1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Roscoe

Edward Rushton to a Belfast correspondent, 20 November 1806; Belfast Monthly Magazine 13 (December 1814) 479-80.



You would, no doubt, be pleased to hear of Mr. Roscoe's election. There is certainly the semblance of political virtue in the Liverpool voters returning an avowed advocate of the abolition of the slave trade, yet when we consider that from ten to twelve thousand pounds have been expended by the friends of Mr. Roscoe in this contest, every thing like political virtue melts into thin air. I have a poor opinion of my countrymen in general, and my townsmen in particular, and am confident without such an expenditure, the worth and talents even of a Roscoe would have been wholly disregarded. After all, then, what has been obtained by this contest? Why a cluster of petty despots, who call themselves a corporation, have been baffled, and their weakness completely exposed, but so long as 160 borough mongers can send a majority to the British commons, every contested election must, in the eyes of reason, have the appearance of mockery.

I grant that a house of Commons composed of Roscoes, might do much, but a few virtuous men placed in the midst of corruption, are not only prevented from being useful, but there is a chance that they themselves, by coming familiar with political profligacy, may in time become more or less contaminated. He who should endeavour to purify a tub of soap-lees, by throwing into the putrid mass a few spoonfuls of essence of violets, would find himself wofully disappointed; yet such in my opinion is the state of the Imperial parliament.

Nov. 20, 1806.