2990. Robert Southey to [John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield], 8 May 1817

2990. Robert Southey to [John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield], 8 May 1817⁠* 

15. Queen Anne Street. 8 May. 1817.

My Lord

Your Lordships letter with its inclosure, followed me to this place, where I am on the eve of departing for the Continent. The intended time of my absence does not exceed two months, & immediately on my return I shall go to press with the first volume of my historical work. [1]  As yet I have no materials whatever respecting the operation of our army on the Eastern coast of Spain, except such scanty information as has appeared in print, – how defective this is, especially during the latter months of the war, your Lordship must well know. I have however the prospect of obtaining some, French as well as English. If I may be allowed to point out the manner in which your Lordships offered communications would be most advantageous, it would be in a military sketch of the operations of the army, however brief. Keeping this as a chart before me, I would draw up my own narrative from all the documents which I may be able to collect, & when this was done, submit it to the perusal of your Lordship & of Sir Henry Clinton, [2]  that what was erroneous might be corrected, & that which should be deficient, supplied.

It has sincerely gratified xxx me to learn that my reply to a most base & cowardly attack has met with your Lordships approbation. [3] Mr Wm Smith has declared in yesterdays debate his intention of submitting patiently to the proper chastisement which he has received. [4]  Quisque suæ fortunæ Faber. [5] 

I have the honour to be

My Lord

with great respect

yr Lordships obliged & obedient servant

Robert Southey.


* MS: Beinecke Library, Osborn MSS File ‘S’, Folder 14157. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). The Earl of Sheffield had offered Southey information to help him in writing this work. BACK

[2] General Sir William Henry Clinton (1769–1846; DNB), commander of the 1st Division in Spain 1812–1813 and commander-in-chief of British forces in eastern Spain 1813–1814. Clinton had married in 1797 Louisa Dorothea Baker Holroyd (1776–1854), daughter of the Earl of Sheffield. BACK

[3] Smith had denounced Southey in the House of Commons on 14 March 1817 in the debate on the Seditious Meetings Bill, condemning ‘the settled, determined malignity of a renegado’ and comparing Southey’s arguments against radical views in the Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 227, with those expressed in Wat Tyler (1817), Act 2, lines 103–112. Southey’s response was his A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P.(1817). BACK

[4] In a House of Commons debate on 7 May 1817 on a case of potential breach of privilege, Smith had said: ‘he had always considered it to be a kind of duty in every member to withhold himself from defence out of doors of any expressions he might have used within. On that duty he had acted strictly and bona fide’. This might be interpreted as a declaration by Smith that he would not respond to Southey. BACK

[5] ’Every man is the architect of his own fortune’, from a speech of 279 BC by the Roman politician, Appius Claudius Caecus (c. 340–273 BC). BACK

People mentioned

Smith, William (1756–1835) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned