3567. Robert Southey to Charles Lloyd, Senior, 25 November 1820

3567. Robert Southey to Charles Lloyd, Senior, 25 November 1820⁠* 

Keswick, Nov. 25, 1820.

My dear Sir, — I have just received your parcel of books, with your letter of the 20th. I received also G. Whitehead’s Journal and the epistles of the Yearly Meeting. [1]  For these favours I am much obliged, and not less so for the friendly solicitude which you express, lest I should write erroneously or unadvisedly, and thereby give offence. [2] 

I am not so ignorant of mankind, or so inexperienced in the world as to suppose it possible that such a work can be written without offending some of the Society to whom it relates, unless it were composed with the direct object of pleasing them. But I am sure that no just and even-minded member of the Society ought to be offended with what I shall write, no person who will allow to me the same freedom of opinion (always exercised within the limits of charity) which he claims for himself. The errors of the early Quakers were those of their age, their virtues were their own. I will do the amplest justice to their virtues, but I shall neither conceal their faults nor those of their opponents and persecutors. If I did, the lesson of charity, which the book is designed to enforce, would be weakened and incompleat. These things are matter of history. The life of George Fox must be written as that of Luther, of Calvin, and of our own Cranmer, [3]  without setting down anything in malice, or withholding anything in favour. After all subtractions that may be made, he, like them, will remain a good, an eminent, an influential man — a great and chosen agent in the moral and religious world. The members of the Church Establishment will not be offended when I shall speak of the severity which was exercised against the Quakers in the strongest terms of condemnation. The members of your Society will have as little reason to be offended, because I do not dissemble the provocation which their predecessors gave. Perhaps no person understands the temper of those times better than myself, because no person has studied their history more.

With regard to facts then, my intention is and must be to compose a full and faithful history, and that history could not be faithful unless it were full. With regard to the manner of relating them, I can only say that there will be no intention to offend, and that I verily believe no person will be offended whom I could possibly be desirous of pleasing.

Touching the tenets and discipline of the Society, tho’ I am under no apprehension of committing any material error (seeing how ample the materials are from which the account must be derived) I repeat that it will give me great pleasure to submit the chapters which relate to them to your perusal before they are printed.

Farewell, my dear Sir, and believe me,

Yours, with sincere respect,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from E. V. Lucas, Charles Lamb and the Lloyds (1898)
Previously published: E. V. Lucas, Charles Lamb and the Lloyds (London, 1898), pp. 277–279. BACK

[1] George Whitehead (1636–1723; DNB), The Christian Progress of that Ancient Servant and Minister of Jesus Christ, George Whitehead (1725). The supreme governing body of Quakerism is the Yearly Meeting, which sends ‘epistles’ of advice to Quarterly and Monthly Meetings and these are published annually. BACK

[2] Southey’s proposed life of George Fox (1624–1691; DNB), the founder of Quakerism, had raised some alarm in the Quaker circles in which Lloyd moved, undoubtedly fuelled by the recent controversy over his The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). The concern proved to be unfounded, because the biography was abandoned. BACK

[3] Three religious leaders who, like George Fox, helped found denominations of Protestantism: Martin Luther (1483–1546); John Calvin (1509–1564); and Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556; DNB), Archbishop of Canterbury 1533–1555. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)