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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to John Wood Warter, 27 December 1831

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“Keswick, Dec 27. 1831.
“My dear Warter,

“The merry Christmas that we wish you will be over before our wishes can reach Copenhagen, and the new year will be far on its way to February,—may it, however, be a happy one in its course! None within my memory has ever opened with such threatening aspects; but this consideration, which enters night and morning into my prayers, affects me very little at other times; partly because I am too busy to entertain it, partly because my constitutional hilarity overcomes it, and still more, perhaps, because I have a strong persuasion, such as might almost be called an abiding trust, that Providence will visit this country, sinful as it is, rather in mercy than in vengeance.

“The misconduct of those people who let the cholera into Sunderland has been, if possible, exceeded by that of the Government which has let it out! instead of shutting it up and extinguishing it in the first house where it appeared. But even in the King’s speech the question of contagion is spoken of as doubtful, and the Government have dealt with this pestilence just as they did with the Catholic question,—allowed the evil to increase, till they could plead its extent as an excuse for yielding to it: they kept up the farce of a quarantine upon the ships and allowed free intercourse by land. The cholera is now as fairly denizened as the small pox.

Ætat. 57. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 167

“I have always thought Copenhagen one of the safest places from this disease, because your Government there is an efficient one in such cases, and is perfectly aware of the danger, and yet has few points to guard, which being guarded it cannot be brought to you. In England it will have as free a course as sedition, treason, and blasphemy. This house is as favourably situated as any one can be that is not at a distance from an inhabited place; and with this assurance we shall commit ourselves to God’s mercy, if it should be imported into Keswick. . . . .

“You ask me about the insurrection at Bristol. Government are well informed that it was part only of a wider scheme in which Birmingham, Nottingham, and other places were to have taken part. The Bishop behaved manfully; the mob were masters of the city, and one of the minor canons waited upon him before the hour of service, and represented to him the propriety of postponing it. ‘My young friend,’ said the Bishop with great good nature, laying his hand upon his shoulder as he spake, ‘these are times in which it is necessary not to shrink from danger. Our duty is to be at our post.’ The service accordingly was performed as usual, and he himself preached. Before evening closed, his palace was burnt to the ground, and the loss which he sustained (besides that of his papers) is estimated at 10,000l. Except the books and papers which were consumed there, nothing has been destroyed but what may be replaced; for though the fire has done no good (that is, though it has burnt none of those filthy dens of
wretchedness with which all our cities are disgraced), it has touched none of the antiquities of the place. A letter from Bristol gives this description, by an eye-witness, of what was going on all night in Queen’s Square, the main scene of action:—‘The mob gave notice of the houses they meant to attack by knocking at the doors, and they allowed the family a quarter of an hour to escape. This interval they spent in dancing: they cleared a circle in the middle of the square, and went round hand in hand, prisoners in their prison dresses (drunk with the delight of having been set free) and women of the worst description. The light from the blazing houses made them all appear black: and the dance was to many of them the dance of death; for they were so improvident for their own escape, that they set many rooms and different stories on fire at the same time; and when the roofs fell in many of them were seen to drop into the burning ruins.’ It is not known how many perished there, but the number killed and wounded by the soldiers was not short of 500.

“This event has made the decent part of the people understand what the populace are, and has made the populace fear the soldiers. Latterly, indeed, the mob were so drunk that a handful of resolute men might have knocked them on the head, as sailors kill seals upon an unfrequented island.

“The truth is, that the West Indian planters are not in more danger from their negroes, than we are from our servile population. The old habit of obedience is destroyed, and what is even worse, there is no longer the bond of mutual interest between the
Ætat. 57. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 169
workmen, whether in manufactures or agriculture, and their employers. The poor are poorer than they ought to be; they know this, and they know their own numbers and their strength. Where this is the case, no system that depends upon cheap labour for its prosperity can continue. Great changes in the constitution of our society are therefore inevitable; but the changes which our Ministers are moving earth and hell to effect, cannot even alleviate any one existing evil; their direct tendency is to give more power to that part of the people who have already far too much, and who, in truth, cannot possibly have too little, in any well-ordered state.

“How much matters of this kind have been in my thoughts during the last three-and-twenty years, you will see whenever my Essays reach you. I expect daily to see them advertised. . . . .

“I am glad to hear that you have been buying books. I have subscribed to the Bibliotheca Anglo-Saxonica; and to Jonathan Boucher’s Glossary, which is at last about to be completed and published as a Supplement to Johnson. If the continuation be as good as Boucher’s own part, it will be the best work of its kind, I believe, in any language. Cuthbert and I are reading the Merchant of Venice in the Friezeland Dialect, Halbertsma having sent me, from Deventer, a translation by Posthumous of that play and of Julius Cæsar.

“God bless you!

R. S.”