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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1537. Robert Southey to Humphrey Senhouse, 19 November 1808 ⁠* 

Keswick. Novr 19. 1808.

Dear Senhouse

I ought before this to have let you know what steps have been taken, or rather have been resolved not to be taken, xx {as to} this projected meeting. [1]  – but some unexpected affairs of business & of family concerns put it out of my head. Some days ago Curwen [2]  dined at Calverts, [3]  where Wordsworth, Spedding, [4]  Mr Matthews of Wigton [5]  & myself were invited to meet him. We talked it over, & were convinced that nothing could be done, except making some of Lord Lonsdales ‘merry men’ hold up their hands in public against opinions which they had freely expressed in private. In fact there is as little {political} independance in the country now as there was during the prevalence of the feudal system, & the dependance now is of a dirtier kind. It is better not to stir than to be baffled. Wordsworth who has this more at heart than anybody else, was satisfied of this, & went home to ease his own heart in a pamphlet, a way which will produce less immediate, but more permanent effect. [6]  I am greatly obliged to you for ascertaining what line of conduct Lord Lonsdale would have pursued. Your determination in consequence was perfectly right & proper, – for no question which can be agitated in a party shape is worth one moments disquietude.

The circumstance which you saw in the Courier of a womans hand being cut off at Lisbon for the sake of her rings, was true, but inaccurately stated. [7]  – It was found in a knapsack, – my brother heard the story from one who had seen it. The hand was a delicate one, – crowded after the fashion of that country with rings, which it is supposed could not be drawn xxx over heated or swoln fingers so fast as the Frenchman wanted. Such facts are common enough in history, & this was not needed to convince us that war is carried on now with as much barbarity as it has ever been in the civilized part of Europe.

Some secret politico-literary intelligence has been communicated to me, Walter Scott has suggested to some of his friends in power the fitness of establishing a Review [8]  to counteract the cowardly politicks of his old friends in the Edinburgh, & the suggestion is adopted. Gifford is to be the Editor, (not the Gifford whose name is usually coupled with that of John Bowles, [9]  & whose neck might be coupled with his too, so as to make them a pair of spectacles, without much loss to society) but the Baviad Gifford. I have seen the list of persons on whom they rely, – they are sufficient for the purpose, tho there are some of the Sons of the Feeble among them. Walter Scotts main position is that the literary articles must be laboured with as much pains as the political ones, so {as} to give the Review a decided superiority & decided character, & to maintain the respect of the public by strict impartiality. Application has been made to me, to which I have replied by sending in a sort of confession of faith, – in which my orthodoxy upon the war & the Catholick question will probably overbalance the other heterodox points. [10]  – A great deal is said upon requiring no pledge, – perfect independance &c – of all which terms when they have anything to do with Lord Hawkesbury [11]  & the Treasury, I perfectly understand the meaning. Nevertheless as long as their caravan is going my road I am content to travel with it. April I believe is the time fixed for the appearance of the first number.

Remember me to Mrs Senhouse & at Netherhall, & believe me

yours truly

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ Humphrey Senhouse Junr. Esqre/ Castle-Hill/ Maryport/ Cockermouth
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Seal: Red Wax
Endorsements: Novr 19. 1808/ Robt Southey to HS.; Coventry Meeting – New Review &c
Watermark: TW & BB / 1807
MS: University of Rochester, Rare Books Library, A.S727 1:2
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had previously written to Senhouse regarding a plan to raise the public’s oppostion to the Convention of Cintra; see Southey to Humphrey Senhouse, 19 October [1808], Letter 1523. BACK

[2] John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), Whig MP for Carlisle, Workington landowner. BACK

[3] William Calvert (1771–1829; DNB), who was at school with Wordsworth at Hawkshead, where he later became the schoolmaster. On the death of his father, Calvert became a man of independent means, inheriting, with other property, the estate of Bowness on the east shore of Bassenthwaite, near Keswick, where he lived with his family. BACK

[4] John Spedding (1770–1851) of Mirehouse, the house and estate near Bassenthwaite lake, north of Keswick. Spedding was a schoolmate of Wordsworth at Hawkshead. BACK

[5] The Rev. Richard Matthews (1771–1846) of Wigton Hall. BACK

[6] Wordsworth’s Concerning the Concerning the Relations of Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal, to Each Other, and to the Common Enemy, at this Crisis; and Specifically as Affected by the Convention of Cintra (1809) was triggered by the agreement, made on 30 August 1808, of the British generals to allow a defeated Napoleonic army to withdraw from Portugal to France unmolested and with its weapons – a decision he and Southey thought pusillanimous. BACK

[7] This story appears in The Courier for Monday 11 November 1808, p. 3. BACK

[8] The Quarterly. BACK

[9] John Gifford [formerly John Richards Green] (1758–1818; DNB); John Bowles (1751–1819; DNB), both anti-jacobin writers. BACK

[10] For this, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 November 1808, Letter 1530. BACK

[11] Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool (1770–1828; DNB), titled Lord Hawkesbury before the death of his father in 1808. Hawkesbury had served as Foreign Secretary before 1806; from 1807 he was Home Secretary; as Lord Liverpool (as he became by the death of his father in December 1808) he accepted the position of Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in 1809. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013