do not know, I dare say they will be strong enough to excite great uproar, & not strong enough to be of any permanent advantage. For if they suffer the press to be employed against all our institutions, as it has been for some years, no Government & no institutions can possibly stand against it. Without some efficient restrictions upon this engine of all evil, all other measures must be nugatory. The evil will <seem to> be suspended – just as long as the H. Corpus, [8]  – & no longer. Humanly speaking the prognosis is as unfavourable as it well can be, tho there is no immediate danger of political dissolution. But I have a comfortable reliance upon the Order of Providence, & in xxx notwithstanding all appearances believe that we shall be saved in spite of ourselves.

You will see that Aunt Mary claims kin with Locke for us. [9]  I wish it had been somebody for whom I had more respect

I have got my third volume, – & the well-bound MSS. [10]  What a satisfaction to see that work compleated! – A proof of Wesley is on the table. [11] 

Love to Louisa & Mrs Gonne.

God bless you


1 Nov. 1819.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ 15. Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square.
Postmarks: [partial] TwoPyPost/ Unpaid; 2 o’Clock/ 4 . NO/ 1819 A. Nn
Endorsement: Octr
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 196.5.105. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 154–156. 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] The society of lawyers dealing with aspects of the civil law, including wills and inheritances. BACK

[3] On Thomas Southey’s death in 1811, he left no property to his family. However, his sister, Mary Southey, successfully claimed some cottages held under copyright tenure, on the grounds that the ‘custom’ of the local Manor of Tanton Deane made her Thomas Southey’s heir at law. Further complexities had arisen on her sale of these properties and Southey and Henry Herbert Southey were holding the capital in trust. BACK

[4] Henry Phillpotts, A Letter to the Freeholders of the County of Durham on the Proceedings of the County Meeting holden on Thursday, 21st October 1819 – and Particularly on the Speech of J. G. Lambton, Esq., M. P. (1819). BACK

[5] John George Lambton (1792–1840; DNB), MP for Durham 1813–1828, 1st Earl of Durham. Lambton was both a fantastically rich owner of land and collieries in Durham and an outspoken Whig. He was the prime mover behind, and speaker at, the County Meeting at Durham on 21 October 1819, which denounced the local authorities over their responsibility for the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre in August 1819. Southey particularly disliked Lambton because he had helped Brougham in his contest in Westmorland in 1818. BACK

[6] The small group in the House of Commons and House of Lords that owed allegiance to Lord Grenville; they had split from the Whigs in 1817 but did not join the government until 1822. BACK

[7] In classical mythology, hellebore was a cure for madness. BACK

[8] The Habeas Corpus Act (1673) prevented detention without trial. It had been suspended in 1817–1818. BACK

[9] Mary Southey’s grandmother (and Southey’s great-grandmother) was Anne Locke (b. 1675), who married Robert Southey (1670–1726). She 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

[10] The third and final volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819), and the manuscripts of both the History of Brazil and the ‘Collections for the History of Brazil’ (in two volumes) were nos 3154–3155 in the sale catalogue of his library. Southey had all five volumes ‘half bound in calf’. BACK

[11] The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

People mentioned