3069. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 January 1818

3069. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 22 January 1818⁠* 

My dear R.

I have with exemplary self controul in stating the inflammable state of the country, avoided every expression or hint, that could inflame the most tinder-like Opp. [1]  – On this occasion I think xxxx forbearance desirable, as you do. And this the main alteration that I have made, – interpolations many. – When the beginning arrives, I shall send it off to press as soon as that portion can be transcribed. – About the proofs – Shall I send you that which comes to me, & direct a cover to Gifford, – so that you may send it him, without his knowing thro what channel it comes?

Insane as the Opps are I am little surprized at seeing the D. of Bedford on Hones list of subscribers! [2]  The Russells had better beware how they encourage a second church revolution, – it may undo for them what the former had [3]  done. [4] 

How silly this conduct about the Evanses! Instead of employing the Suspension bill against them, the father should have prosecuted for his Spencean pamphlet – Even our Juries would have found him guilty. [5]  Our Juries seem to have saved France from an unlicensed press, – & to have alarmed Germany. [6] 

Proofs come slowly from Pople [7] – & I meantime am working on. I shall also be in the press very shortly with a Life of Wesley, [8]  – so that I have plenty of proof sheets in prospect, – wherein is my delight

You know the strange duck billed quadruped of New Holland. Another oddity has been discovered in this creature, – a spur with a poison-bag attached to it: – so that it partakes of bird – beast – fish & insect or reptile, in its properties & ways of life. [9] 

Remember us to Mrs R.

God bless you


Keswick 22 Jany. 1818.


* Endorsement: RS./ 22 Janry 1818
MS: Huntington Library, RS 327. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] i.e. Southey had revised the article ‘On the Poor Laws’, Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 259–308, so as not to deliberately provoke opposition, even from Whigs. Rickman had urged this course of action in his letter to Southey of 10 January 1818, Orlo Rickman, Lamb’s Friend the Census Taker. Life and Letters of John Rickman (Boston and New York, 1912), p. 200. BACK

[2] John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB), a prominent Whig, had sent £100 to aid the defence costs of William Hone, who was prosecuted by the crown in three separate trials 18–20 December 1817 on the grounds that his radical satires, which parodied the Church of England’s litany and the Athanasian Creed, constituted blasphemous libel. BACK

[3] Initially ‘has’. BACK

[4] John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford (1485–1554/1555; DNB), the founder of the Russells’ fortunes, profited greatly from the dissolution of the monasteries. BACK

[5] Thomas Evans (1763–before 1831; DNB), and his son Thomas John Evans (c.1798–?), were both detained without trial on 9 February 1817–20 January 1818, when habeas corpus was suspended, as part of the government’s actions against the Society of Spencean Philanthropists, several of whose members had been responsible for the abortive uprising at Spa Fields on 2 December 1816. Ironically, Evans had played no role in events at Spa Fields. Evans was the author of Christian Policy: the Salvation of the Empire (1816), which Southey had reviewed in ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 269–271. BACK

[6] The French press was very tightly controlled (all publications of under 20 pages required government sanction) and the press in the German Confederation was under increasing pressure as many States worried about the spread of liberal ideas, as expressed, for example, at the Wartburg Festival, 18 October 1817. BACK

[7] Proofs for the third volume of the History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[8] The Life of Wesley; and Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[9] The source of Southey’s information was: Sir John Jamison (1776–1844), ‘Letter to the Secretary, 10 September 1816’, Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, 12.2 (1818), 584–585, on the duck-billed platypus. BACK

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