Monday 20 August 2012

20th August 1812: Shelley's servant, Daniel Healey, is arrested after distributing seditious literature in Barnstaple

My Lord

I am directed by the Worshipful the Mayor of this Town to address your Lordship, on the following Circumstances:

Last Evening a Man was observed distributing and posting some Papers about this Town intitled “Declaration of Rights”, and on being apprehended and brought before the Mayor, stated his name to be Daniel Hill, and that he is a servant to P.B Shelley Esq. now residing at Hooper’s Lodgings at Lymouth near Linton a small Village bordering on the Bristol Channel and about 17 Miles from Barnstaple: On being asked how he became possessed of these Papers, he said, on his Road from Linton to Barnstaple Yesterday, he met a Gentleman dressed in black, whom he had never seen before, who asked him to take the Papers to Barnstaple and post and distribute them, and on Hill’s consenting the Gentleman gave him 5 shillings for his Trouble — on interrogating Hill more particularly respecting his Master, he said he principally lived in London but in what Part of it he did not now know, but that he had lived with him in Sackville Street — that he married a Miss Westbrooke or Westbrooks a Daughter of Mr. Westbrooke of Chapel Street Grosvenor Square and that two Sisters of Mr. Shelley are now with her at Lymouth, and Mr. Shelley his Master's Father is a Member of Parliament.—This is all the Information the Mayor could get from Hill, but he has been informed that Mr. Shelley has been regarded with a suspicious Eye since he has been at Lymouth, from the Circumstances of his very extensive Correspondence and many of his Packages and Letters been addressed to Sir Francis Burdett — and it is also said that Mr. Shelley has sent off so many as 16 Letters by the same Post — The Mayor has also been informed that Mr. Shelley has been seen frequently to go out in a Boat a short distance from Land and drop some Bottles into the Sea, and that at one time he was observed to wade into the Water and drop a Bottle which afterwards drifting ashore, was picked up, and on being broken was found to contain a seditious Paper, the Contents of which the Mayor has not yet been able to ascertain but will apprize your Lordship immediately on learning further particulars.

Daniel Hill has been convicted by the Mayor in 10 penalties of 20£ each for Publishing and dispersing Printed Papers without the Printer’s name being on them under the act 39. Geo. 3. c. 79. and is now committed to the Common Gaol of this Borough for not paying the Penalties, and having no Goods on which they could be levied.

I have taken the liberty of transmitting to your Lordship a Copy of the Paper intitled “Declaration of Rights” and also another intitled “The Devils Walk” which was also found in Daniel Hill's Possession

I have [etc]
Henry Drake
Town Clerk

Augt 20th 1812

This letter can be found at HO 42/127. Healey gave the surname 'Hill' to the authorities. Shelley could not afford to pay Healey's penalities in order to release him from Gaol, but he did send his 15 shillings a week to make his stay more bearable.

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