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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2095. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 16 May 1812 ⁠* 

Saturday May 16. 1812.

My dear Grosvenor

I have myself so strong a sense of Mr Percevals public merits that I cannot help writing to you to say how much I wish that a statue might be erected to him. This could only be done by subscription, but surely such a subscription might soon be filled if his friends thought {think} it adviseable to begin it. Suggest this to Herries, & if the thing should be begun, pu when the list has the proper names to begin with, put mine down for five guineas, which could not at this time be better employed.

The fit place for this statue would be the spot where he fell. Permission to place it there would no doubt be obtained, & the opposition made to it would only recoil upon his political enemies. [1] 

I have often been grieved by public events; but never so depressed by any as by this. It is not the shock which has produced this, – nor the extent of private misery which this wretched madman has occasioned, [2]  – tho I can scarcely xxxx refrain from tears while I write. It is my deep & ominous sense of danger to the country, from the Burdettites on one hand, & from Catholic concessions on the other. You know I am no high church bigot, – it would be impossible for me to subscribe to the church articles. Upon the mysterious articles {points} I rather withhold assent than refuse it, – not presuming to define in my own imperfect conceptions what has been left indefinite. But the plenary inspiration of the scriptures, which is the established tenet of every church except the S modern Socinians, I decidedly disbelieve, & this is a gulph between me & the Establishment which can never be past. But I am convinced that the overthrow of the Church Establishment would bring with it the greatest misery {calamities} for us & for our children. If any man could have saved it, it was Mr Perceval. The wealth of the church will tempt the Wellesleys, [3]  who I suspect have are of the East Indian religion, – that is no religion at all. The Foxites [4]  are all Voltaireists. The Scotch mongrel-politico-xxxxxxxx-philosophisticators to a man Atheists at heart, & the greater numbers of them as arrant rascals as Fouche or Talleyrand [5]  to boot. The repeal of the test act [6]  will let in Catholicks & invite more dissenters. When the present D. of Norfolk [7]  dies, we x you will {have} Catholic members for all his boroughs. All these parties will join in plundering the church. No man is more thankful for the English Reformation than I am, – but nearly a century & half elapsed before the evils which it necessarily originated had subsided.

As for conciliating the wild Irish by con such concessions the notion is so preposterous, that when I know a man of Wynns understanding can maintain such an opinion, it makes me sea sick at heart to think upon what sandy foundations every political fabric must {seems to} rest!

I have strayed on unintentionally. – Go to Herries, & if he will enter into my feelings about the statue let no time be lost.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks E/ 19 MA 19/ 1812
Endorsement: Recd 20 May. 1812
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 338–339 [in part]. BACK

[1] This suggestion was not proceeded with; but statues of Perceval were erected in Westminster Abbey (1816) and Northampton Town Hall (1818). BACK

[2] The Prime Minister Spencer Perceval had been shot dead in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11 May 1812. His assassin was John Bellingham (1770–1812; DNB), a merchant with a grudge against the government. BACK

[3] Marquis Wellesley and his brother the Duke of Wellington. Both had served the East India Company. BACK

[4] The Whigs. Their leader had been Charles James Fox (1749–1806; DNB). BACK

[5] Two notorious survivors in French politics: Joseph Fouché (1759–1820), an old Jacobin who served as Chief of Police 1799–1802, 1804–1810, 1815; and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (1754–1838), Foreign Minister 1797–1807, 1814–1815. BACK

[6] The Test Act (1673) ensured all office-holders had to make a declaration against Catholicism and take communion within the Anglican Church. BACK

[7] Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk (1746–1815; DNB), an active Whig, he controlled at least eight boroughs (Arundel, Horsham, Shoreham, Steyning, Gloucester, Hereford, Leominster and Thetford). He was an Anglican, but his heir, Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk (1765–1842; DNB), was a Catholic. BACK

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August 2013