1808. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 23–26 [September 1810]

1808. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 23–26 [September 1810] ⁠* 

Keswick. Sept. 23. 1801 [1] 

The last proof of Kehama, [2]  which is, as you know, in due order of printing the first sheet, has arrived this evening. It will probably be six weeks before it is published, – a journey or a voyage from Leith to London, with the ordinary delays of hot presses, folders, stitchers &c will occasion this delay. Meantime let me know where I shall have a copy directed to you. – I have dedicated the poem to you, – believing that but for you it would never have been finished, – & in that case I should never have had resolution to begin another poem while this remained incompleat. [3]  The preface, more meo, [4]  is short & explicit, giving the reader all necessary information, & entering into nothing farther. [5]  The notes are copious & sufficiently dull, – I give the ore them as a specimen of the ore, that the skill of the refiner may be understood.

My Uncle has resigned Staunton & removed to Streatham in Surry, – which the D of Bedford has given him. [6]  It is six miles from London, & there I purpose visiting him as early as possible in the coming spring. Perhaps we may meet in town, or somewhere on the road, for many widely-distant parts of England may be made in the way from Keswick to London.

I am at work upon the history of 1809 for the Edinburgh Annual Register. [7]  This occupation, as long as I continue p it, places me in comparative affluence. I have 400 £ a year – for it, & have vested 209 £ of the first years payment in a twelfth share of the concern, which will bring me xx nearly 40 per cent. If you see the first volume [8]  you will pleased with the freedom with which it is written. This is a pleasant employment, there is some satisfaction in keeping up the heart of the country, of <in> acquitting oneself of any participation in national guilt or national folly, in writing of the existing powers as faithfully as if they were not my contemporaries, above all in speaking of Buonaparte as befits xx a republican. The Spanish history I have given as fully as all the documents within my reach enabled me. & Spain will prove Buonapartes ruin. He never can subdue the Spaniards. Even tho he should make himself master of every city in the Peninsula the country & the people would still be unsubdued, – the result, sooner or later will be a free government in Spain, & a military nation who will revenge the cause of Europe upon France.

Your conception of Count Julian is very fine & original – my plan imputes no grandeur of mind to him, but a great deal to his daughter, who bears him mortally wounded into Rodericks cell to be by him reconciled to the Church. [9]  The hermit having done this makes himself known & in his turn entreats forgiveness – the hour of repentance & death however have not has not sufficiently subdued Julian to his say that he forgives him, – he only at least repeats forgive us our trespasses &c – unable to address Roderick – or even to pronounce his name. [10]  – I dispose of Roderick thus, – after having been the first in acclaiming Pelayo xxxxxxx xxxx with in the last battle he bears a part, carrying in one hand the crucifix in the other the sword, – in the heat of the battle he charges the Moorish leader – & hurried away by the xxxxxxxx feeling of the moment, sets up his own war cry & decides the fate of the day, – & disappears in the pursuit. His horse & arms are to be found at a distance from the field – as after the battle [MS missing] Guadalete, [11]  – but he himself is heard of no more till three centuries afterwards his tomb is discovered at Viseu. [12]  – I have finished the second section which you shall see ere long. It is good in its way.

Had it not been for that execrable affair of Copenhagen [13]  we should at this time find allies in the North, – Denmark would make common cause with Sweden. – & Even as it is I do not think the Swedes will quietly submit to King Bernadotte, [14]  the peasantry are the best of the Scandinavians a fine, brave, uncorrupted people. It is the privilege of the Dalecarlians [15]  that every man may shake hands with the King. Russia is now of no other importance in Europe than as it keeps down the spirit of independence in Sweden, – which will break out as soon as Alexander [16]  shifts his colours.

God bless you


Aug 26. [17] 


* Address: [deletion and readdress in another hand] To/ Walter Savage Landor Esqr/ Lanthony Abbey/ Abergavenny/ from Abergavenny/ Post Office/ Bath
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298; [partial] ABERGAVENNY
MS: National Art Library, London, MS Forster 48 D.32 MS 18. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 202–204 [dated 27 September 1810].
Dating note: Southey twice misdates this letter ‘1801’ at the start and ‘Aug. 26’ at the end. Internal evidence makes it clear that this letter is from late September 1810. BACK

[1] 1801: Southey’s misdating for ‘1810’. BACK

[2] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[3] See The Curse of Kehama (London, 1810), p. [v]. After their first meeting in 1808, Landor had encouraged Southey to continue with the poem. BACK

[4] i.e. ‘in my way, according to my habit’. With the exception of Joan of Arc (1796), Southey tended to accompany his poems with short prefaces. BACK

[5] The Curse of Kehama (London, 1810), pp. [vii]–ix. BACK

[6] John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766–1839; DNB), the patron of the living at Streatham. BACK

[7] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811). BACK

[8] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810). BACK

[9] The contrast is between Landor’s portrayal in his play, Count Julian (1812), and Southey’s in Roderick (1814), of Julian, Count of Ceuta, a legendary Christian ruler who allegedly helped in the Islamic conquest of the kingdom of Hispania, 711–718. In Southey’s poem, Roderick rapes Julian’s daughter, Florinda, thus provoking the Count’s actions. Southey had already dealt with the same subject matter in his ‘Monodrama. Florinda’, later retitled ‘La Caba’, first published in The Iris, 21 July 1804. BACK

[10] This intention was somewhat modified in Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 24, lines 238–239. BACK

[11] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 25, lines 569–583. Guadelete (711/ 712) saw the defeat of the Christian Visigoths of the kingdom of Hispania, led by their king Roderic (d. 711/712), by Moorish invaders. The historical Roderic is thought to have died in the battle. Southey’s poem proposes an alternative end for him. BACK

[12] A town in northern Portugal. Its Cathedral claims to contain the tomb of Roderic. BACK

[13] The Battle of Copenhagen, 16 August–5 September 1807. A British fleet bombarded Copenhagen and captured the Danish fleet, despite Denmark’s neutrality. Over 2,000 civilians were killed in the city. BACK

[14] The French Marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte (1763–1844; King of Sweden 1818–1844). In 1810 he was elected as heir to Charles XIII (1748–1818; King of Sweden 1809–1818) and became effective ruler of Sweden. BACK

[15] The people of Dalarna in central Sweden, renowned for their love of independence. Southey probably gleaned his story of the region’s privileges from the reprint of part of Alphonse Fortia de Piles’s (1758–1826) Voyage de deux Francais en Allemagne, Danemarck, Suede, Russie et Pologne, fait en 1790–1792 (1796) in John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB), A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in all parts of the World, 17 vols (London, 1808–1814), VI, p. 469. BACK

[16] Alexander I (1777–1825; Emperor of Russia 1801–1825). Russia had defeated Sweden in 1808–1809 and annexed Finland. BACK

[17] Aug. 26: Southey’s misdating for ‘September 26’. BACK

People mentioned

Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)
Staunton on Wye (mentioned 1 time)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)