1293. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart, 21 March 1807

1293. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart, 21 March 1807 ⁠* 

Sonnet to Lord Percy [1] 

on his late motion for the gradual abolition of Slavery in the West Indies.


Percy! “of virtuous father virtuous son”.
Well hast thou done, & rightly dost advance
Thyself, like him the friend of the forlorn,
From bondage to redeem a race unborn,
Abandoned else to their inheritance
O Of chains & misery. Rightly hast thou done,
And England turns an eye of hope on thee
For this fair promise of thine early morn.
In the good path which thou hast chosen, proceed, –
Be alway thus the friend of liberty,
And Earth & Heaven shall give thee both thy meed.
Yea greener laurels will be thine in store
Than thy heroic fathers won of yore,
In Teviotdale, fast by <or on> the pleasant <banks of> Tweed [2] 

____ R. S. xxxxxx

Dear Sir

I am almost ashamed to send a single sonnet from such a distance; – were I however to detain it till I produced verses enough to fill a letter, it might remain years in my desk.

Tho it is not often that I now accord with the principles of the Courier, [3]  I do most cordially & entirely in its opposition to any farther indulgence to the Catholicks, – a question on which I wish Coleridge could be induced to write. He could show explain the system which is carrying on to spread that accursed religion in the North of Germany, & show that Europe is likely once more to be divided, with the two great parties of Papist & Protestant, France being the head of the one, as formerly the house of Austria was. – Here in England the Catholicks are at their old tricks of miracles. St Winifred is in as high odour as ever she was in the darkest ages. [4]  If you wish to see the number of Catholick Seminaries in this countrys, you may find a list of them in the Lay Directory, which is a Catholick Almanack, published by Keating & Brown the Catholick booksellers by Grosvenor Square. Many of these seminaries are regular nunneries, into which the children of Protestant parents have been persuaded to enter, – that is, they have been driven mad by the Catholick Priests, & then have chosen these Bedlams for themselves.

I know the whole history of this religion so well (having for some years been collecting materials for a history of the Monastic Orders) [5]  – & am so deeply convinced of its demoralizing & fatal tendency, & of the impossibility of relaxing our wise old laws against it without danger, that if I were not so much employed as to render it impossible for me to find time, I should feel it my duty to write a pamphlet upon the subject.

yrs very truly

R Southey.

Saturday. March 21. 1807.



* Address: To/ Daniel Stuart Esqr/ Courier Office/ Strand/ London/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ MAR24/ 1807
Endorsement: Southey/ about 1806/ March 21 – 1807/ Sonnet to Ld Percy/ & on the Catholics
MS: British Library, Add Ms 34046. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Mary Stuart (ed.), Letters from the Lake Poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, to Daniel Stuart (London, 1889), p. 391. BACK

[1] On 17 March, Hugh Percy, Earl Percy (1785–1847; DNB) had launched a motion in parliament proposing the gradual abolition of slavery in Britain’s Caribbean colonies. BACK

[2] Published in The Courier on 22 April 1807. The poem is included in Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, vol. 5 Selected Shorter Poems, ed. Lynda Pratt (London, 2004), pp. 426–427. BACK

[3] Stuart’s newspaper had adopted a pro-ministerial line. BACK

[4] Miraculous cures were being claimed at the holy spring of St Winifred at Holywell, north Wales, a site of pilgrimage since the medieval period, where, in the seventh century, St Beuno is said to have restored his niece St Winifred to life after Cardoc, a rejected suitor, had cut off her head. In 1806 John Milner (1752–1826; DNB), the Catholic bishop, published Authentic Documents Relative to the Miraculous Cure of Winifred White, of the Town of Wolverhampton, at Holywell, in Flintshire, on the 28th of June, 1805 detailing many cases of miraculous cures at the fountain. Southey and Milner became opponents in print in the 1820s. BACK

[5] This was never completed. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)