1832. Robert Southey to Henry Crabb Robinson, 1 December 1810

1832. Robert Southey to Henry Crabb Robinson, 1 December 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 1. 1810.

My dear Sir

I know not how to express my thanks for your very friendly letter, & for the important channels of communication which you have opened to me. To Abella I wrote immediately, confining my questions to the affairs of Zaragoza [1]  – when his answer arrives I shall address to him some specific queries respecting those operations in which the Duke de Albuquerque [2]  was concerned in La Mancha when acting under Urbinos [3]  command, – & those in Estremadura which followed the battle of Medellin, [4]  when as far as the very imperfect information in our papers enables me to discover, he seems by a xxxxx victory near Badajoz to have been the immediate means of checking the enemys progress. I hold myself greatly obliged to Mr Amyot for the permission he has given me to apply thro him to Col. Carol, [5]  – I am preparing some questions concerning Romanas movements from the time when Sir John Moore [6]  left him at Astorga till the recapture of Vigo. [7]  This information will come too late for my present use, for the publishers, tho they are considerate enough never to hurry me, are nevertheless, tradesmen like, exceedingly anxious to make as much haste as possible. But I shall omit no means of acquiring intelligence which may enable me to rectify mistakes, & supply deficiencies, so that I may leave a corrected copy with as few errors as possible. This Spanish contest will be of an everlasting interest, like the war of Greece against Xerxes. [8] 

I thought those letters from Coruña which appeared in the Times had been yours. [9]  Whoever was the author they discovered great judgement and a right feeling. – Yet I am rather rejoiced to find they are not yours, – because it is better there should be two men who think feel & reason thus, than one.

How do you understand the conduct of the M. de Palacios? [10]  Is it that he thinks the Cortes are entrenching upon the prerogatives, and wishes to have the Monarchy, when reestablished, as unlimited as before? That Spain will work out its regeneration & redemption I cannot doubt, – however long and dreadful the struggle may be. There are two possible terminations, either of which would accomplish the great object of uniting the whole peninsula under one government – first & least likely (however devoutly to be wished for) the establishment of a federal Republic, but I have little hope of living to sing Nunc dimittis [11]  for such a consummation. Secondly that the right of succession should be acknowledged in the Princess of Brazil, [12]  which <this> would ultimately unite both countries under Antonio, the present Prince of Beira. [13]  In failure of Ferdinand and his brother, her claim appears to me indubitable. [14]  Without advancing so heretical an opinion as that of the Deputy who would have the poor Bird in the cage throttle himself for the good of his country, [15]  I do think it is his duty to die childless with a view to such a union, – if any of a family so entirely effete could have any views at all!

It would have delighted me to have seen your friend Madam Lavaggi. [16]  She has indeed seen the cup of sorrow filled for her country, but I trust she will yet see the cup of retribution filled for its oppressors. It is not in the xxxx order of things that such a tyranny should be permanent, human nature, and the moral laws of the world must be revolutionized before it can become so. & the whole of the power of France is built upon sand. Let but the thread of one life break, – & and the whole of these upstart thrones will be crushed like that in the Tale of <the> Genii when Misner cut the rope in the cavern. [17] 

Longman will send you my new poem. [18]  Accept it as a mark of the writers respect for one who holds the orthodox creed of poetry, – founded upon & connected as it is with moral principles it may truly be called xx <a> saving faith. It will not surprize me if you rather wonder at the work than like it, for if half a dozen persons in the world should enjoy it, it will be more than I expect. This feeling should have prevented me from beginning it. It only had the effect of making it lie unfinished for seven years.

Believe me

Yours with respect & esteem

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ H. C. Robinson Esqr/ 56. Hatton Garden
Endorsed: DECR 1. 1810/ SOUTHEY/ about his communicat./ with Spain
MS: Dr Williams’s Library, Crabb Robinson MSS. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 544–545. BACK

[1] See Southey to Manuel Abella, 7 November 1810, Letter 1824. The Spanish city of Zaragoza had been besieged in 1808 and 1809. It fell to the French on 20 February 1809 after an outbreak of disease. For Southey’s accounts of the first and second sieges, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 306–321; and Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 508–527. BACK

[2] The Spanish military commander, Jose Miguel de la Cueva, 13th Duke of Alburquerque (1774–1811). The Duke was in London as an Ambassador from the Spanish Junta, and Abella was acting as his assistant. For Southey’s praise of the Duke’s military actions in 1809, see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 557. BACK

[3] José de Urbina y Urbina, 3rd Conde de Cartaojal (1761–1833), commander of the Spanish Army defeated at the Battle of Ciudad-Real on 27 March 1809. BACK

[4] A disastrous defeat of Spanish forces in the south of Spain on 28 March 1809. BACK

[5] William Parker Carrol (1776–1842), liaison officer between the British and Spanish forces. Later promoted to Major-General and Field Marshal in the Spanish Army. BACK

[6] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), British general in charge of the retreat to Corunna. BACK

[7] Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761–1811), commander of Spanish forces in Galicia. He aided Moore’s retreat in 1809 and subsequently in 1809–1810 drove the French out of Galicia. BACK

[8] The invasion of Greece in 480–479 BC by Xerxes I (519–465 BC; King of Persia 486–465 BC). It culminated in the Persians’ defeat at Platea. BACK

[9] E.g. the ‘private letter’ from Coruña, in The Times, 10 April 1810. Southey had assumed Robinson’s authorship because the latter had gone to Spain in 1808 as a special correspondent for The Times. BACK

[10] Domingo Mariano de Traggia y Urribarri, Marquis del Palacio (1744–1816) had been invited by the Spanish Cortes in October 1810 to take a temporary seat on the Council of Regency. But he had quibbled about the oath of loyalty to the Cortes and its possible conflict with his oaths of loyalty to the monarchy. The Cortes removed him from the Regency and briefly imprisoned him. See Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.1 (1812), 495–497. BACK

[11] The ‘Song of Simeon’ (‘Now thou dost dismiss’), Luke 2: 29–32, in which the speaker expresses the thought that he may now die in peace. BACK

[12] Charlotte (1775–1830), eldest sister of Ferdinand VII (1784–1833; King of Spain 1808 and 1813–1833) and wife of John VI (1767–1826; Prince Regent of Portugal 1799–1816; King of Portugal 1816–1826). BACK

[13] The eldest son of Princess Charlotte and John VI, Prince Francisco Antonio Pio (1795–1801). He had been succeeded as Prince of Beira (second in line to the Portuguese throne) by his younger brother, Prince Pedro (1798–1834; King of Portugal 1826; Emperor of Brazil 1822–1834). BACK

[14] Ferdinand VII had two surviving brothers: Charles, Count of Molina (1788–1855); and Francisco, Duke of Cadiz (1794–1865). All three brothers were prisoners in France and all were childless at this time. BACK

[15] An unidentified reference: presumably it was a sentiment expressed by a Deputy to the Spanish Cortes. BACK

[16] Lavaggi (dates unknown) had been treasurer of Galicia. When Robinson returned to England, the Lavaggis came with him as refugees. The name of his wife is unknown. BACK

[17] James Ridley (1736–1765; DNB), Tales of the Genii, or, The Delightful Lessons of Horam, the Son of Asmar, 2 vols, (London, 1764), II, p. 9; a collection of pseudo-oriental stories, including that of ‘The Enchanter, or, The Sultan of Misnar’. BACK

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

People mentioned

Abella, Manuel (1753–1817) (mentioned 1 time)
Amyot, Thomas (1775–1850) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)