3164. Robert Southey to [John Wilson Croker], [before 11 July 1818]

3164. Robert Southey to [John Wilson Croker], [before 11 July 1818]⁠* 

My dear Sir

Brougham has attacked me from the hustings, more suo, [1]  that is, without any regard either to truth or decency, – & his speech is in all the papers. [2]  It is quite proper that I should notice this. He has laid himself open; – & to borrow a metaphor from the Fancy, his head is in chancery at this moment. [3]  I am preparing for him a William Smithiad. [4]  In taking vengeance for myself, I shall endeavour to “do the state some service.” [5]  – Otherwise, – upon a mere personal matter, I would not have trespassed upon ten minutes of your time.

One point upon which it is my intention to touch, is his practise of slandering individuals in the H. of Commons. I dined with you seven years ago just after he had attacked Capt Beaver of the Acasta in this manner. [6]  You had procured an affadavit from one of the Lts of the ship, showing how infamously the facts had been mistated. Can you supp help me with that affadavit? The facts are fresh in my memory, – but in such things a mans accuracy is his strength.

Forgive me for troubling you, & believe me

my dear Sir

yrs very faithfully

Robert Southey.


* Endorsement: Ansd/ July 11th
MS: Morgan Library, MA 1005. ALS; 1p.
Dating note: Dating from content. BACK

[1] ‘In his usual manner’. BACK

[2] The Courier had reported on 4 July 1818 that, when Brougham spoke at the hustings for the Westmorland election on 30 June, he had attacked both Southey and Wordsworth for their hostility to him during the election and for insulting the freeholders of Westmorland. BACK

[3] ‘The Fancy’ was a term for followers of boxing (often gamblers) and ‘to lay ones head in chancery’ was a boxing expression and a joke at the expense of the law, meaning that a boxer had wedged his opponent’s head under his arm so as to hit him repeatedly in the face. BACK

[4] Southey was dissuaded from publishing the retort to Brougham that he modelled on his pamphlet A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M. P. (1817), and termed the ‘Tender Epistle’. Parts of it saw print, without mention of Brougham’s name, in a ‘Postscript’ to the second edition of Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53. BACK

[5] Othello, Act 5, scene 2, line 339. BACK

[6] In the Commons on 16 July 1811 Brougham cited, as an instance of the oppression and cruelty practised in the navy, the flogging of a seaman. According to Brougham, the seaman, who had been flogged before, declared he would jump overboard if flogged again. The captain then decided to test whether he would carry out his threat and ordered a flogging. When the sailor jumped overboard, no attempt was made to save him, by the captain’s express order. Though Brougham did not name the captain or the ship, he was referring to HMS Acasta, under the command of Captain Philip Beaver (1766–1813; DNB). Southey had described the incident in detail in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 85–88, noting that the Admiralty had investigated the matter and declared Brougham’s accusations to be unfounded. BACK