3177. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 4 August 1818

3177. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 4 August 1818⁠* 

My dear R.

Thank you for the Church Returns. [1]  – The worst symptom of the times is that you & Wordsworth & S.T.C. so entirely agree with one another in your prognosis, – I know also that Frere who is a farsighted man has the same forebodings, & so has Stuart whose practical habits of reference joined to his natural sagacity make his authority of great weight with me. Well then, – so much the more needful is it to bestir ourselves, – we who can. Wordsworth has done his devoir here, [2]  & you shall see that I will do mine, in more ways than one. – More of my Philippic in a day or two. [3]  I have some choice cases of slander for the middle part – McKerrel, [4]  Capt Beaver, [5]  the Essex Clergyman [6]  & Manners. [7] 

God bless you

RS.

4 August. 1818.


Notes

* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 7 AU 7/ 1818
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: Huntington Library, RS 349. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] On 16 March 1818, Nicholas Vansittart (1766–1851; DNB), Chancellor of the Exchequer 1812–1823, drew attention to statistics collected on the deficiency of Church of England places of worship and proposed £1,000,000 be spent on constructing new churches. This proposal was embodied in the Church Building Act (1818). BACK

[2] In the form of the pamphlet Two Addresses to the Freeholders of Westmorland (1818). BACK

[3] The ‘Philippic’ was a satirical attack on Brougham, the draft of which Southey was sending in instalments for Rickman to read. Brougham had provoked Southey’s ire by, reportedly, attacking him at the hustings for the Westmorland election on 30 June 1818. Southey was dissuaded from publishing this retort to Brougham, which he modelled on his pamphlet A Letter to William Smith, Esq. M. P. (1817) and termed the ‘Tender Epistle’. The sections that were completed were published as a ‘Postscript’ to the second edition of Carmen Triumphale (London, 1821), pp. 45–53 (without naming Brougham). BACK

[4] Robert M’Kerrell (1761–1841), a textile merchant and manufacturer in Paisley, had on 28 May 1812, given evidence to the House of Commons committee enquiring into the Orders in Council system, which enforced a trade blockade on territories controlled by France. The Whig opposition were campaigning for its repeal, on the grounds that it harmed British manufacturing. Brougham denounced M’Kerrell (though not by name) in the House of Commons on 16 June 1812, claiming he had told the committee that textile workers were overpaid and ‘oatmeal and water were good enough for Englishmen.’ M’Kerrell denied he had said this and published an acrimonious exchange of letters between himself and Brougham in The Times of 20 July 1812. BACK

[5] 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 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

[6] In 1816 Brougham had told the Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders in the Metropolis that he had received a communication about a school in a ‘neighbouring county’ that had an income of £1500–£2000 per annum, which the clergyman of the parish had misapplied and had refused to use to provide proper teaching in the school. On 5 March 1818 he apologised in the Commons for misstating the facts and admitted that whilst this might have been the situation in the past, it was no longer the case. Though he did not name the cleric or the school, he stated that his apology was the result of representations from an Essex MP, to whom complaints had been made from ‘a respectable clergyman in Essex’. BACK

[7] Brougham had asked a question in the House of Commons on 9 July 1817 as to whether the George Manners appointed as Vice-Consul in Massachusetts in June 1817, was George Manners (1778–1853; DNB), editor of The Satirist 1807–1812 and a pro-government journalist, ‘who had stood on the floor of the King’s-bench, and received the sentence of the court for a slanderous attack on a private individual’. Brougham was correct in his identification and a sturdy defence of Manners by ‘Vindicator’ appeared in the Morning Post on 11 July 1817. The same day, Lord Castlereagh (1769–1822; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1812–1822, defended the appointment in the House of Commons, pointing out that Manners had still been allowed to practice as a barrister, despite his conviction in 1809 for libelling the opposition journalist Peter Finnerty (c. 1766–1822), who had himself been imprisoned in 1811 for libelling Castlereagh. But Castlereagh did not mention that Manners had also been found guilty of libel by the Court of King’s Bench on 2 June 1811 and sentenced to three months in prison – the victim was William Hallett (1784–1843), radical candidate for Berkshire in 1812, whom The Satirist had accused of mistreating his sister. BACK

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