2005. Robert Southey to Andrew Bell, 27 December 1811 

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2005. Robert Southey to Andrew Bell, 27 December 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 27. 1811

My dear Sir

The first proof [1]  is returned to the printer by this nights post. Matters I hope are so arranged between you & Murray that you see the sheets as they pass. The whole is ere this in his hands, except the epistle dedicatory, [2]  which is reserved to the last that it may be polished & pointed to as keen an edge as possible. To put in all the matter {of} which I was in possession was impossible without making μεγα βιβχιον, [3]  & in that case you know what would have been the consequence. But unless I deceive myself the detection is compleat in all its parts, & the gross falshoods of misrepresentations which I have exposed are sufficient t not merely to justify but to require the bitter sarcasms which they have occasionally provoked. Nevertheless you know I am not obstinate, & wherever you think it advisable to soften any thing, it is but to say so, & I am ready to do what may be thought most convenient.

Upon the sight of Fox’s Martyrs [4]  I felt myself in some degree pledged to the work concerning which I talked with you & the Bp. of Meath. [5]  Murray is now in possession of the plan, [6]  & if he encourages me I shall think of setting seriously to work – & of accompanying it with another work upon a corresponding plan, designed in like manner to show the progressive amelioration of our civil institutions. The one would be the Book of the Church, the other the Book of the Constitution. [7]  Were they executed according to my second sight of them, & put into the hands of the rising generation, the one would serve as a vaccination against Methodism, the other against political discontent.

A society has been formed at Bristol, [8]  in consequence as it appears of my article upon the Evangelical Sects, [9]  to circulate for the purpose of circulating extracts from the Homilies, the writings of the Reformers, & tracts of Church History. I am afraid that the Homilies & the writings of the Reformers had better be left for the learned, – the feelings of the people must be addressed as well as their understandings. A society is not, in fact, required for this purpose, – they should begin with the rising generation, little is to be done with those whose habits are already formed. Yet one is glad to see that the dry bones are shaken.

So the Dragon is in Ireland, & the Devil of Vanity could never have tempted him to commit a more egregious absurdity than what the Times of this evening records. The King a friend to Catholick Emancipation & this a secret which was known to nobody but Joseph Lancaster! [10]  This will do more towards opening the eyes of the public than any thing which has yet been written.

I give you x joy most heartily of your metropolitan proceedings. The seed which has so long been sown is now springing up, & God grant you long life that you may rejoice in the increase!

Young & old join me in the customary wishes of the season, & in affectionate remembrances.

God bless you my dear Sir

Yrs most truly

R Southey.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Dr Bell/ 30 York Buildings/ Baker Street/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ 30 DE 30/ 1811; 10 oClock/ DE 30/ 1811 Nn
Endorsement: Mr Southey/ 27 Decr 1811
MS: Brotherton Library, University of Leeds
Previously published: Caroline Southey and Charles Cuthbert Southey (eds), The Life of the Rev. Andrew Bell, 3 vols (London, 1844), II, pp. 652–653 [in part]. BACK

[1] The proof of Southey’s The Origin, Nature and Object, of the New System of Education (1812), an expansion of his advocacy of Bell in Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. BACK

[2] Southey planned to use this to attack Francis Jeffrey; in the end he did not. BACK

[3] ‘A big book’; a shortened version of the famous quotation from Callimachus (310/305–240 BC), Fragments 465, ‘A big book … is a great evil’. BACK

[4] John Foxe’s (1516/17–1587; DNB) Acts and Monuments (1563); widely known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. BACK

[5] Thomas Lewis O’Beirne (1747–1823; DNB), Bishop of Meath 1798–1823. The son of a County Longford farmer, he had been educated for the Catholic priesthood, but converted to Protestantism and became a Church of Ireland clergyman. He had been a well-known Whig, but by 1811 he was increasingly conservative and a defender of the Church of Ireland. The ‘work’ Southey had discussed with the bishop and Bell was what became The Book of the Church (1824). BACK

[6] The plan had been sent to Murray on 13 December; see Southey to John Murray, 13 December 1811, Letter 1997. BACK

[7] The ‘Book of the Constitution’ was not written. BACK

[8] The Bristol Church of England Tract Society, founded in 1811. Its object was ‘to circulate in a cheap form, among the poor members of the Church of England, her Homilies, the Lives of their Reformers and Martyrs, Extracts from her Writings, and from the Publications of her Bishops; with such short Pieces illustrative of the primitive History, Constitution and Discipline of the Church, as the Committee may approve’; see The Christian Guardian (and Church of England Magazine), 4 (July 1812), 252. BACK

[9] Southey’s review of Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[10] Lancaster’s speech at a ‘DINNER given by the CATHOLICS OF IRELAND’ in Dublin was reported in The Times, 25 December 1811: ‘He [Lancaster] would tell … what no man in existence could impart but himself … He had often talked with the King of England, and in one of his conversations he contrived to know his sentiments upon Catholic Emancipation … he told him he was … but his coronation oath he thought would not allow him to do any thing for the Catholics; and he was concerned at it … He thought that this proof of conscience ought to be respected … He did not learn the circumstance from Courtier or Statesman, he had it from the King personally. He concluded by impressing the necessity of educating the youth of the country, and laying a good foundation for liberality of thought.’ Lancaster’s views would not have been shared by the King, as George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB) was a known opponent of Catholic emancipation. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013