3385. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 8 November 1819

3385. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 8 November 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 8 Nov. 1819.

My dear Sir

You may insert the Address which I sent you [1]  at the end of the Rejected Addresses. [2]  One of Mr Wallace’s [3]  composing was substituted in its place, as being thought more in form, & in other respects less unobjectionable, – because it did not speak so plainly. [4]  If I could have obtained a copy in time I should certainly have sent it to you, but as that was not the case, I knew you would not think it fitting that a Loyal Declaration from the County of Cumberland should go without your name to it, & therefore I desired it might be set down, – a liberty which of course I should not have taken on any other occasion. – Altogether it is an odd story. While Mr Wallace occasioned the first Address to be laid aside here, it had gone up to London, & as I saw by a letter from Beckett [5]  to Lord Lonsdale, had been much approved by the people in power; – & moreover I have reason to believe that Lord Wm Gordon [6]  had shown it to the Prince, – for he received it at the Pavillion, & wrote to me from thence that he had good reason to think it would be most graciously received at Carleton House. [7] 

I send you the Westmorland Gazette, in which you will <find> a reply to some Animadversions on our Address. [8]  In the next paper there will be a letter to Mr Brougham upon the same subject, exposing in pretty strong terms his mendacious conduct at Kendal. [9]  I will send it you, – it is not quite so long as Mr Flemings epistle. [10]  Please to return me the papers, or lay them by till we meet in the early part of the year, – for I have the whole series of this newspaper & mean to preserve it. – I have not seen Mr Bathursts book [11]  & shall be much obliged to you for it. It may be directed to Longmans for me.

Lord Somerville’s unexpected death gives me the chance –– of a law-suit, an evil which you may be well assured I am neither rich enough, nor litigious enough, nor idle enough to engage in rashly. [12]  The unlucky will which devised Cannon Southeys property to him in his infancy has been repeatedly pronounced in court to be one of the most perplexed wills that ever was made. [13] My good Aunt is full of hopes, & longs to show me the estates, every one of which she knows. But whether I am entitled to claim any one of them is a matter of which I have no knowledge whatsoever, & but slender expectation. I am making enquiry upon this subject, & shall have the best legal opinions. It would be strange indeed if after being twice cut off from a fair inheritance in Somersetshire, for no fault or shadow of offence that I had ever committed toward my two Uncles, [14]  I should be called led into that country at last, to settle upon a family property, & be gathered to my fore fathers. That odd, honest, open-hearted, tho in his latter days factious & crazy, old poet George Wither [15]  (the xxx of Big Sheep [16]  was of his family) took for his Motto Nec habeo, nec careo, nec curo, [17]  & made those words the text of x one of his prosing poems. The motto might almost do as fitly for me as it did for him. If I can recover any thing I shall know how to make use of it, & be glad of the means; if it end in nothing I shall still be contented with my present situation, & thankful for it.

We are expecting Kenyon every day.

Senhouse is just returned to Fingest Grove, [18]  after having exposed himself in a Berwick smack [19]  during these late gales, – an act of rashness which he ought not to have committed. I shall meet him in town in February, & if you are at Bath in that or the following month, I hope to accept your invitation, & shake hands with Bowles & with Crabbe. [20]  By that time the Radicals will neither be quite so loud nor quite so open in their operations. But unless some efficient means be taken for checking the abuse of the Press, the danger will only be abated for a time, & will break out again & again, always with more force every time than the last, till the Revolutionists effect their end. The Ministry want foresight, vigour & consistency: they have no confidence either in the Prince, or in each other, & the nation has no confidence in them, – tho it prefers them very justly to any other set of men. I wish the reins were in the Duke of Wellingtons hands.

Did I tell you that Elmsley has consented to go to Naples & examine the Herculaneum Manuscripts as they are unrolled by Davys process? [21]  His Greek will now be put to some use, & what an enviable distinction in classical literature he will obtain if any thing of value should be discovered! It is a very gratifying thing to me to see how many of my early friends have taken high degrees in life, & proved themselves first class men in their respective pursuits.

The Ladies [22]  join with me in kind remembrances to Mrs Peachy

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Major-General Peachy/ Yarmouth/ Norfolk
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 28603. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Following the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre of 16 August 1819, 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. He sent a copy to Peachy on 15 October 1819, Letter 3365. BACK

[2] 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

[3] 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

[4] Wallace’s Address appeared in the Morning Chronicle, 29 October 1819. The new Address was notably circumspect in its reference to events at ‘Peterloo’. BACK

[5] John Beckett (1775–1847), Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs 1806–1817, Judge Advocate-General 1817–1827, 1828–1830, 1834–1835. BACK

[6] 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

[7] The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, the Prince Regent’s seaside home; and Carlton House, his London residence. BACK

[8] Southey’s letter to the Editor of the Cumberland Pacquet, [before 26 October 1819], Letter 3370, was reprinted in the Westmorland Gazette, 6 November 1819. BACK

[9] Southey’s letter to Henry Brougham [before 6 November 1819], Letter 3381, was published in the next number of the Westmorland Gazette, 13 November 1819. This was a response to the County Meeting for Westmorland, 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 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

[10] John Fleming (c. 1769–1835) of Rayrigg Hall, Rector of Bootle 1814–1835, wrote a series of nine letters, which were published in successive weeks in the Westmorland Gazette, 17 October–12 December 1818. They defended the conduct of Fleming and his six fellow governors of St Bees School, near Whitehaven. The House of Commons Select Committee on the Education of the Poor, chaired by Brougham, had taken evidence which had raised some embarrassing issues about how the School was run, including the fact that valuable mining rights belonging to St Bees had been leased to the Lowther family in 1742 for 867 years and at a rent of only £3 10 shillings per annum, Morning Chronicle, 21–23 September 1818. The Earl of Lonsdale, head of the Lowther family, was a governor of the school. BACK

[11] Possibly Henry Bathurst (1780–1844), Christianity and Present Politics How Far Reconcilable: in a Letter to the Right Hon. W. Wilberforce (1818). BACK

[12] 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 that Somerville had inherited and on which Southey had a potential claim. BACK

[13] Somerville’s mother was Elizabeth Cannon Lethbridge (d. 1765), the daughter of Mary Southey (1704–1789) and niece of John Cannon Southey (d. 1768). The latter had inherited the Fitzhead estate from his mother Mary Cannon (1678–1738). On his death, John Cannon Southey had left a complex, ill-advised will which named Somerville as his primary heir, and, if he produced no heirs, Southey’s father and two uncles as residuary legatees, their rights passing, in turn, to their children. Of the three Southey brothers only Southey’s father married, leading the poet to believe (after the death of his father and paternal uncles) that he and his brothers were now the rightful heirs to the Fitzhead estate. BACK

[14] Southey’s paternal uncles John and Thomas Southey. Neither had left any of their fortunes to Southey or his brothers. BACK

[15] George Wither (1588–1667; DNB), poet, and in his later years, supporter of Parliament in the civil wars of 1642–1651. BACK

[16] Southey’s uncle, Herbert Hill, had married into the Bigg-Wither family, who were related to George Wither, so this may be a punning reference to Hill’s deceased father-in-law, Lovelace Bigg-Wither (1741–1813) – the ‘withers’ are the highest part of the back at the base of the neck of a sheep and the substantial Bigg-Wither estates in Hampshire were partly used for rearing sheep. BACK

[17] ‘I have not, I want not, I care not’; Wither’s Motto. Nec habeo, nec Careo, nec Curo (1621). BACK

[18] Netherhall, Senhouse’s residence in Cumberland, was being extensively renovated, so he had temporarily rented Fingest House, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. BACK

[19] Fast, but small, boats that carried cargo and passengers between London and Berwick-upon-Tweed. BACK

[20] The poet and clergyman George Crabbe (1754–1832; DNB) was Rector of Trowbridge, Wiltshire 1814–1832. His parish was only about twelve miles from William Lisle Bowles’s at Bremhill. The two men had met in 1815 and Bowles had since introduced Crabbe to his friends. Crabbe was also connected to Peachy’s social network – in 1815–1825 Crabbe corresponded with Elizabeth Charter (1782–1860), the sister of Peachy’s first wife, Emma. BACK

[21] In 1819, funded largely by the Prince Regent, Elmsley and Davy had been commissioned to try new means of unrolling and transcribing the carbonised papyri that had been discovered in the ruins of Herculaneum, the town destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Although Herculaneum had been rediscovered in 1709, the existence of the papyri had not been realised until 1752. By the 1810s their significance for classical scholarship was beginning to emerge. Although Davy and Elmsley applied their scientific and scholarly knowledge to the task, it was abandoned in early 1820. Davy’s findings appeared in his ‘Some Observations and Experiments on the Papyri Found in the Ruins of Herculaneum’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 111 (1821), 191–208. BACK

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