672. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 22 April [1802]

672. Robert Southey to Charles Biddlecombe, 22 April [1802] ⁠* 

My dear friend

I was surprized to learn at the Hotel that you were gone – & am vexed to have seen you so little during your stay.

Since your departure I have received letters from Wm Taylor at Paris. interesting inasmuch as they differ from the common newspaper accounts, & are the observations of an observing man. he says that the public conversation is free, worthy of a free people, & that at the coffee houses the measures of government are discussed acutely & severely but without ill-will or acrimony. The temper of the people disposes them to peace. Order is worth more than Liberty. – In changing governments we do not change men. – New Constitutions are periodical publications – & each costs something. These & like proverbial maxims are the favourite texts in Paris. My friends says that the French are less officious in politeness than formerly. that manners & morals of a more English character are fashionable. that young men talk of the “Religion of our fathers” as if they meant to learn the Catechism. that the tide in fact is setting in to those opinions of morality, religion & politics which pervade the works of Burke. [1] 

I am sorry & ashamed to think of the trouble you will have in clearing off our things – & would apologize if I knew how to find a fitting apology for what is unavoidable. the prints will travel safely if wrapt in the linen, & so laid in the large chest. a half-workd hearthrug of Ediths industry will also go in that chest. there is a small mahogany machine which you would perhaps puzzle you to know its use – it is for making fringe. that we must not lose – it may come in the chest or trunk if there be one. every thing else to be sold except linen & silver things. Mrs Jenkins [2]  said she would at any time give a guinea for the kitchen grate which we bought of her, together with the boiler. there was a silver pepper box – but it was carelessly left loose. It will certainly be adviseable to have all the things cleaned up before they are sold – they will sell to much greater advantage. All the books may be directed to Rickman. St Stephens Court. New Palace Yard. the chest (which must be quite full) & trunk if there be one must go to Bristol, directed to Mrs Fricker 29. Stokes Croft. We have some spirits there, which will well pay the expence of their removal to Bristol. Some few things such as would rust chiefly were left with the next door neighbour.

I believe I have left nothing unsaid upon this business.

The Morning Post of yesterday promised to give some news to day which they thought the most interesting that had appeared in that paper for twenty years. We were all full of wonder & expectation. Lo! the newspaper came & announced – that the sale of the Morning Post now exceeded that of every other newspaper. very impudent – & I suppose very true.

Have you seen a periodical work called the Beauties of England & Wales? [3]  it is really a beautiful work – the prints are in the very best stile. two volumes are published at 20 shillings each – that is the large paper with which only good impressions can be had – the whole will be ten or twelve. your Christ-Church will doubtless one day come in so too should High Cliff before it be farther dilapidated.

There is War in the City. the Sheriffs & the Mayor. he did not give them tickets nor their Chaplain – & they declare that they are obliged to resent what is an insult to the established Religion & the established Orders of Society. [4]  it is infinitely ridiculous & will & must – occasion satire.

Do you think of visiting Paris? curiosity will probably lead you where it is leading every body. I should think of it myself if I had leisure enough & was rich enough. that not being the case I do not allow my curiosity to be very strong, & persuade myself with some truth that nothing on the banks of the Seine can equal the shores of Keswick & Killarney.

Remember me to your mother – & to Mr Colman. [5]  your little [6]  is not old enough for an acquaintance. I trust she continues well.

God bless you –

Yrs truly

Robert Southey.

35 Strand. 22 April.

Direct under cover to

Rt Honble

Isaac Corry

&c &c &c

Duke Street



* Address: To/ Charles Biddlecombe Esqr/ Burton/ near/ Ringwood/ Single
Stamped: 449 Strand
Postmark: [illegible]
Watermark: E & P/ 1801
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The conservative politician and writer Edmund Burke (1729/30-1797; DNB). BACK

[2] Unidentified; presumably a neighbour of Southey’s during his residence at Burton, Hampshire. BACK

[3] John Britton (1771-1857; DNB) and Edward Wedlake Brayley (1773-1854; DNB), The Beauties of England and Wales (1801-1815). BACK

[4] There was a royal visit to the City of London on 3 April 1802. The Lord Mayor, Sir John Eamer (1750-1823), did not allocate places at the Lord Mayor’s table to the two Sheriffs, Sir William Rawlins (d. 1838) and Robert Cox (dates unknown) and their chaplains, so they boycotted the ceremony. The incident provoked a number of satirical prints, including ‘The City combat, or the desperate attack at the English baron, an Easter tale’ (1802) and ‘A peep in the City – or, spoil’d children’ (1802). BACK

[5] Unidentified; presumably a neighbour of Southey’s during his time at Burton, Hampshire. BACK

[6] Southey has omitted ‘girl’; Biddlecombe’s daughter (first name unknown) had been born in March 1799. His wife, Catherine (née Lacy), had died on 24 March 1799 (see the Oracle, 2 April 1799) from complications resulting from the birth. BACK

People mentioned

Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker family (mentioned 1 time)
Corry, Isaac (1753–1813) (mentioned 1 time)
Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Burton (mentioned 2 times)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
35 Strand, London (mentioned 1 time)
Duke St, London (mentioned 1 time)
Stokes Croft (mentioned 1 time)