3550. Robert Southey to Messrs Longman and Co., 8 November 1820

3550. Robert Southey to Messrs Longman and Co., 8 November 1820⁠* 

Keswick, Nov. 8. 1820.

Dear Sir,

I have had a visit from Mrs. Fry upon the subject of George Fox, for my intention has made a stir among the Quakers. [1]  The first wish (I think) was to dissuade me from the undertaking; but that being in vain, every offer of assistance is made. I thought it proper to show Mrs. Fry the introduction which I had written, that she might see in what light I viewed the subject, and that I should neither dissemble the errors of the Society and its founder, nor detract from their just merits. And having made it clearly understood that I shall write with perfect freedom, as well as perfect sincerity, I shall avail myself without scruple of all the advantages and facilities which are offered me.

I have already got a number of useful books, among others the second edition of G. Fox’s Journal, by which I perceive that the language has [2]  been altered in the third, but I know that there are more important alterations from the first. [3]  I am now master enough of the subject to judge of the extent of the work as well as its distribution, and have no doubt of its making two volumes, though they may be somewhat smaller than “Wesley.” [4]  Look out for me for Gough’s “History of the Quakers,” [5]  (which I cannot proceed without), the Lives of “Thomas Elwood,” “Richard Davis,” and “Richard Claridge,” [6]  Rutty’s “History of Friends in Ireland,” [7]  Margaret Fox’s “Journal,” [8]  the “Book of Extracts,” and J. W. Chiting’s “Catalogue of Friends’ Books.” [9] 

The first chapter must be a retrospective view of the history of religious opinions and parties in England. Prepared as I am for the subject, it will yet cost me a good deal of reading. You must let me have Neal’s “History of the Puritans,” the original work, (not the abridgement in two volumes which was published a few years ago); [10]  and a lately published volume about Non-conformity in Wales, containing a Life of Vavasor Powell. [11] 

That is a curious volume which you sent me of “Tracts against the Quakers.” [12] 

I see that the last edition of “Lardner” [13]  is to be had for 6l. 6s.; please to send it me by waggon.

Yours very truly,

R. SOUTHEY.


Notes

* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856)
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 213–214. BACK

[1] The Quaker philanthropist and prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845; DNB) had visited Southey. She had been prompted to do so by news that he planned to write a life of George Fox (1624–1691; DNB), founder of the Society of Friends. When Fry failed to change Southey’s mind, she offered him access to sources for his book; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 27 October 1820, Letter 3544. BACK

[2] Warter’s text has ‘bas’; we have corrected it to ‘has’. BACK

[3] Thomas Ellwood (1639–1714; DNB) edited A Journal or Historical Account of the Life, Travel, Sufferings, and Christian Experiences of that Ancient, Eminent and Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ, George Fox (1694). The second edition was published in 1709 and the third edition in 1765. BACK

[4] The comparison is with Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820) in two volumes. The study of Fox was not written. BACK

[5] John Gough (1720–1791; DNB), A History of the People Called Quakers from their First Rise to the Present Time (1789–1790). BACK

[6] Three autobiographies by early Quakers: Thomas Ellwood (1639–1713; DNB), The History of the Life of Thomas Ellwood (1714); Richard Davies (c. 1635–1708; DNB), An Account of the Convincement, Exercises, Services and Travels of that Ancient Servant of the Lord Richard Davies (1710); and Richard Claridge (1649–1723; DNB), The Life and Posthumous Works of Richard Claridge; being Memoirs and Manuscripts relating to His Experiences and Progress in Religion (1726). BACK

[7] John Rutty (1697–1775; DNB), History of the Rise and Progress of the People called Quakers in Ireland (1751), no. 3126 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[8] George Fox’s wife Margaret (1614–1702; DNB), née Askew, who played an important role in early Quakerism. She did not write a journal, but her ‘The Testimony of Margaret Fox concerning her Late Husband’ was included in Thomas Ellwood (1639–1714; DNB), A Journal or Historical Account of the Life, Travel, Sufferings, and Christian Experiences of that Ancient, Eminent and Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ, George Fox (London, 1694), pp. i–ix. BACK

[9] Extracts from the Minutes and Advices of the Yearly Meeting of Friends in London from its First Institution (1802), no. 2354 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; and John Whiting (1656–1722; DNB), Catalogue of Friends’ Books; Written by Many of the People, Called Quakers (1708), no. 555 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] Daniel Neal (1678–1743; DNB), History of the Puritans, first published in four volumes 1732–1738, the version Southey wanted (no. 2023 in the sale catalogue of his library). A two-volume abridgement had been published in 1811 by Longman and his partners. BACK

[11] Richard Williams (1749–1818), The Welsh Nonconformists’ Memorial; or, Cambro-British Biography (1820), which contained a life of the Independent minister, Vavasor Powell (1617–1670; DNB). Southey’s copy was no. 2441 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[12] Longman had sent a miscellaneous volume of twelve tracts against early Quakers; no. 2353 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. It included: A Faithful Discovery of Treacherous Design of Mystical Antichrist Displaying Christ’s Banners (1653), A Northern Blast, or the Spiritual Quaker Converted (1655), The Perfect Pharise Under Monkish Holiness (1654), An Exact History of the Life of James Naylor (1657), and A Merry Device, called the Troublesome Travel of Time, and the Dangerous Delivery of Her Daughter Truth (1660–1664). BACK

[13] Probably an edition of the Works of Nathaniel Lardner (1684–1768; DNB), the Presbyterian minister and patristic scholar; a five-volume set from 1815 is no. 1613 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

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