2837. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 9 September 1816

2837. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 9 September 1816⁠* 

My dear R.

About manufactures we shall not differ much when we fully understand <one> another – I have no time to explain now, – here are strangers coming to tea & I seize the interval after dinner to say something relative to your prognostics, – a subject which lies as heavy at my heart, as any public concerns can do, – for I fully & entirely partake your fears. [1] 

Four years ago I wrote in the Q.R. to explain the state of Jacobinism in the country, with the hope of alarming the Government. [2]  At present they are alarmed; – they want to oppose pen to pen, & I have just been desired to go up to town & confer with Lord Liverpool. – God help them! if it is come to this! – It is well that the press should be employed in their favour, but if they rely upon influencing public opinion by such means, – it becomes us either to look abroad where we may rest our heads in safety, – or to make ready for taking leave of them at home.

I wish to avoid a conference which will only sink me in Lord L’s judgement, – what there may be in me is not payable on dema at sight; – give me leisure & I feel my strength. So I shall write to Bedford (thro whom viâ Herries the application has been made) such a letter as may be laid before him, & by this means I shall be able to state my opinion of the danger in broader terms than I could well do (perhaps) in conversation. The only remedy, if even that be not too late) is to check the press: – & I offer myself to point out the necessity in a manner which may waken the sound part of the country from their sleep. My measures would be to make transportation the punishment for sedition, – & to suspend the H Corpus, [3]  & x thus I would either have the Anarchists under way for B Bay, [4]  or in prison, within a month after the meeting of Parliament. [5]  Irresolution will not do.

I suppose they will set up a sort of Anti Jacobine Journal, [6]  – & desire me to write upon the State of the Nation [7]  before the Session opens. If they would but act, as I will write, – I mean with as much in earnest, & as fearlessly, – the country would be saved, – & I would stake my head upon the issue, – which very possibly <it> may be staked upon it without my consent.

Of course no person knows of this application except my wife. By the time my letter (which will go tomorrow) can be answered, I shall be able to start for London, if it be still required. Most likely it will be. Meantime I should like to know your opinion of my views. They want you for their adviser! They who tremble must inevitably be lost.


9 Sept. 1816


* MS: Huntington Library, RS 292. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 205–207 [in part]. BACK

[1] This letter is in reply to Rickman’s of 7 September 1816; in a notably gloomy missive he predicted a revolution in England, Orlo Williams, Lamb’s Friend the Census-Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), pp. 181–183. BACK

[2] Southey’s article in Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–56. BACK

[3] Habeas corpus is the principle in English law that prevents detention without trial. It was suspended in 1794–1795 and again in 1817–1818. BACK

[4] Botany Bay was the penal colony in Australia, founded in 1788. BACK

[5] Parliament had not been sitting since July 1816 and did not reconvene until 28 January 1817. BACK

[6] The Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, or, Monthly Political and Literary Censor (1798–1821). BACK

[7] Southey contemplated, but never wrote, a book on the ‘State of the Nation’. BACK