MY Lord Duke-On the 8th instant I took the liberty to acquaint your Grace with a very suspicious business concerning an emigrant family, who have contrived to get possession of a Mansion House at Alfoxton, late belonging to the Revd. Mr. St. Albyn, under Quantock Hills. I am since informed, that the Master of the house has no wife with him, but only a Woman who passes for his Sister. The man has Camp Stools, which he and his visitors take with them when they go about the country upon their nocturnal or diurnal excursions, and have also a Portfolio in which they enter their observations, which they have been heard to say were almost finished. They have been heard to say they should be rewarded for them, and were very attentive to the River near them-probably the River coming within a mile or two of Alfoxton from Bridgewater. These people may possibly be under Agents to same principal at Bristol..
Sir-Charles Mogg says that he was at Alfoxton last Saturday was a week, that he there saw Thomas Jones who lives in the Farm House at Alfoxton, who informed Mogg that some French people had got possession of the Mansion House and that they were washing and Mending their cloaths all Sunday, that He Jones would not continue there as he did not like it. That Christopher Trickie and his Wife who live at the Dog pound at Alfoxton, told Mogg that the French people had taken the plan of Their House, and that They had also taken the plan of all the places round that part of the Country, that a Brook runs in front of Trickie's House and the French people inquired of Trickie whether the Brook was Navigable to the Sea, and upon being informed by Trickie that It was not, They were afterwards seen examining the Brook quite down to the Sea. That Mrs. Trickie confirmed everything her husband had said. Mogg spoke to some other persons inhabitants of that Neighbourhood, who all told him they thought these French people very suspicious persons and that They were doing no good there ...
As Mr. Mogg is by no means the most intelligent Man in the World, I thought it my duty to send You the whole of his Story as he related It . .
I shall wait here your further Orders and am
Sir, Your most obedient Humble Servt.
Sir—I have considered the contents of your letter to me from the Bear Inn, Hungerford, of yesterday's date. You will immediately proceed to Alfoxton or its neighbourhood yourself, taking care on your arrival so to conduct yourself as to give no cause of suspicion to the Inhabitants of the Mansion house there. You will narrowly watch their proceedings, and observe how they coincide with Mogg's account and that contained in the within letter from Mr. Lysons to the Duke of Portland. . . . Should they however move, you must follow their track and give me notice thereof, and of the place to which they have betaken themselves. I herewith transmit you a bank note of £20.
Sir — In consequence of Your orders which I rec'd Yesterday, I immediately set out for this Place, which although it is five Miles from Alfoxton, is the nearest house I can get any accommodation at.
I had not been many minutes in this house before I had an opportunity of entering upon my Business, By a Mr. Woodhouse asking the Landlord, If he had seen any of those Rascalls from Alfoxton. To which the Landlord reply'd, He had seen two of them Yesterday. Upon which Woodhouse asked the Landlord, If Thelwall was gone. I then asked if they meant the famous Thelwall. They said yes. That he had been down some time, and that there were a Nest of them at Alfoxton House who were protected by a Mr. Poole a Tanner of this Town, and that he supposed Thelwall was there (Alfoxton House) at this time. I told Woodhouse that I had heard somebody say at Bridgewater that They were French people at the Manor House. The Landlord and Mr. Woodhouse answered, No, No. They are not French, But they are people that will do as much harm as All the French can do.
I hope To-morrow to be able to give you some information, in the mean time I shall be very attentive to your instructions. I think this will turn out no French affair, but a mischiefuous gang of disaffected Englishmen. I have just procured the Name of the person who took the House. His name is Wordsworth a name I think known to Mr. Ford.
I have the honour to be Sir,
Your most obedient Humble Sevt.
Sir,—The inhabitants of Alfoxton House are a Sett of violent Democrats. The House was taken for a Person of the name of Wordsworth, who came to it from a Village near Honiton in Devonshire, about five Weeks since. The Rent of the House is secured to the Landlord by a Mr. Thomas Poole of this Town. Mr. Poole is a Tanner and a Man of some property. He is a most Violent Member of the Corresponding Society and a strenuous supporter of Its Friends. He has with him at this time a Mr. Coldridge and his wife both of whom he has supported since Christmas last. This Coldridge came last from Bristol and is reckoned a Man of Superior Ability. He is frequently publishing, and I am told is soon to produce a new work. He has a Press in the House and I am informed He prints as well as publishes his own productions ...
By the direction on a letter that was going to the Post Yesterday, It appears that Thelwall is now at Bristol.
I last Night saw Thomas Jones who lives at Alfoxton House. He exactly confirms Mogg of Hungerford, with this addition that the Sunday after Wordsworth came, he Jones was desired to wait at table, that there were 14 persons at Dinner, Poole and Coldridge were there, And there was a little Stout Man with dark crept Hair and wore a White Hat and Glasses (Thelwall) who after Dinner got up and talked so loud and was in such a passion that Jones was frightened and did not like to go near them since. That Wordsworth has lately been to his former House and brought back with him a Woman Servant, that Jones has seen this Woman who is very Chatty, and that she told him that Her Master was a Phylosopher ...
Your most obedient Humble Sert.
Note from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from Literary Anecdotes