3588. Robert Southey to Mary Ann Watts Hughes, 21 December 1820

3588. Robert Southey to Mary Ann Watts Hughes, 21 December 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 21 Dec. 1820

Dear Madam

Thank you for your letter & for the squibs. Mr Hughes has plenty of gunpowder, & makes good use of it. [1]  He will makes himself felt as a satirist, & satire under the direction of such principles as his, may do good service in these times: – otherwise there are pleasanter paths in literature, which for his own sake I should wish him to pursue. Indignation will make good poetry, but it leaves the mind in a heated & uncomfortable state; & poetry is of most advantage both to the writer & reader, (& especially to the former) when it elevates us above the every-day concerns & unworthy humours of the world. I shall be very glad to see the production of a different class which you promise me. Meantime, as you have left Amen Corner, [2]  let me know where I can direct to him a poem as soon as it comes out of the Press which I have just sent to the Printers [3] 

I cannot tell you how much I was pleased with the good, honest, warm, Welsh loyalty of your letter. Our Protestant Missionaries have proved, in opposition to their Romish predecessors, that the best helpmates they can take with them are their wives; – & you have persuaded me in like manner that a woman may be of as much use in putting down evil opinions & diffusing good ones, as a Justice of the Peace. It is for want of zeal that we perish.

As yet I have heard nothing of the Society which you mention. [4]  I perceive some objections to it, of which the weightiest is its tendency to relieve Government from of a responsibility & duty, from which it is too much disposed to shrink. Objections however must be waived, if there be a reasonable prospect of doing good. If we do not curb the press, the press will destroy us – & this is a truism of which I have been endeavouring to persuade the Government for the last ten years.

Mrs S. desires her best regards. Present mine to Dr Hughes, & my young brother-poet, & believe me

My dear Madam

Yrs obediently

Robert Southey.


* Address: [address in another hand; deletions in a second hand] Oswestry Decr twenty six 1820/ To/ Mrs Hughes/ Uffington/ Amen Corner/ Farringdon/ London/ CW Williams Wynn
Stamped: [illegible] Penny post
Postmarks: C/ 28 DE 28/1820; [partial] DE/ 2/ 1820
MS: Pforzheimer Collection, New York Public Library, Misc. 3796. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Mary Ann Hughes had sent Southey some of the anti-radical satires that her son, John Hughes (1790–1857; DNB), had been publishing; for example, The Radical Harmonist (1820), Solomon Logwood (1820) and The Asses Skin Memorandum Book, Lost in St Paul’s (1820). BACK

[2] Mary Anne Hughes’s husband, Thomas Hughes, was a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral and the couple lived in a house at Amen Corner, just west of St Paul’s. BACK

[3] Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (1821). The printers were the firm headed by the brothers Andrew Spottiswoode (1787–1866) and Robert Spottiswoode (1791–1832). BACK

[4] The Constitutional Association (1821–1822), which issued pro-government propaganda and endeavoured to secure the conviction of radical journalists for libel. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Hughes, Thomas (1756–1832) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)