1833. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 2 December 1810

1833. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 2 December 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 2. 1810

I have been beating up in all directions for information of the affairs of Spain in 1809, & at last it has proved to some purpose, for I have obtained an introduction to, & opened a correspondence with the Duke de Albuquerques [1]  Secretary, Manuel Abella. “No puede ser a V.M. desconocido mi nombre, (he tells me) el qual hallara V.M. en xx el Catalogo de los Academicos de numero de la Real Academia Española, que se halla al principio del Diccionario de la Ligua Castellana, publicado en 1803.” [2]  – Ex pede [3] D Manuel Abella. But he <is to> lendxx me the Semanario Patriotico, [4]  & the Government Gazettes [5]  (which he wrote himself till he was sent here with Cevallos –) [6]  & the Journal of the Siege of Gerona, [7]  – & he has written to Cadiz to procure other information from some of his friends in the Cortes. Meantime I shall send him some specific queries as to certain operations of the armies in which the D. of Albuquerque was concerned, – & if I can but extract specific answers from him it will be all I want.

By the same channel I have a way opened xxxx for obtaining information respecting Romanas [8]  operations in the North. Amyot who was Windhams Secretary [9]  is intimately acquainted with Colonel Carol, [10]  & has offered to transmit any questions to him, & receive answers thro his office – he is in xx Xxxxxxx of the Secretary of States offices. For these introductions I am indebted to Henry Robinson, whom I never saw but once. – but whom I liked well enough by what I then saw & what I have since heard of him, to apply to for assistance, – he having been in Spain since we met. He is a man of great ability, & in all most important matters of opinion after my own heart.

In consequence of having discovered these new but distant sources of information my arrangement for the volume [11]  must now be altered. I xx intended after relating & commenting upon the Parliamentary Proceedings respecting Spain & Portugal to have continued with the xxxx history of the peninsula from the time of the xxxxx evacuation of Coruña down to the landing of Sir A Wellesley at Lisbon, when the breaking out of the Austrian war took place. [12]  – here there is a natural division of the subject – then to have returned to the Parliament, got thro that heavy matter, the continental war, & the miscellaneous xxxxx <occurences> of the year, – & conclude the volume with the remaining part of the Spanish affairs. Upon this plan I have kept the press waiting for the last fortnight in hope of obtaining some details respecting the second siege of Zaragoza. [13]  The four first chapters (all parliamentary matter) are printed as far as they would go without the commencement of the fifth which took up the xx war in Spain. Luckily there was not copy enough in Ballantynes hands to go farther, & by throwing the whole of the peninsular history together at the end of the volume, I shall gain from six to eight or ten weeks, – in which time information may reach me from Spain & Lisbon.

In this time xxxxxx you could xxxxxxxxxxx learn for me, if you do not already know, whether Gen. Freire was indeed a traitor, or only a weak irresolute man, having neither confidence in his troops nor in himself. [14]  The stories of his having buried the ammunition, & of papers being found containing his agreement with the French are palpably absurd: but I do not find xxx any intimation that the Regency supposed him innocent, nor can I discern that any steps were taken against the M. de Loule & the other nobles who were sent prisoners to Lisbon [15]  when he was put to death, – so that their guilt remains xx a matter of doubt. What is become of these people? are they, after the old custom, in confinement, & forgotten there? Is it possible to procure a set of the Gazetas [16]  for last year? Indeed I should be glad to receive them regularly if they could be sent in parcels two or three times a year – to get them by way of the post office is too expensive. I have ordered a Spanish paper to the Register’s account, & it will cost six guineas a year. How full of vaunts the Gazeta will be I am well aware, – but it must necessarily contain some details & individual facts which would assist me & I am accustomed to the business of picking grains out of xx chaff.

I have got on a good way in the year, the 5th 7. & 8th chapters are written, & what new information I may obtain will be woven into them. a gap remains in the 6th for Zaragoza. I was upon the 9th to day – containing Soults xxxxx capture of Porto, [17]  which would have finished the first division of the peninsular affairs but now this must be laid aside for the D of York [18]  & the rest of the Parl. Proc. Of this baser matter I have done some, & also xx got thro the Walcheren business, [19]  which is a laborious & unpleasant task got rid off of. I expect to compleat the whole early in March

Give me love to my Aunt – of whom I look anxiously every day for good news. We are going on well. – B Freres list is slipt somewhere out of sight. I have many of the books, – the one which I most wish to see is Lorenzanas publication of Cortes’ letters. [20] 



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Postmarks: E/ 5 DE 5/ 1810; 10 o’clock/ DE 5/ 1810
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Spanish military commander, Jose Miguel de la Cueva, 13th Duke of Alburquerque (1774–1811). Southey later wrote an account of his final months as ambassador in England, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 296–297. BACK

[2] The Spanish translates as: ‘My name cannot be unknown to you, you will find it in the Catalogue of the full Members of the Royal Spanish Academy, which may be found in the opening pages of the Dictionary of the Castilian Language published in 1803.’ BACK

[3] A contraction of ‘ex pede Herculem’, ‘from his foot, we measure Hercules’ i.e. ‘it is possible to extract the whole from the part’. BACK

[4] El Semanario Patriótico, a periodical in Seville edited by Blanco White 1808–1810. It criticised the French invasion, promoted the fight for Spanish independence and denounced religious dogmatism. BACK

[5] This connection was the beginning of Southey’s collection of 24 volumes of Spanish Gazetas, 1808–1813, no. 3472 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[6] The Spanish politician Pedro Cevallos Guerra (1760–1840). He had served as First Secretary of State (Prime Minister) from 1799–1808, but resigned and fled to England after the French invasion. He only returned to Spain in 1814. In November of the same year he was reappointed as First Secretary. BACK

[7] Juan Andres Nieto Samaniego (fl. 1810), Memorial Historica de los Sucesos mas Notables de Armas y Estado de la Salud Publica Durante el Ultimo Sitio de la Plaza de Gerona (1810). The Spanish city of Gerona had fallen to the French on 12 December 1809, after a seven-month siege. Southey’s account is in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 768–786. BACK

[8] The Spanish general Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761–1811). BACK

[9] Thomas Amyot had been private secretary to William Windham (1750–1810; DNB) since 1806. BACK

[10] 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

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

[12] See chapters 24–27 of the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 575–659, relating the defeat of Austria by France in 1809. BACK

[13] The Spanish city of Zaragoza had been twice besieged by in 1808–1809, falling to the French on 20 February 1809. For Southey’s account of the second siege, which was noted for its brutality; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 508–527. BACK

[14] Bernardino Freire de Andrade e Castro (1759–1809), Portuguese general, who commanded the army of Portuguese levies that was formed to meet the French at the Battle of Braga, 20 March 1809. Aware that the position was hopeless, but that if he ordered a retreat he would be murdered by his troops, Freire attempted to slip away to Oporto, but was captured, imprisoned at Braga and then murdered. BACK

[15] Agostinho Domingos Jose de Mendoca Rolim de Moura Barreto (1780–1824), 1st Marquess of Loulé, was one of a number of officers who were arrested at Braga for being too close to General Freire. He was lucky to escape with his life – some of his fellow officers were murdered by their troops. BACK

[16] At this time Southey laid the foundation of his 24 volumes of Spanish Gazetas, 1808–1813, no. 3472 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[17] Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult, 1st Duke of Dalmatia (1769–1851), commanded the French forces at the Battle of Braga, 20 March 1809, and captured Oporto on 28 March 1809. BACK

[18] In 1809, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB) had been forced to resign as commander-in-chief of the British army in the wake of allegations that he had profited from office trafficking. After a lengthy investigation, the charges were found to be unproven. It had, however, become apparent that his former mistress Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB) had received money from individuals keen for her to use her influence with the Duke, and that the Duke himself had known of her actions. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 109–301. BACK

[19] The Walcheren Campaign, an unsuccessful British expedition to the Netherlands in 1809. The plan had been to open another front in the war against Napoleon. Although there was little actual fighting, the British forces were severely depleted by a sickness quickly dubbed the ‘Walcheren Fever’. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 660–692. BACK

[20] Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana (1722–1804), Archbishop of Mexico, 1766–1772. His Historia de la Nueva Espana (1770), reprinted the Second, Third and Fourth of Hernan Cortes’s (1485–1547) ‘Cartas de Relacion’, explaining and justifying his actions in conquering Mexico in 1519–1521. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)