3596. Robert Southey to [Glocester Wilson], 29 December 1820

3596. Robert Southey to [Glocester Wilson], 29 December 1820⁠* 

Keswick. Cumberland. 29 Dec. 1820.


Though I have not the honour of being known to you, I trust you will allow me to trouble you upon a question of some interest not to myself alone.

The Dean of Worcester [1]  has communicated to me the copy of part of a letter from Miss Briggs [2]  to John Wesley, the original of which, he informs me, was given by Mrs Wesley [3]  to your Mother, [4]  & is probably at this time in your possession. He tells me that I am at liberty to make what use I please of it: – & if it prove to be authentic, affecting Wesley’s character as it does, it becomes my duty, tho xx a most unwelcome one, to make it public Having written his life as fully as the materials before me enabled me to do, & as faithfully as possible, I cannot, consistently with integrity, suppress a fact of this nature.

Permit me then to ask you, Sir, whether such a letter is in your possession, & whether it came to you in the way stated, which would leave no doubt of its geniuneness The copy which has been sent to me is a fragment, beginning with an imperfect sentence, thus, “believe him insincere – & ending also imperfectly, thus, – “& be still kindly affected to her &c.” – It appears from Mr Wesley’s published correspondence that he had a correspondent of that name, at the time when he separated from his wife. – May I request, if you possess the letter & it be perfect, that you will favour me with the beginning & the end of it, – so as to supply what is wanting in this copy. [5] 

Trusting that you will excuse the liberty which I take in thus troubling you.

I remain Sir

yr obedient servant

Robert Southey.


* Endorsement: Southey & Miss Briggs
MS: Somerville College, Oxford, Amelia Edwards Papers, ABE 303. ALS; 3p.
Note on correspondent: Identified from Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 December 1820, Letter 3594. BACK

[1] John Banks Jenkinson (1781–1840; DNB), Dean of Worcester, 1817–1825, Bishop of St David’s 1825–1840. BACK

[2] Elizabeth Briggs (1751–1822), whose family were devout Methodists and close friends of John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB). BACK

[3] Mary Wesley (1709/10–1781). She was a widow at the time of her marriage to John Wesley in 1751. The relationship was troubled and on 23 January 1771 Mary left her husband for the final time. She took with her ‘part of his Journals, and many other papers, which were never restored’, Southey, The Life of Wesley; and The Rise and Progress of Methodism, 2 vols (London, 1820), II, p. 302. BACK

[4] Unidentified. BACK

[5] Wilson’s reply made it clear that his mother had been given a copy of the letter, not the original. Southey, unconvinced by the reliability of such a copy and concerned that it had been part of Mary Wesley’s campaign to ruin her husband’s reputation, decided against publishing it; see Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 7 February 1821, Letter 3628. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)