3411. Robert Southey to Edward Hawke Locker, 1 January 1820

3411. Robert Southey to Edward Hawke Locker, 1 January 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 1 Jany. 1820

My dear Sir

I am exceedingly glad to receive your letter, because it gives me an opportunity of expressing at the same time my sorrow & my apology for not having seen you since we met at the Fleur de Bled. [1]  Perpetual hurry & occupation during the short time that we remained in & near London on our return must be my excuse; & since then I have only been in town on my way to & from Switzerland, when of course I was on the wing.

I am glad also to acquit myself of what would indeed be an unpardonable neglect if I had been guilty of it. Your friendly offer of General Taylors [2]  documents never reached me. Our friend Croker must certainly have forgotten it in the multiplicity of his engagements. I hope it is not too late to say that such a collection would in all likelihood be of the greatest use to me, & that I should be truly obliged to you for an assistance of such importance in my great work. [3] 

That work will go to press in the course of <the> spring, as soon as I return from London; & when I am fairly engaged with the printer, my hand will not be taken off till it is compleated. My intention is to be in London early in March, & I will not fail to make my acknowledgements to you in person at Greenwich. [4] 

You take the right ground in this Prospectus. [5]  On we must go: there is no possibility of checking the progress of society, even if it were desirable; & it is more than ever necessary to direct it in a proper course. I have been endeavouring for more than twelve years to impress this upon those whom it most concerns, & have called out upon Government to see that wholesome food was provided for the people, & th to take efficient measures for stopping the circulation of poison. The present bills [6]  will do something, tho in my judgement stronger restrictions of the press will be found necessary, & a new law of libel upon Lord Mansfields principle, instead of Mr Fox’s. [7]  Meantime individuals must do what they can, & save the country in spite of its Liberales, from the Dukes of Sussex & Bedford, down to Dr Watson & Carlile. [8]  Your plan is very good, & I will go what I can to promote its circulation.

If your authority in the affairs of the Hospital enables you to save some part of the wood upon Castlet, [9]  you will be a great benefactor to this beautiful place. These trees are threatened, & nothing could injure the immediate scenery of Keswick so much as their destruction. And in all these cases no ultimate loss would be sustained by leaving enough for beauty, instead of indiscriminately cutting every thing down.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs obliged & obedient servant

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Edward Hawke Locker Esqre/ Cloisters/ Windsor
Endorsements: Southey
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 4 JA 4/ 1820
Seal: [partial] red wax
MS: Huntington Library, LR 323. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: W. A. Speck, ‘Robert Southey’s Letters to Edward Hawke Locker’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 62.1–2 (1999), 156 [in part]. BACK

[1] An inn at Bruges; Southey had met Locker there on 25 September 1815, Journal of a Tour in the Netherlands in the Autumn of 1815 (Boston and New York, 1902), p. 35. BACK

[2] Major-General Sir Herbert Taylor (1775–1839; DNB), whose varied career included spells as Private Secretary to George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) in 1805–1811 and to Queen Charlotte (1744–1818; DNB) in 1811–1818; he was also MP for New Windsor 1820–1823 and Military Secretary 1820–1827. Taylor and Locker both lived at Windsor and had co-operated in founding a National School there in 1819. BACK

[3] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[4] Locker had just become Secretary (1819–1824) of Greenwich Hospital. He was later Civil Commissioner of the Hospital 1824–1844. BACK

[5] Locker’s Prospectus for The Plain Englishman (1820–1823), a popular miscellany of conservative and Anglican views. BACK

[6] The ‘Six Acts’ of 1819 to suppress radical agitation. BACK

[7] William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (1705–1793; DNB), Lord Chief Justice 1756–1788, rigorously upheld the principle that juries in libel cases could only decide on who had printed or published a piece of work; whether it was libellous or not was a matter for the judge. The Libel Act (1792), promoted by Fox, gave juries the main role in deciding whether a publication constituted a libel. BACK

[8] Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773–1843; DNB), sixth son of George III, known for his liberal views on subjects like Catholic Emancipation; John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB), leading Whig peer; James Watson (c. 1766–1838; DNB), key figure in the attempted revolution at Spa Fields, 2 December 1816; Richard Carlile (1790–1843; DNB), radical journalist, sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in October 1819. BACK

[9] Greenwich Hospital was a major landowner in the Lake District, as it was endowed with the forfeited Derwentwater Estates in 1735. Locker was susceptible to Southey’s advice and argued strongly to retain Castlehead Wood, against plans put forward in 1819 to fell over 500 oak trees. This plan was replaced with the selective felling of 200 oaks in 1821–1823. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)