3454. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 21 March [1820]

3454. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 21 March [1820] ⁠* 

Keswick 21. March.

My dear R.

It is not likely that I shall be in town before the meeting of Parlt. [1]  My work usually grows under my hands, – so that I deceive myself as much in my estimates, as a builder would deceive me in his, if I were contracting to have a house built. Interruptions occur even at this season, – & sometimes idleness besets me in the shape of a book, – & some times I yield to a different kind of temptation, which is that of working upon something for which I am in the humour, & letting that on which I ought to be engaged lay over till the morrow.

We have had death in the house. Poor Good old Mrs Wilson is gone, in her 78th year, struck down by a fit which left her deaf, blind & senseless to all appearance – in which state she continued till the eighth day, with no other sustenance than that of having her la a spoonful of tea from time to time. Of her little money she has left these children five pounds each, which I shall take care to embody for each of them in some tangible memorial of their good old friend

Another cause which has delayed my movements is that I must not leave home till I have corrected the last proofs of Wesley, [2]  – for the convenience of referring to my documents. The printer [3]  has been very tardy, or his work would have done ere this. I will desire Longman to send with your copy, one for Mr Telford, – he will be reminded by it of his old friend Benjamin Abbott, [4]  & will see proof enough of his suspicion that I have been addicted to reading odd books.

I shall take advantage of your restored faculty to send up a portion of the corrected vol. of Brazil to the press, in a day or two. [5] 

Curwen has ousted Lord Morpeth [6]  in a way which is very likely to throw that interest into the opposition scale; & thus to injure his own party for the sake of a personal triumph. I know not how the election at Appleby [7]  goes on – both parties are very sanguine, & yet both ought to know what the issue must be, without as they have only to the number of their former voters, that of the new freeholders whom they have created for the purpose. Brougham who denies that he abused me upon the hustings at the last election, has been complimenting me there now, for the purpose I suppose of making me credit, or seem to credit a denial which I know to be false. [8]  He is a thorough-paced liar, & neither cares what he says, nor what he unsays.

Curwen being returned for the county, young Graham will come in for Carlisle, as the hero of those very radicals who endeavoured at this election to murder his father. [9]  You must not give Curwen too much credit for his speech to those Radicals; it was made with a view of <to> the County, – & there was a supplementary speech to make all smooth again, that they might not pelt him when he was chaired. [10] 

Mrs S. hopes that certain potted charr have arrived safely in St Stephens Court: – they were judged to be better in two small pots than in one large one.

God bless you



* Endorsement: Fr RS/ 21 March 1820
MS: Huntington Library, RS 392. ALS; 3p.
Dating note: Year from endorsement. BACK

[1] The House of Commons had been dissolved on 29 February 1820, leading to a general election. The new House of Commons met for the first time on 21 April 1820. BACK

[2] Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[3] Andrew Strahan (1749–1831; DNB) was MP for various constituencies 1796–1820 and ran a highly successful printing business. BACK

[4] Benjamin Abbott (1732–1796), Methodist evangelist in America, dealt with in The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism, 2 vols (London, 1820), II, pp. 457–461. BACK

[5] The second edition of the first volume only of the History of Brazil (1810–1819) was published in 1822. The dissolution of parliament had suspended Rickman’s ability to frank mail. BACK

[6] John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), MP for Carlisle 1786–1790, 1791–1812, 1816–1820, contested and won Cumberland for the Whigs on 17 March 1820, holding the seat until his death. He defeated George Howard, Viscount Morpeth (1773–1848; DNB), later 6th Earl of Carlisle, MP for Morpeth 1795–1806, MP for Cumberland 1806–1820. Southey comforted himself by suggesting that Morpeth’s defeat would bestir his father, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle (1748–1825; DNB), into becoming an active pro-government supporter. BACK

[7] Polling in the Westmorland constituency began on 15 March and continued for seven days, before Brougham conceded defeat to the Lowther interest. BACK

[8] Brougham was reported to have criticised Southey from the Westmorland hustings on 30 June 1818 during the general election of that year. BACK

[9] One of the two sitting MPs for Carlisle was Sir James Graham, 1st Baronet, of Kirkstall (1753–1825), MP for Carlisle 1812–1825, and a supporter of the Lowther interest. He was re-elected in 1820 with Curwen, who then chose to sit for Cumberland, where he was also elected, prompting a by-election in Carlisle. Southey suggests that the Whigs intended to put up as a candidate Sir James’s son, Sandford Graham, 2nd Baronet (1788–1852), Whig MP for Ludgershall 1812–1815, 1818–1826, 1830–1832. The election at Carlisle in 1820 was marred by considerable violence and, after the conclusion of the poll on 11 March, Sir James Graham of Kirkstall and his supporters were attacked with brickbats and stones as they made their way from the Town Hall to the Bush tavern. However, Southey may have been under the impression that Sir James Graham, 2nd Baronet, of Netherby (1792–1861; DNB), Whig MP for Hull 1818–1820, who had been suggested as a Whig candidate for Carlisle in the general election of 1820, was the son of Sir James Graham of Kirkstall and that he would be the candidate. In fact the anti-government standard-bearer in the by-election was William James (1791–1861), MP for Carlisle 1820–1826, 1831–1834, MP for East Cumberland 1836–1847. BACK

[10] The Times, 21 March 1820, carried an account of Curwen’s speech from the hustings at the opening of the poll for Carlisle on 10 March. Curwen had denounced the radicals and their principles, and much of the crowd was hostile towards him. However, all was not as it seemed, and Curwen was actually in a secret alliance with the radical candidate, William James, to try and defeat the other sitting MP, Sir James Graham, of Kirkstall. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)