3159. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 7 July 1818

3159. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 7 July 1818⁠* 

My dear Harry

You will have seen the attack which that blackguard Brougham has thought proper to make upon me, without the slightest provocation, – for I have not written a word about the election, nor ever spoken about it out of my own family, nor cared three straws for the event. [1]  Fool as well as liar that he is, he shall have his deserts.

Wordsworth has stung him to the quick by some masterly letters which tho {rather} above the level of electioneering readers Brougham has sense enough to understand in their full force. [2]  And as Wordsworth & myself, be Heaven knows why seem destined to be coupled together like Valentine & Orson, or Robin Hood & Little John, [3]  this fellow with his characteristic imprudence has chosen to make war upon me in return. – Be it so then! War he shall have. I am giving him a WilliamSmithiad. [4]  And when he has received one blow from my hand, he will not mistake for it the stroke from any other in future. – I wish I had been present to have given him the lie on the hustings. [5] 

Louisa I trust is going on well. Give my kindest love to her, what do you call the boy?

I hope John May has received his books from Longmans. [6]  If he should not, desire him to make inquiry for them. My only reason for doubt upon the subject, is that I wished Nash to have seen the boxes opened, for the sake of separating those wh few which belong to Senhouse & when the Grand Dormouse called in the Row for that purpose, it could not be done. So he left his directions with the Patres Nostri. [7] 

The Westminster Election has amused me much “with the humours of Mr Hunt”. [8]  Certainly that xxxxxxx townsman of ours does no credit to Bristol. He is not game. Did you observe that the Maximus Piscis Dr Crompton had nearly come in for some place in Lancashire? [9]  I am sorry that Sir T. Acland is thrown out. [10] 

I was very busy upon Mr Walpoles papers [11]  when yesterdays Courier came with Broughams diatribe & called me off. The interruption however will not be long. What I have to say will be soon said, – it will be a la ver rotî which you know is short & sweet. [12] 

God bless you


Tuesday 7 July 1818.

I expect Tom after his hay harvest.

Edith takes me to task for not having particularly given her love to Louisa – & to Mrs Gonne.


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 10 JY 10/ 1818
Endorsment: July 1818
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, KESMG 1996.5.93. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] It was reported in the Courier on 4 July 1818 that Brougham, campaigning as a Whig in the 1818 general election in Westmorland, had attacked Southey and Wordsworth from the hustings on 30 June 1818. BACK

[2] Wordsworth, campaigning for his patron, the Earl of Lonsdale, published (anonymously) Two Addresses to the Freeholders of Westmorland (1818). BACK

[3] The eponymous heroes of the fifteenth-century French romance – twin brothers who, after being abandoned in the woods as children and separated, are later reunited. Orson becomes the servant and comrade of Valentine, who had become a knight. Little John, likewise, was the comrade and assistant of the romance–hero Robin Hood. At the start of his literary career, in the mid 1790s, Southey had planned to publish a volume of poems with Robert Lovell under the pseudonyms ‘Orson’ and ‘Valentine’. This did not materialise. BACK

[4] Southey had responded to an attack on him in parliament by William Smith on 14 March 1817 with the pamphlet A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M. P. (1817). BACK

[5] Southey was dissuaded from publishing a retort to Brougham that he termed the ‘Tender Epistle’. Parts of it were printed, without mention of Brougham’s name, in a ‘Postscript’ to the second edition of Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53. BACK

[6] During his European tour in 1817, Southey had bought, on May’s behalf, Hippolyte Helyot (1660–1716), Histoire des Ordres Religieux et Militaires (1792); Edmond Martène (1654–1739) and Ursin Durand (1682–1771), Voyage Litteraire de Deux Religieux Benedictins de la Congregation de Saint Maur (1717); and an unidentified work. These books, along with Southey’s purchases, after many delays, were then left for collection at Longmans. BACK

[7] Longmans business was located in Paternoster Row, London. BACK

[8] Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773–1835; DNB), the radical politician, was a candidate for Westminster in the election of 1818. He attracted large crowds to his election meetings but polled only 84 votes. Hunt was from Widdington on Salisbury Plain, rather than Bristol, but he had invested in a Bristol brewery and contested the seat in 1812, christening himself ‘Bristol Hunt’. BACK

[9] Dr Peter Crompton (1760–1833) of Eaton House, Liverpool, a wealthy radical who supported John Thelwall in the 1790s and who contested elections at Nottingham (1796, 1807, 1812), Preston (1818) and Liverpool (1820). At Preston in 1818 he won 1245 votes, only 353 votes behind the second elected candidate. In 1804 Crompton had visited Southey in Keswick; see Southey to John Rickman, 6 August 1804, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Three, Letter 975, where he described Crompton as a ‘nondescript fish’, so ‘maximus pisces’ or ‘greatest fish’ is undoubtedly an ironic description. BACK

[10] Sir Thomas Dyke Acland was an independent-minded supporter of the government; he was defeated by a Whig candidate for the county of Devon in 1818, but regained his seat in 1820. BACK

[11] Southey refers to a proposed memoir of Robert Walpole (1736–1810), the British envoy to Portugal 1771–1800, which John May had suggested. BACK

[12] ‘in the manner that a worm is roasted’. BACK

Places mentioned

Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)