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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1383. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart, 27 November 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged both by your letter & the offer which it contains. [1]  My occupations are now so many that I could not stipulate to furnish regularly even the xxxx small quotium of verse which you require. The habit of versifying & of catching all things in a poets point of view has gone from me thro long disuse. xxxx Weeks would pass on, & tho few men are more willing or better able to gird themselves up for the labour of the day, I fear any the thought that I ought to be writing for you, & the feeling that I was not in the mood for it, would fret my spirit, & end in abortive attempts. There is however another way which may tempt me to recover the habit. Tho I cannot work by time, I can by the piece, – when I can get a sheet full it shall be sent, – & the verses may be rated like oysters by the hundred, or like bricks by the thousand.

You have mistaken the mention of the Mutineers in the Spaniards letters [2]  – it relates to those poor fellows who were hung just before Governor Wall,  [3]  & who mutinied because they were ordered to the West Indies, just when peace was made & they expected their discharge. [4]  – I believe more suffered upon this than on the former occasion. – You may remember that the plea of insanity was set up for Parker; [5]  – it was properly enough set aside, but there was a madness in his family. I saw his sister in Dr Fox’s madhouse at near Bristol, [6]  & where she had been for years in a hopeless state of derangement.

I did not expect you would agree with D Manuel [7]  in on some points, where he speaks in my character & not in his own. The {main} point on which we seem to differ is this, that you abominate one party, & that I have the most rooted contempt for all, & a strong conviction that between them they wll ruin the country, as far it is possible for xxxx any per politicians to ruin it. At present the Foxites [8]  are the worst because they clamour for peace; which no doubt the Ministry will make as soon as they can, just to keep their places & prove themselves as bad.

One newspaper will do more for a book than two reviews – I thank you for the lift you have given Espriella, [9]  – & will write to make it Longman follow it up by advertising, which he certainly does not do sufficiently. It is my intention to bring Espriella to England again, & say in two volumes more what I had not room for in the former work. [10]  – I shall be very much obliged to you for any anecdotes & any hints that you will have the goodness to send me. My object is to give as compleat a picture of the present state of society in England, as my observation & information enable me to do; – & it is impossible that I can have a tithe of your knowledge of the political & the great world. – I am straitened enough in circumstances for profit to be a matter of some consequence importance to me. – this book seems likely to be more productive than any former attempt: it wants initials, asterisks & personalities to make it greatly so. I think however if the object in view be at all accomplished that the book will have some thing more than a temporary value.

There is one subject on which I have much to say, & that, as it appears to me, of considerable importance. It is the navy; but tho God knows it would be in the spirit of a true Englishman, & would tend to prevent much danger & much evil, I am afraid to do it, least it should injure my my brother, to whom of course the matter would be imputed immediately that it should be known to be mine. Yet I am certain that I could point {out} easy remedies for great grievances.

I perfectly agree with you in your opinion of Jeffreys reviewal of Cobbett  [11]  & the vile place-hunting politics of the Edinburgh Review, which is xxx labouring to frighten the nation into a peace. They are equally wrong about the Catholick question. the immediate effect if it were carried, would be to send an Irish Priest on board every ship in the navy, & every one of these men would be in the interest of Bonaparte & under orders from his vassal the Pope. [12] 

Your account of the cotton mill at Glasgow contains an important fact in confirmation of the opinion which I have formed upon the manufacturing system, as at present existing. I do not believe that letter which you inserted in the Courier contains a syllable of exaggeration, – there is however an oversight in it, where I have said that the price of labour remains the same as what it formerly was. [13]  I know not how this escaped me, & am very sorry it is there, – for any mistatement of this kind materially weakens the effect of argument; – exciting a just suspicion of unfair play. This I shall of course correct in the next edition, which is likely soon to be called for. In the subsequent volumes I have many important subjects to consider – the East India Company – Ireland – the state of public morals, – the want of public virtue, – &c – with plenty of lighter matter to carry this off, not forgetting Mr Malthus, & the Society for the Suppression of Vice. [14] 

yrs very truly

R Southey.

In a few days I shall fill a fools-cap sheet with all the verses I can muster up. [15] 

Nov. 27. 1807.


* Address: To/ Daniel Stuart Esqr/ 9. Brompton Row/ West Knightsbridge –/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 10o’Clock/ DE.2/1807 FNn; E/ DEC 2/ 1807
Endorsement: Southey 1807/ Nov 27
MS: BL Add MS 34046
Previously published: Mary Stuart (ed.), Letters from the Lake Poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, to Daniel Stuart (London, 1889), pp. 392–397. BACK

[1] That Southey contribute poetry on a regular basis to The Courier newspaper, as he had done in the late 1790s to Stuart’s previous publication, the Morning Post. In Southey’s letter to Wynn, dated [March 1807], Letter 1437, he states that he had declined Stuart’s offer. BACK

[2] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[3] Joseph Wall (1737–1802; DNB) had in 1782, while governor of Goree, an island off Gambia, had several soldiers flogged to death by black slaves, without having convened a trial, on the grounds that they had mutinied. Wall was arrested on returning to England, but escaped and lived in Europe until in 1801 he surrendered himself for trial, in the hope of clearing his name and enabling himself to inherit a legacy. He was found guilty, amid public revulsion at his brutality, and hanged on 28 January 1802. The matter is discussed in Letters from England, Letter 9. BACK

[4] In November 1801 sailors on HMS Temeraire, expecting to be allowed leave in England, were ordered to the West Indies. They mutinied on 1 December; on 6 January 1802 fourteen of them were convicted and hanged. BACK

[5] Richard Parker (1767–1797; DNB), seaman and leader of the naval mutiny at the Nore in 1797. When he was facing court martial and execution, his wife testified to the Admiralty, that he had previously been ‘at times in a state of insanity’ (Portsmouth Gazette, 26 June 1797; DNB). BACK

[6] Edward Long Fox (1762–1835) ran an asylum at Cleeve Hill, Downend, Bristol, from 1794, moving it in 1804 to Brislington House, nearby. BACK

[7] Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, the putative author of Southey’s Letters from England … Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[8] Whigs with a political allegiance to Charles James Fox, Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons until his death in September 1806. BACK

[9] Stuart had included in The Courier of 20 November 1807, probably at Coleridge’s instigation, an extract from Letters from England, Letter 38, concerning the exploitation of the poor in the new commercial and manufacturing towns. On 17 November an extract from Letter 36 criticising Birmingham had been published. BACK

[10] A follow up volume was not published. BACK

[11] A severe review of Cobbett’s Political Register, in The Edinburgh Review, 10 (July 1807), 386–421, created a long lasting enmity between Jeffrey and the radical journalist William Cobbett. BACK

[12] Southey’s objection to the emancipation of Catholics was always that it would allow into public office men who were loyal to the Pope rather than to the King. BACK

[13] Southey makes this comment in Letter 38 of Letters from England. The account of manufacturing in his letter was also published, with some omissions, in The Courier dated 20 November 1807. In the editorial section before Southey’s letter, Stuart comments on the positive example of ‘The Lanark Mills’ near Glasgow, which ‘are an exception, health, morals and education being there particularly attended to’. BACK

[14] Southey viewed both Malthus’s and the Society’s efforts as hypocritical attempts to coerce the poor into a morality that the rich were not asked to practise. See his review of Thomas Jarrold (1770–1853; DNB), Dissertations on Man, Philosophical, Physiological and Political; in Answer to Mr. Malthus’s ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ (1806), the Annual Review for 1806, 5 (1807), 607–615; in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 292–301, Southey had attacked Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society; with Remarks on the Speculations of W. Godwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers (1803). He criticised Part the First of an Address to the Public, from the Society for the Suppression of Vice (1803), in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 225–231. BACK

[15] See note 1. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013