William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt and Alan G. Hill (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 4: The Later Years: Part I: 1821–1828 (Second Revised Edition)

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pg 2716. W. W. to LORD LONSDALE

MS. Lonsdale MSS. Hitherto unpublished.

  • Rydal Mount
  • Feb 9th [1821]

My Lord,

The reprint of the County Member's speech to his Farmers was too good a thing to be kept to myself; I wished to shew it to some Friends and neighbours, which must be my excuse for not returning it sooner. Mr C.1 pays his Labourers not with money but potatoes, milk, flour, meal, butcher's meat, etc., all which, as our Rector was told by a man from Workington the other day, he superintends the weighing and measuring of, assisting with his own hands. Some think this extremely humane, condescending and amiable; but by the majority it is regarded as a shabby encroachment upon the profits of the small shopkeepers, and a degrading employment for a legislator.

The Kendal Chronicle has opened upon the Yeomanry Corps, and is labouring to make it unpopular on the ground of the expense.2 Anything to carp at; but they do not like to see how much Col: Lowther is approved and admired in his management of this Corps by several of their own Party. I hope the establishment of these Corps will become universal. If a man be possessed of a horse, he will scarcely be without other property, and you have accordingly a pledge for his principles and conduct. Every one knows of what importance the Equestrian Order was in preserving tranquillity and a balance and gradation of powers in antient Rome; the like may take place among ourselves through the medium of an armed Yeomanry; and surely a preservative of this kind is loudly called for by the tendencies of things at present. Some say that Yeomanry Corps are not wanted in Cumbnd and Westnd, these districts being peaceably disposed. But have we not seen enough of the Kendal and Carlisle Rabble, without speaking of other places, to be assured pg 28that if disturbances were to become formidable, they would not be slow to play their part.1 They probably are not strong enough to begin, but they would be ready enough to join.

If the whole Island were covered with a force of this kind, the Press properly curbed, the poor laws gradually reformed, provision made for new churches to keep pace with the population (an indispensible measure) if these things were done, and improvements carried forward as they have been, order may yet be preserved among us, and the people remain free and happy. As to the abuse of the Press, as your Lordship says2 the Attorney Gen: being too much occupied with other duties adequately to attend to that of correcting it, could not an Assistant be appointed as has been done for the Chancellor?3 This measure must be resorted to, in regard to other offices; the encrease of business is so great in numerous departments that the bodily strength of public functionaries is not equal to their employments. But what a clamor would be raised about extending the influence of the Crown, etc., as if (even in this view of the subject) it were not obviously politic, that as the resisting power of the People encreases, the controuling and influencing power of the Executive should be encreased accordingly.

pg 29Young Mr Kirkbank had no objection to act as Coroner for the Lordship of Millom provided some other offices were not coupled with that.1 He is a person perfectly competent, and upon the spot, so that if the thing be not an object to Mr Peter Hodgson, it would perhaps be more satisfactory to the neighbourhood if he would act.

Most unluckily the letter to Mr S.2 has been mislaid. Mrs Wordsworth has been looking for it, in vain, since I began to write. We were arranging papers the other day, and I fear it may have got among them by mistake. It shall be sought for again, and taken care of.

The present juncture is interesting, and I shall be truly happy to be honoured with communications from your Lordship at your leisure. I remain

  • very sincerely                  
  • your Lordship's friend and servant   
  • Wm Wordsworth3          

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 John Christian Curwen of Workington Hall, Whig M.P. for Cumberland from 1820 until his death in 1828. (See MY i. 311; ii. 423.) For Curwen's own account of his speech on 20 Dec. 1820, in a letter to Francis Place, see Edward Hughes, North Country Life in the Eighteenth Century, 1965, ii. 233–4. Curwen's somewhat ambivalent behaviour in the face of the agricultural distress was due to his having interests in both land and manufactures. By 1825 he ceased to uphold protection, and came out against the Corn Laws.
Editor’s Note
2 See L. 14. The Kendal Yeomanry mustered for the first time in full uniform, and exercised, on 19 and 20 Mar., according to the Kendal Chronicle for the 24th. On 31 Mar. it announced Lord Lowther's appointment as Lieut.-Col. Commandant.
Editor’s Note
1 There were ugly scenes at Kendal during the Westmorland election of 1818 (see MY ii. 426–7); and again at Carlisle during the 1820 election, when the weavers rioted and the military were called in. Their intervention was attacked in the House of Commons on 14 Mar. 1821 by J. C. Curwen and William James of Barrock, Whig M.P. for Carlisle, and defended by Lord Lowther supported by John Beckett and Sir James Graham. The matter was referred to the Committee of Privileges.
Editor’s Note
2 Lord Lonsdale had expressed general approval of Dr. Stoddart's proposals for curbing the Press (see L. 5) in his letter of 28 Jan.: 'Your objection to the establishment of the Society of which Dr Stoddart has apprized you, is certainly a just one, but … we did not think it right to put any difficulties in the way, or by stating any objections—to check a Disposition to repress an evil so formidable as that with which it proposed to contend. The spread of it is so great at this time, that it is scarcely possible for the Attorney General, with due regard to his other duties, to acquit himself of that which regards the Press in a manner either satisfying to himself or with advantage to the Interest of the Public.' (WL MSS.). The Attorney-General at this time was Sir Robert Gifford, 1st Baron Gifford (1779–1826): Solicitor-General and M.P. for Eye, Suffolk, 1817–19; Attorney-General, 1819–24, and thereafter Lord Chief Justice. He died of cholera just when it was generally understood that he was to succeed Eldon as Lord Chancellor.
Editor’s Note
3 John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751–1838), Lord Chancellor, 1801–6 and 1807–27. The office of Vice-Chancellor was created by Act of Parliament in 1813 to deal with the arrears of legal business which accrued through his constant preoccupation with political affairs. It was filled by Sir Thomas Plumer (1753–1824), Solicitor-General in the Duke of Portland's administration, until 1818; and thereafter by Sir John Leach (1760–1834), later Master of the Rolls. See Horace Twiss, The Public and Private Life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, 3 vols., 1844, ii. 238–42, 301–3.
Editor’s Note
2 Presumably Mr. Southey.
Editor’s Note
3 Two sentences from this letter were published by K and de Selincourt under the year 1814.
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