2872. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 2 December 1816

2872. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 2 December 1816⁠* 

My dear R.

Thank you for the Reports. I see much good in the Police Story, & nothing but good, – for the roguery of Merceron can do no farther injury to any person but himself. [1]  And as for exposing the Brewers, think of Whitbread & Calvert. [2]  But to say nothing of the amusing matter, & the really valuable information which the report contains, it is of great use for enforcing the most important fact that men are paid too little by the public, & for showing the consequence of unjust parsimony.

Tomorrow I shall trouble you with the remainder of my paper for Dr Stoddart. [3]  And then in earnest to the work – I have made a beginning, – & am in “fine condition” for setting to. [4]  You remember the Iron Man in Spenser who used to lay on the rabble with an iron flail; [5]  – in such sort shall I thresh away upon the Edinburghers [6]  &c –

By the Missionary Report I meant the E Indian one [7] 

God bless you


2 Dec. 1816.


* Endorsement: 3 Decr. 1816
MS: Huntington Library, RS 299. ALS; 2p.
Note on MS: the endorsement is misdated 3 December 1816. BACK

[1] The House of Commons Select Committee on the State of the Police of the Metropolis (ordered to be printed 1 July 1816), which Rickman had sent Southey, revealed the ongoing disputes in Bethnal Green. Joseph Merceron (1764–1839; DNB) effectively controlled local government through his influence as vestryman, treasurer of the poor rate and magistrate and used his position to enrich himself and protect various criminal activities. In 1818 he was convicted of misappropriation of funds but resumed his role in Bethnal Green after only 18 months’ imprisonment. BACK

[2] Southey disliked the brewer Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB) for his Whig politics. Whitbread had cut his own throat on 6 July 1815. Felix Calvert (1735–1802), another London brewer, had shot himself in Don Saltero’s coffee house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea on the evening of 23 March 1802. His son, Charles (1768–1832) was Whig MP for Southwark 1812–1832. BACK

[3] In 1817 a new journal was launched, published by Longmans and edited by John Stoddart (1773–1856; DNB), who had in 1816 been dismissed from the editorship of the Times for the intemperate Toryism of his articles. It was entitled The Correspondent; Consisting of Letters, Moral, Political, and Literary, between Eminent Writers in France and England; and designed by presenting to each Nation a Faithful Picture of the Other, to Enlighten both to their True Interests, promote a Mutual Good Understanding between them, and render Peace the Source of a Common Prosperity. Southey contributed a sketch of the life of John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB) to the first two numbers (1 (1817), 26–48; and 2 (1817), 157–176). However, the Correspondent lasted only one further number. Stoddart became the editor of a new ministry-supported paper, The New Times (1817–1828). BACK

[4] Southey planned to write a book on the ‘State of the Nation’. BACK

[5] In Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene (1590–1596), Book 5, Talus is an iron man, who never sleeps, and relentlessly pursues wrongdoers: he represents justice without mercy. BACK

[6] Edinburgh Review (1802–1929) was the main Whig quarterly journal. BACK

[7] A Select Committee had examined the East India Company, including the role of missionaries, in 1812–1813; see Southey to John Rickman, 16 November 1816, Letter 2863. BACK