3399. Robert Southey to [William Howley], 8 December 1819

3399. Robert Southey to [William Howley], 8 December 1819 ⁠* 

Keswick. 8 Dec. 1819

My Lord

Some Pernambuco Merchant will be Mr Sandbys [1]  best advisor. I fear this omission of the Merchants will render it necessary for him to notify his appointment, & await xxx a reply, which will instruct him how to draw on them for his expences.

The conduct of the Opposition is as bad as their worst enemies could desire. Government in their measures <seem> to have aimed at conciliating them, & therefore to have proposed less than was required. [2]  The Bill to restrain the abuse of the Press is miserably inefficacious: – it does indeed little more than diminish the rate of sedition & blasphemy by raising the price of these commodities. A reaction however appears to be taking place, owing in great measure to the exposure of the calumnies against the Manchester magistrates, [3]  & a little perhaps to the alliance of Hunt with Carlile, [4]  & the arrival of Cobbett with Paines Relics, just when that wretch’s infamy was fresh before the public. [5]  There will I fear be some desperate attempt in the disturbed districts, before the search for arms can be effected. [6] 

The fact which you were kind enough to communicate respecting Limehouse Church is striking, & confirms the opinion which I had formed concerning the utility of ornamenting our Churches. [7]  Even the Scotch are beginning to feel this. Jack [8]  is embroidering his coat in very respectable taste.

I remain My Lord

very respectfully

Your Lordships obliged & obedient servant

Robert Southey.


* Endorsement: Dec 8. 1819./ R Southey Esqr
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 2p.
Note on correspondent: Identified by the letter’s content, especially references to the chaplaincy at Pernambuco. BACK

[1] In 1817, at Koster’s instigation, the English expatriate community in Pernambuco had sent Southey a letter requesting his help in securing for them a chaplain, rather than directly approaching the church authorities. Discovering that responsibility for such appointments lay with the Bishop of London, Southey had endeavoured to help and an appointment to this post had been made: Charles Sandby (c. 1761–1832), B.A. Christ Church, Oxford 1783. He was Vicar of Swell, Gloucestershire 1795–1832 and Rector of Honeychurch, Devon 1816–1832. In the event he did not take up the chaplaincy in Pernambuco, which was unfilled until 1822. BACK

[2] The Cabinet had published its proposals on 29 November 1819 for what became known as the ‘Six Acts’ to suppress radical agitation, including a new Criminal Libel Bill. The Whigs opposed these measures. BACK

[3] The local magistrates at Manchester had ordered the dispersal of a huge radical meeting at St Peter’s Field on 16 August 1819. At least eleven people were killed in the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre. BACK

[4] Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773–1835; DNB) was due to be one of the main speakers in Manchester on 16 August 1819, as was Richard Carlile (1790–1843; DNB), radical journalist, who was by this time editing The Republican from prison, where he was serving a three-year term for blasphemy and sedition. BACK

[5] Thomas Paine (1737–1809; DNB), the author of The Rights of Man (1791–1792) had died in America, where Cobbett had fled in 1817 to avoid arrest when habeas corpus was suspended. Cobbett arrived back at Liverpool in November 1819 with Paine’s bones, intending to give them a public funeral and to raise a monument in Paine’s honour. Paine’s name was ‘before the public’, as one of the counts on which Carlile was convicted in October 1819 was that of selling Paine’s The Age of Reason (1794–1807), a deist tract that attacked the Church of England. BACK

[6] One of the ‘Six Acts’ was the Seizure of Arms Act (1819), which allowed magistrates to search private property for weapons, seize them and arrest their owners. BACK

[7] Possibly a reference to St Anne’s Church, Limehouse, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661–1736; DNB) and consecrated in 1730. BACK

[8] Jean Calvin (1509–1564), French theologian, much disliked by Southey, whose view on issues such as predestination was the official doctrine of the Church of Scotland. Southey noted a new style of grander Scottish churches in his Journal of a Tour of Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (London, 1929), pp. 15, 77. BACK

People mentioned

Cobbett, William (1763–1835) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)