3522. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 8 August [1820]

3522. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 8 August [1820] ⁠* 

My dear R.

Thank you for the Parga papers. What could induce gov our Government to suffer the lies upon this subject to pass current so long without contradiction? [1] 

If the Western Luminary draws a prosecution upon Leigh Hunt, G Ds cockatrice of the Times, Champion Thelwall &c &c, it will suffer martyrdom to some purpose. [2]  Lord J Russell I see is writing – like himself. [3]  Unluckily weak hands can do a great deal of work in pulling down: – an idiot can unravel the finest web.

I believe I told you that I had begun a series of dialogues concerning the state of things, in which Sir T. More was one of the interlocutors. [4]  That I might understand his character I borrowed a folio of his works from Heber, & every night I take half an hour of it after supper. He is a very entertaining writer, & a very able one, always reasoning forcibly & fairly, – but sometimes from false premises. A great deal of his general reasoning against the Reformation is as applicable to these times almost as to his own.

Even before the Reformation (this I learn from Ld Bacons Henry 7) it appears that the pulpit was the channel of sedition [5] 

In the preface to Hutchinsons Hist of Massachusetts (written about 1760) the author says “in the first ten years about 20,000 souls had arrived in Massachusetts. Since then it is supposed more have gone from hence to England, than have come from thence hither.” [6]  This is odd, but I think probable: – nobody thought of leaving Old England to better their condition, if they could live in it, & every body who wished to improved themselves, their fortune, or their company would naturally come from the colony to the mother country. But this is a stage of colonization which has not been noticed. It cannot [MS obscured] in future, when colonization is resorted to as a remedy for overstocked trade occupations of every kind.

God bless you


Aug 8.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: Fr RS./ May 1820
MS: Huntington Library, RS 399. ALS; 4p.
Dating note: Year from endorsement. BACK

[1] Parga is a castle and surrounding town in north-west Greece. It had been ruled from Venice 1401–1797, but unlike the nearby Ionian Islands it did not become a Protectorate under British administration after 1815, but was ceded to the Ottoman Empire. In 1819, 4,000 people from Parga emigrated to the Ionian Islands rather than accept this situation. Papers concerning the affair were laid before the House of Lords and House of Commons in June–July 1819. BACK

[2] Thomas Flindell (1767–1824; DNB), editor of the Western Luminary (1813–1835), a conservative weekly newspaper based in Exeter, had referred to Queen Caroline (1768–1821; DNB) as ‘notoriously devoted to Bacchus and Venus’ (Western Luminary, 11 July 1820). The matter was debated in the House of Commons on 24–25 July 1820, but no action was taken as a prosecution was pending. Flindell was sentenced to eight months imprisonment on 19 March 1821. Leigh Hunt, editor 1808–1821 of the Examiner, The Times under the editorship 1817–1841 of Thomas Barnes (1785–1841; DNB), and the Champion, owned and edited by Thelwall 1818–1821, were all pro-Caroline. BACK

[3] Lord John Russell (1792–1878; DNB), Essays and Sketches of Life and Character (1820). BACK

[4] Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). Sir Thomas More (1478–1535; DNB), Lord Chancellor 1529–1532 and opponent of the Reformation, was a central figure in the book. BACK

[5] Francis Bacon (1561–1626; DNB), The History of King Henry VII (London, 1622), pp. 227–228, no. 231 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] Thomas Hutchinson (1711–1780; DNB), The History of the Colony of Massachusets-Bay, 2nd edn (London, 1760), p. iii; Southey acquired an edition of 1764, no. 1266 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

People mentioned

Dyer, George (1755–1841) (mentioned 1 time)
Thelwall, John (1764–1834) (mentioned 1 time)
Heber, Richard (1774–1833) (mentioned 1 time)


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