Appendix 2

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, Edited By Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Ian Packer

Appendix 2:

We here reproduce for the first time Southey’s light-hearted – but unsent – 1818 response to an anticipated challenge to a duel from Henry Brougham. Southey suggests that such a challenge would be provoked by the appearance of his own ‘Tender Epistle’, which had been written in reaction to Brougham’s reported criticism of Southey during the Westmorland election of 1818. In fact, the ‘Tender Epistle’ was not completed and only part of it was ever published as an Appendix (without mentioning Brougham’s name) to the second edition of Southey’s Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53.

Robert Southey to Henry Peter Brougham, Baron Brougham and Vaux, [c. July 1818] ⁠* 

Answer to an expected Challenge.


I have the honour of acknowledging the receipt of your letter, & do myself the pleasure of replying to it without delay.

In affairs of this kind, the parties ought to meet upon equal terms. But to establish such an equality between you & me, there are three things which must be previously done; & then a fourth also becomes necessary, before I can meet you in the field.

First, you must marry & have four children. Please to be particular in having them all girls. [1] 

Secondly you can must prove that the greater part of the provision which you make for them depends upon your life: & you must be under a bond of 4000£ not to be hanged, not to commit suicide, & not to be killed in a duel, which are the conditions upon which I have effected an insurance on my own life, for the benefit of my wife & children. [2] 

Thirdly, I must tell three direct falsehoods concerning you, upon the hustings, or in some other not less public assembly. [3]  And I shall never be able to do this, nor to meet you afterwards in the manner you propose, unless you can perform the fourth thing, which is, ––

That you must convert me from the Christian religion.

Till all this be accomplished, Mr Brougham, our disputes must be carried on without the use of any more iron than is necessary for blackening our ink & mending our pens, – or of any more lead than enters into the composition of the Edinburgh Review [4] 

I have the honour to subscribe myself


Yours with all proper consideration

Robert Southey


* Watermark: None, but a small embossed stamp in the upper right corner of 1r, positioned vertically. A crown in the centre. SUPERFINE / BATH POST
MS: Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester, Robert Southey Papers A.S727. AMS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s only children alive at this time were Edith May, Bertha, Kate and Isabel Southey. BACK

[2] Southey’s life was insured for £4000 – he had invested his salary as Poet Laureate in increasing the coverage to this sum. BACK

[3] A reference to the newspaper reports of what Brougham had said about Southey from the hustings at Appleby on 30 June 1818. BACK

[4] Edinburgh Review (1802–1929), the main Whig quarterly journal, to which Brougham was a contributor. BACK

Published @ RC

April 2016