William Hone to Robert Southey, 25 November, 1830 — An Electronic Edition

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William Hone to Robert Southey, 25 November, 1830.1-TEI-

13 Gracechurch Street, London
25 November 1830
Dear Sir,

It did not occur to me yesterday to enclose the printed paper I now send you. I read it cursorily a few weeks ago, & was much impressed by many of its remarks—it is especially worth your perusal & thinking over, when you are considering the Machinery question. —Machinery is the Jaggernaut of our country. The progress of the idol carriage is imposing and devastating—it will level all ranks & conditions to a common mass—property, title, all will be crushed—nothing will be saved or spared by this Giant Radical. It concentrates the power of money-getting, & the money-getter is a land-getter. Hence a new & heartless aristocracy is rapidly growing up on the ruins of the old. This is the age of science—we have "sought out many inventions," & discovered one which displaces human labour, & will displace every being of society. Jews & Jobbers are mortgagers of the land-owners—there will, of necessity, be foreclosures, for the mortgagers cannot return with a sterling currency & maintain their profession which they mistake for dignity. This dignity they will not abate, it will evaporate, & the monied-man will become the landed-man.

I will not however weary you with crude dogmatising. You set my head at work a little yesterday & I scribbled much seeming nonsense to you—yet I could work out my sayings, but I assure you I have not put to paper a line on politics for the last seven years, & now I desire nothing but quiet & books—liberty to rest.

Let me now direct your eye most particularly to a careful reading of the three columns in the Times of this morning on the "State of the Country." The article "Berkshire" is important—but far more applicable to your inquiry is the "Lewes" article, which contains an account of an extraordinary parley between the discontented labourers at Ringmer and Lord Gage. Did I not tell you yesterday of the ignorance of the rich respecting the poor—and to-day we find a nobleman ignorant of his own affairs—the proceedings of his own steward! I pray God that the land-ownders may yet see their interest. But what think you of Fox-hunting landlords in farming districts? I entreat you, my dear Sir, to cry aloud & spare not—awaken, if it be possible, the gentry to a sense of their true condition. They will be criminal to the labourers, to themselves & to the country, if they suffer the people to rise instead of themselves. The faces of the half-famished have appealed to them—their voices have been disregarded—they now speak to them with tongues of fire.

Do I justify these outrages? God forbid! M. Chateaubriand says he warned the French court against headlong proceedings, because he was "a believer in Revolutions, & in facts." Our government requires no warnings of that kind, but our aristocracy need a trumpet-tongued alarum—not to arms, but to do justice as between man & man. There is a social difference, & it may be settled socially—but if it be not now finally settled in the disturbed counties, & voluntary concessions made in other parts before the claims are urged, we shall have extended insurgency. At present the question seems to be between the laborers and the farming tenantry—but in reality it is between the tenantry & the landowners. And the land owners cannot see this!

I remain,
Dear Sir,
Yours most respectfully, & sincerely
W Hone

Robert Southey Esq.

British Library MS RP5191 (iv); reprinted in Kent & Ewen, pp. 368-69. A more detailed account of the place of this letter in the context of the Hone/Southey relationship is available in the accompanying Conversation narrative. [return]
William Hone. Date: 2013-08-02