Correspondence

51.  EBB to Lord Somers [1]

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 1, 41–44.

[?Hope End]

[ca. September 1817] [2]

My Lord /

I will not presume to hold forth my opinion in comparison to that of the unknown tho obvious able author of the pamphlet in answer to your Lordships [3]

– – – –

Whose name is recorded without blemish and who is adored by Virtue as the brightest gem of Truth. His disinterested justice procured him many laurels he perfered [sic] the interest of his country to his own. <…> [4] Your lordship ought to thank Providence that this follower of virtue glided thro life unconsciouse [sic] of the conduct of his successor Alas the Knowledge of futurity would [have] forced from him a sigh in the midst of his glories and would have enbittered [sic] his latter years of peace which flowed from the fountain of his Justice.

 

Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate

All but the page prescribed the present state

From brutes what men from men what spirits know

Or who would suffer being here below?

– – – – – – – – – –

 

Oh blindness to the future kindly given

That each may fill the circle marked by Heaven [5]

And now my Lord you will permit me to observe the difference of these ages & those that are past if it be for ever God alone knows to his almighty hand we must commit the fate of liberty with that of Great Britain

 

What future bliss He gives not us to know

But gives that hope to be our blessing now [6]

But as I do not take up my pen to grieve the unaccessible but always wise ways of Providence I will proceed with my original subject of defending the ancient constitution that sacred star which is now pillaged of its rays to satisfy the interests of the Ministers was signed by King John but afterwards carried to the greatest glory by Elizabeth when Oliver Cromwell led it to the utmost verge of perfection while this beam of happiness was still in existance England persevered in her spirit her inhabitants still kept themselves together beneath a load of afflictions without money and incapable of gaining an honest livelihood But want of provisions was amply compensated by the blessed knowledge that they were still free Hard indeed must have been the heart to tear from them their only consolation their balm in their sorrows and their glory in victory But tho England is thus laid destitute on the dust in spite of all the laudable exersions [sic] of your Lordship & the Ministers there is still a spark unquenched which enables us to despise our Tyrants & to drop the silent tear of gratitude to Sir F. Burdet [7] and to those who have bent their exertions for the recovery of our lost liberty tho their endeavours have proved vain they do no less merit our grateful and sincere thanks But I do not wish to sound in your ears praises which your Lordship does not aim at possessing neither will [I] endeavour to revenge our fallen liberties for we are already revenged and your Lordship is the only instrument of the ceaseless shame which now polutes your name if your lordship would percieve the reason of this sentance I shall give it in the plain & direct words of truth you were always considered as one of the mightiest supporters of the constitution As an independant man who had an oppinion of his own & who studyed nought but to be on the side of truth & of liberty How greatly were we decieved! Lord Sidmouth [8] & the Ministers operated powerful changes indeed changes which we could not have believed magic to effect– We beheld with surprise your Lordship still pretending to be guided by liberty, tho’ in the Eyes of Europe a confirmed Tory, and for what I blush to relate:—to be made lord leuftenant [sic] of the county of Hereford, allowing room for the recurring prospect of an Earldom.—— [9]

And now my lord I believe I have done with this subject & tho I do not dive deep into politics yet I have said enough to convince your lordship that I may truely sign myself

Your lordships most obedient humble servent

The Friend of liberty

Publication: None traced.

Source: EBB’s draft, with corrections in Mary Moulton-Barrett’s hand, Armstrong Browning Library.

1. The recipient is deduced from the mention of the Lord Lieutenancy of Hereford, and other internal references.

John Somers Cocks, 2nd Baron Somers (1760–1841), lived with his family at Eastnor Castle, some 3 miles S.E. of Hope End.

2. Lord Somers had been appointed to the honorific post of Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire in August 1817. This draft protest almost certainly refers to the introduction in February 1817 of a parliamentary bill to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, one of the cornerstones of an Englishman’s liberty. A series of riots in various parts of the country had led to the appointment of a secret committee of the House of Lords, which determined that “a traitorous correspondence existed in the metropolis, for the purpose of overthrowing the established government.” The proposed bill ensued, and it became law in March 1817, after much heated debate in both houses of Parliament.

3. Lord Somers had published in 1817 A Defence of the Constitution of Great Britain and Ireland, directed against the concepts of annual parliaments and universal suffrage. His stand on these issues was unpopular with some of his neighbours. A letter from James Martin to Edward Moulton-Barrett (30 January 1818, SD 278) speaks of the latter’s opposition to Somers’ nominees for the parliamentary election, and congratulates him “for having dared to oppose yourself to the will & mandate of the potent Baron of Eastnor.” The same letter mentions “the wretched Pamphlet which he has written & published against the most usefull & necessary of all political Reforms” and says it betrays “the weakness of his head & the selfishness of his heart.”

4. The words “he passed this life” are written here and crossed out.

5. Pope’s An Essay on Man (1733–34), Epistle I, lines 77–80 and 85–86, slightly misquoted.

6. Ibid., lines 93–94, slightly misquoted.

7. Sir Francis Burdett (1770–1844) spoke against the bill, “believing that an attempt was made to create alarm … as a ground for measures which would prevent the people from demanding their rights.”

8. Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844) was the Government spokesman who introduced the bill in the House of Lords on 24 February 1817, declaring that the malcontents had “parliamentary reform in their mouths, but rebellion and revolution in their hearts.”

9. The “recurring prospect of an Earldom” was realized in 1821, when Lord Somers was created Earl Somers and Viscount Eastnor.

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