2874. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 December 1816

2874. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 7 December 1816⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

It seems a long while since I have received a letter from your worship, & tho the newspapers for some days have been abundantly interesting, still there has been some disappointment when the dispatches arrived without any communication from you. On Tuesday I finished the sketch of Wesleys Life for the Correspondent, [1]  (a foolish title, & a more foolish form, which will be as formal, as senseless & as tiresome as Dinarzades morning addresses to her sister Scheherezade) [2]  – the Grand Murray has not yet written his letter of <the> tomorrow a fortn which was a fortnight ago, [3] tant mieux, [4]  I shall leave him in the lurch till I have done other work of more import, that, to wit, upon which you set me going, & which For the present the title is Observations upon the Moral & Political State of England. [5]  I have made some way in the first chapter, of which the object is to show that the war was popular as well as necessary, in confutation of the Common Hall Resolution [6]  & such other great authorities, that <asserting> it was carried on against the opinion wishes of the nation: – & here I am about to draw a portrait of Buonaparte [7]  as the Perfect Emperor of the English Reformers. The next assertion of the Lord Mayor, [8]  Orator Hunt, [9]  Jack Cade [10]  & Co. being that the War is the cause of the present distress the second chapter is intended to take examine that question in all its bearings, & the third to their pleasant proposition that Parliamentary Reform is the remedy for all, – in threshing this chaff the flail will fly about the ears of the save-all politicians. When I shall have fully exposed the ignorance, folly & falsehood of the Reformers I shall then endeavour to form an estimate of the general state of public opinion, & show <to> trace progress of disaffection, – the dry rot which is spreading in all directions. I shall point out as clearly as I can the real evils in society, & endeavour as far as I am able to give confidence & hope to good the well-intentioned, & direct their exertions into the best course. – Ni fallor [11]  the book must attract notice, – indeed it will be abused into notoriety. – If you have the Ed. Review [12]  you xx might assist me by looking out such passages xxxx as are peculiarly mischievous. – My plan will fill a moderately-sized volume.

These riots [13]  give Government an opportunity which it would be madness to neglect. They must not despise the danger because this was scheme was absurd & impracticable. – They may well be alarmed at discovering how many sailors were in the mob, – & they should ask themselves what would become of them if the opinions which are almost universal among journeymen, mechanics &c should get ground in among the soldiers. And this they will do unless the licentiousness of the press be checked. I cannot distrust my own judgement upon this matter, because all who know me, know how long I have distinctly perceived the danger, – witness the first paper upon the Poor in which tho Gifford cut out the strongest paragraphs, so much was said, that had it been acted upon, no such the disease would not have attained its present height. [14]  – I shall preach boldly upon the population in direct contradiction to other <the maxim> which has obtained xxxx great xxxx vogue credit, that the power of the populace has increased, is increasing, & ought to be diminished. [15] 

– Oh – when you find yourself in the Strand, send me a case of sauces from Burgess’s [16]  – per waggon – I think they cost 24/s. –

Remember me to all at home –

God bless you


Keswick 7 Dec. 1816.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre-/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 11 DE 11/ 1816
Endorsements: 7 Decr. 1816; 7 Decr. 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] 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

[2] The Correspondent took the form of articles by British writers addressed to French writers, and by the French writers addressed to their British counterparts. In the Arabian Nights Entertainment (1706) the stories of Scheherezade are followed by the brief and dull responses of her sister Dinarzade. BACK

[3] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 November 1816 (Letter 2868), in which he revealed that Murray had responded to his complaints about under-payment for articles contributed to the Quarterly Review and promised to write again. BACK

[4] ‘So much the better’. BACK

[5] Southey had been asked to edit a pro-government journal, but declined. Instead he proposed to write a pamphlet, or book, with this title. This project was not realised and instead Southey wrote on ‘Parliamentary Reform’ in Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 225–278, and the ‘Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection’ in Quarterly Review, 16 (January 1817), 511–552. BACK

[6] On 27 April 1815, as war with France was about to be renewed, a meeting of the Mayor, Aldermen and Liverymen of the several Companies of the City of London in Common Hall assembled at the Guildhall, London, resolved that ‘the Livery of London have ever been, and now are, ready to support the honour, the character, and the interests of the British Empire, and to resist every act of aggression; but, seeing all the consequences of the late war, looking at the depressed state of the country, the burthens and privations of the people, the financial difficulties, the uncertainty and hazards of war, seeing likewise that France has disclaimed all intention of interfering in the concerns of other nations, that she has declared her determination to adhere to the Treaty of Paris, that she has made pacific overtures to the different Allied Powers, has already abolished the Slave Trade, and given other indications of returning to principles of equity and moderation; and holding, as we do, all wars to be unjust, unless the injury sustained is clearly defined, and redress by negociation cannot be obtained; and more particularly holding in abhorrence all attempts to dictate to, or interfere with, other nations in their internal concerns, we cannot but protest against the renewal of hostilities, as neither founded in justice nor necessity.’ BACK

[7] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; Emperor of the French, 1804–1814, 1815). BACK

[8] Sir Matthew Wood (1768–1843; DNB), Lord Mayor of the City of London 1815–1817, MP for the City of London 1817–1843. A Whig, and inveterate opponent of the government. BACK

[9] Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773–1835; DNB), veteran radical and speaker at the Spa Fields meeting on 2 December 1816. BACK

[10] Jack Cade (c. 1420–1450; DNB) led a popular rebellion in Kent 1450. BACK

[11] ’Unless I mistake’. BACK

[12] The Edinburgh Review (1802–1929), the leading Whig journal. BACK

[13] A large pro-reform public meeting was held at Spa Fields, London, on 2 December 1816, addressed by Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt. Some of the crowd, breaking away from the meeting and moving to attack the Tower of London and Bank of England, looted a gun shop and were confronted by troops at the Royal Exchange. BACK

[14] Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. Southey blamed the manufacturing system for the physical and moral degeneracy of the urban poor, argued for an improved system of parochial education, for suppression of the radical press, for cultivation of wastelands and for the employment of the unemployed on public works. BACK

[15] An inversion of the famous Whig resolution moved in the House of Commons on 6 April 1780 that ‘the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished’. BACK

[16] The firm of John Burgess and Son, sauce manufacturers, was established by John Burgess (dates unknown), a farmer from Hampshire, at 101 Strand, London, by 1774. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)