3372. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 October 1819

3372. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 October 1819⁠* 

Keswick. 27 Oct. 1819

My dear G.

I am really glad to see your handwriting once more, after so long an interval, – for I was begining to fear some mishap

The history of the Address (no doubt the one which you have seen in the M Chronicle) [1]  – is somewhat curious, & would furnish no bad topic for that amiable newspaper, if it knew all. The story is briefly this. James Brougham [2]  wrote to Calvert to join in the Requisition for a meeting to censure the Massacre at Manchester &c. Calvert not only refused to act with his old party on this occasion, but came to me, reqxxxtxxx expressed his desire that some counter-declaration might be set on foot, & in short asked me to draw up an Address, – I did so, & sent it to Lord Lonsdale. Lord L. rode over the next day, called on C. brought him on to me, & suggested some alterations, which were of course made. He then had the Address printed & circulated. This was at the end of the week. X On Tuesday he called xx on me again, on his way to Whitehaven, & asked me to spend a day or two with him there, – as he had been disappointed of seeing me at Lowther when P Leopold was there. [3]  So I promised to go the next day, – for I had never been to Whitehaven, [4]  & was glad of the opportunity of seeing it, while discharging a visit which had long been due. But on the Wednesday morning came a letter from Lord L. inclosing one from Wallace, [5]  – a wordy epistle, objecting to the Address as too strong. – Lord L said he could not act in opposition to the opinion of the only gentleman in the county who was connected with Administration, & had therefore withdrawn mine, – but he should see me in the course of the day. I went over accordingly, & found that Wallace had produced an Address himself, which was substituted for mine. [6]  You know me well enough to know that this was a matter of perfect indifference to me – so the thing was done I cared not who did it. Lord L. however had the disagreable task of calling together more than fifty persons who had already signed the first paper & making a speech to them about the propriety of exchanging it for another in more guarded language. – Lord L. is a very sensible man, – & one of the most obliging of men. Wallace is a pompous fellow, – always swelling like the frog in the fable, [7]  & affecting to give himself an appearance of consequence by means which are quite farcical. It is certain that some few persons besides himself objected to the wording of my Address, – (observe, no one knew it to be mine except Lord L.) – but it would have passed had it not been for him; – his vanity was wounded, – & he forgot the did not stop to recollect that even if the first paper were in <had been in> some points objectionable, it was better to retain it, than give the enemy an advantage, by withdrawing what had been once put forth. – But the truth is that I had stated nothing more than what is borne out by notorious facts, published in all the newspapers. And so far is the manner of stating it from being objectionable, – that while I was at Whitehaven – there came a letter from Becket [8]  saying that it had been shown to the Privy Council & highly approved of; – on my return I found a letter from Ld Wm Gordon [9]  (to whom I had sent a copy for his signature) dated at the Pavilion, & saying he had good reason to think it would be most graciously received by the Prince, – & lastly Lord L. has sent me a second note from Becket, saying that this unlucky address is thought to be the best which has yet appeared. The end of all this will be that the mob-journals in this country will harp upon the subject, till parliament or an insurrection in the meantime afford them a fresher topic: That I shall get plentifully bespattered with abuse, if my part in the business transpires, (as I dare say it will,) – that Wallace will undergo some quizzing in London from Lord L’s friends, for having set aside a paper which had at least the merit of attracting notice, to substitute a lathery composition of his own, – & that all this signifies nothing, hurts nobody, & will presently be forgotten. – I should tell you that while I was at Whitehaven a handbill in abuse of the first Address was circulated, – & that by Lord L’s desire I took advantage of this handbill to vindicate the address <it>. What I wrote was to appear in the Cumberland Packet of yesterday under the signature of A.B. – if I had the paper I would send it to you, – for it has some good things. [10] 

Government will carry all its measures without difficulty. [11]  My fear is that they will, with their usual irresolution content themselves with half measures, when they might carry whole ones just as well. And it will not surprize me should there be something like an explosion before the new laws can be passed. – For myself, I am in good heart: – the danger is now so close that I think I can see beyond it.

A circular letter about poor Page’s family [12]  has reached me by this days post, pay five pounds for me to the subscription, – & as you know Edmund Goodenough, [13]  perhaps you will let him know that I have received the letter, & – in phrase as courteous as you please, – that I suppose no other answer is necessary. I am glad the subscription has been opened, – & you can bear witness that the largest contribution upon the list is not likely to be larger in proportion to the means of the giver than mine.

When you have any money for me I shall be glad of it

Henry ought to lie by. I know that at Yarmouth, cod liver oil is thought specific in cases of lumbago, but it is an infernal medicine in the mouth. I believe I should follow the Indian fashion, & have myself stewed in a vapour bath.

You have got off well from your robbery. When one has anything to do with ugly fellows in these days, it is lucky to come off with ones life.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 30 OC 30/ 1819
Endorsement: 27 Octr. 1819
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 148–151. BACK

[1] Following the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre of 16 August 1819, Whigs in Cumberland organised a County Meeting on 13 October 1819 to protest at the local authorities’ actions and send an Address to the Prince Regent. Southey drew up a conservative response – an Address to the Prince Regent denouncing the radicals and calling for curbs on the press. The Address was circulated by Lord Lonsdale and a copy was leaked to the Morning Chronicle, 23 October 1819. However, the Chronicle correctly reported that ‘several of the most respectable of the LOWTHER party have refused to sign the Loyal Address, and cry out against it as ultra’. The Address was not proceeded with and government supporters in Cumberland produced a more moderate document. BACK

[2] James Brougham (1780–1833), younger brother of Henry Brougham and one of the main organisers of the Whig cause in the Lake District. BACK

[3] Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865; DNB), widower of Princess Charlotte, had visited Lord Lonsdale at Lowther Castle 25–28 September 1819; he met ‘a numerous party of the gentry in the neighbourhood’ and received the Freedom of the Borough of Appleby, Morning Chronicle, 2 October 1819. BACK

[4] Whitehaven Castle, a mansion owned by William Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale. BACK

[5] Thomas Wallace (1768–1844; DNB), MP for various seats 1790–1828, including Cockermouth 1813–1818, member of the Board of Control 1807–1816, Vice-President of the Board of Trade 1818–1823, created 1st Baron Wallace 1828. He had inherited Carleton Hall, near Penrith. BACK

[6] Morning Chronicle, 29 October 1819. The new Address was notably circumspect in its reference to events at ‘Peterloo’. BACK

[7] The fable of the ‘Frog and the Ox’, in which the frog tries to inflate himself to the size of the ox, from Phaedrus (fl. 1st Century AD), Fabulae Aesopiae. BACK

[8] John Beckett (1775–1847), Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs 1806–1817, Judge Advocate-General 1817–1827, 1828–1830, 1834–1835. BACK

[9] Lord William Gordon (1744–1823), son of Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon (1720–1752), He owned the Waterend estate on the west side of Derwentwater. BACK

[10] See Southey to the Editor of the Cumberland Packet, [before 26 October 1819], Letter 3370. BACK

[11] Parliament was due to meet on 23 November 1819 and new legislation to suppress radical opposition was widely expected. BACK

[12] William Page (1778–1819), clergyman and Headmaster of Westminster School 1815–1819 had died on 20 September 1819. His obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 89 (October 1819), 374, noted he had left a wife, Anne Page, née Davis (1780–1820), and nine children, ‘very slenderly provided for’. This was despite Davis holding a number of clerical appointments, including Vicar of Willen, Buckinghamshire 1806–1819, Vicar of Steventon, Berkshire and Rector of Nunburnholme, Yorkshire 1812–1817 and Rector of Quainton, Buckinghamshire 1817–1819. BACK

[13] Goodenough had just been appointed the new Headmaster of Westminster School 1819–1828. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Lowther estate (mentioned 1 time)
Yarmouth (mentioned 1 time)