2106. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 30 May 1812

2106. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 30 May 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick May 30. 1812.

Dutens is dead. [1]  The first intelligence of this was sent me by Wynn who had already desired Croker to apply to the xxx Lord Chamberlain, in whose xx gift the office is. Wynns report is that Crokers application had been favorably received, but that Ld Hertford is so mean & so greedy that it would not surprize him if he gave the office either to one of his own family, or to the newspaper writer who announced Lady Hertford [2]  in the Courier as the Guardian Angel of Britain guiding & directing the Regent.

M. Dutens could never have made his exit at a more unlucky time. I was sure of Mr Percevals good will, & had the best & readiest access to him. Canning has xxxx repeatedly sent me the fairest professions, but he has something else to think of at this moment supposing those professions to be as sincere as they were gratuitous. I have written to him – but forwarded the letter to Gifford, leaving it at his discretion to deliver it, or throw it into the fire, according as he may think a letter at such a time may operate. I have written to Lord Lonsdale & depend upon his influence, if it can be of any use, & I have also written to Sir George Beaumont, who may very likely be acquainted with Ld Hertford, & who I am sure would spare no trouble to serve me. These letters all went off last night. Here the business rests at present, & whether I shall be appointed to that good ship the Historiographer or not, Heaven knows. The salary is a nominal 400£ – that is 280£ xxxx after all deductions. And now having told you all this the less I think of the matter from this time forth the better.

The murder of Mr Perceval  [3]  is likely to lead to more evil than any other single event could possibly have done. There is now every reason to think the Catholic question will be carried. Its effect in Ireland I take to be this – that the Catholics would rise in rebellion against the Protestants if x xxx the Emancipation (as it is called) were withheld, – & that if it is granted the Protestants will soon be driven in self-preservation to take arms against the Catholics: for a man must be compleatly ignorant of the spirit of the Romish Church if xx & of its history also, if he xx supposes that it will be content with any <thing> short of supremacy, & of exclusive supremacy. As for the Protestant Establishment in Ireland it is so truly an Irish Protestant Establishment that I could be very well content to see Requiescat [4]  written xxxx xxx upon its monument. But our own would not long survive it.

If Ireland were only to send a dozen or a score of Catholicks to Parliament, – even their votes might xxxx xxx might turn the scale upon great questions, – hence they will have great weight with any minister. But the next Duke of Norfolk [5]  will return Catholicks for all his boroughs. xxxx – & you & I know that if it be supposed possible to bring about the downfall of the heretical Church by increasing the number of Catholic votes in Parliament, money will never be wanting to purchase as many seats as come fairly into the market. With these the dissenting members will all cooperate, the Scotch Presbyterians, & the Scotch dabblers in philosophy. A needy minister (especially such a man as M Wellesley) will see an immediate resource in the tithes: which were looked at xxxx by Pitt [6]  with a greedy eye they will be sold like the land tax, [7]  – the money funded, – & the clergy made directly stipendiaries of the crown, & dependent upon the Crown for any additions to their stipends when the shifting value of money may render it absolutely necessary. The country gentlemen would joyfully support such a measure, & there can be no doubt that it would at this time be as popular as it would be unjust & pernicious in its consequences.

One immediate consequence would be that the new Establishment would be put up to sale, as it were, to the lowest bidders, – & in another generation the Methodists would obtain complete possession.

I am perfectly convinced that this country owes more of its peculiar advantages to its Church than to its Government, & that when the one falls the other will not long survive it. The whole prospect is at this time a most gloomy one. We may possibly xx escape the worst of all horrors by which we are immediately threatened: — a war of the poor against the rich, but the prevention requires & renders necessary far greater powers in the hand of Government than I should willingly see trusted to M Wellesley. The abuse of liberty has always been punished with the loss of liberty. xxxx God grant that we may not find it so in our own case. For my own part I xxxxx believe that the proudest days of England are to come, but that her best & happiest days are over: That we shall beat down France in the field, become a mighty military power, & lose our civil & religious freedom


Let Turner have Anchietas Grammar [8]  when you have an opportunity.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: Keswick/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 275–278 [in part]. BACK

[1] Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB), a French Protestant, held the post of Historiographer Royal until his death on 23 May 1812. Southey’s campaign for the post proved unsuccessful and it went to one of his particular bêtes noires, James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB). BACK

[2] Isabella Anne Ingram Shepheard (1760–1834), second wife of the second Marquess of Hertford and intimate friend of George IV (1762–1830; Prince Regent 1811–1820, King of the United Kingdom 1820–1830; DNB). She was referred to as Britain’s ‘Guardian Angel’ in the Courier, 25 March 1812. BACK

[3] Perceval was assassinated on 11 May 1812. BACK

[4] ‘rest in peace’. BACK

[5] Bernard Edward Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk (1765–1842; DNB). Unlike his cousin and predecessor, Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk (1765–1815; DNB), he was a Catholic. Charles Howard controlled at least eight Parliamentary boroughs (Arundel, Horsham, Shoreham, Steyning, Gloucester, Hereford, Leominster and Thetford). BACK

[6] William Pitt (1759–1806; Prime Minister, 1783–1801, 1804–1806; DNB). BACK

[7] Pitt was a sceptic about the long-term value of tithes to the Church of England, but he made no move to reform the system. He did, though, introduce a scheme in 1798, whereby a landowner could exempt his land from land tax, by paying a lump sum equivalent to 15 years’ annual tax. BACK

[8] José de Anchieta (1534–1597), Arte de Grammatica da Lingoa mais Usada na Costa do Brasil (1595). This was no. 1530 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, inscribed by him: ‘This singularly rare and curious book was sent to me from the Public Library of Bahia de Todos, or Santos, by desire of the Conde des Arcos, then Governor of that Captaincy.’ BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)