2899. Robert Southey to William Wilberforce, 15 January 1817

2899. Robert Southey to William Wilberforce, 15 January 1817⁠* 

Keswick. 15 Jany. 1817

My dear Sir

I beg pardon for having forgotten your enquiry respecting my friend Kosters address. It is simply Pernambuco, – but the Brazil packet goes to the Rio; & there is no communication with Pernambuco except by merchant ships. The best plan therefore will be to consign your packet to the care of his father John Theodore Koster, Liverpool. [1] 

This part of the country scarcely feels the existing distress, – Westmoreland (being wholly an agricultural country) not at all. The only xxx We have some cotton mills here, poisoning the health & morals of the people, – & some coarse weaving which is not so mischievous, because only men are employed in it. These suffer something, but not much; – a collection was made several weeks ago; – the amount must have been very trifling, – but nothing more has been called for, & no complaints are heard. Our population is in a deplorable state both as to law & gospel; – the magistrates careless to the last degree & the Vicar who is one of them, has the comprehensive sin of omission to answer for. [2]  The next generation I trust will see fewer of these marrying & christening machines. The morals of the people here have dreadfully worsened during his long slumbers; – even within my remembrance there has been a great change.

Mr Harry Inglis has been kind enough to send me poor Bowdlers Remains [3]  – Why should I affix that epithet to his name when they who are gone to their rest are to be envied & not commiserated!

I sincerely hope some measures will be taken for checking the incendiary journals, as soon as Parliament meets. If they are suffered to proceed with impunity a Bellum Servile [4]  must be the result. The one measure which appears to me indispensible is that transportation be made the punishment for seditious lit writings: fine & imprisonment are absurdly inade inappropriate

Believe me my dear Sir

very truly & respectfully yours

Robert Southey.


* MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: R. I. Wilberforce and S. Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce, 5 vols (London, 1838), IV, p. 391 [in part; undated]. BACK

[1] Southey had interested Wilberforce in Koster’s proposal to translate into Portuguese, and thereby aid the abolition of slavery campaign in Brazil, Thomas Clarkson’s History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave–Trade by the British Parliament (1808). BACK

[2] Isaac Denton (c. 1758–1820), Vicar of Crosthwaite, Keswick, 1786–1820 and a local magistrate. BACK

[3] John Bowdler (1783–1815; DNB), Select Pieces in Verse and Prose (1816), no. 330 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Literally a ‘slave war’; a war of the poor against the rich. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)