1891. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 28 March 1811

1891. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 28 March 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. March 28. 1811.

My dear Sir

I prevented Mrs Southey from writing to Mrs Browne & thanking her for your excellent lamperns [1]  by telling her that I would write to you: – days, & weeks & months have passed on, & my promise remained unfulfilled. Much employment ought not to be my excuse at any time, because it might be one at all times, – yet I have no other to offer, & trust you will have the goodness to accept this.

We have had an uneasy winter with the children, – sickness has scarcely ever been out of the house. & Bertha is at this time suffering under a bilous attack. These things disquiet & even harrass me more than they ought to do, or should do, if we could always regulate our feelings by the occasion which calld them forth. I have not however been idle upon the whole, – the things of this kind have but too often xxxxxxxxxxx disturbed the course of my employments. You may sometimes have traced me in the Quarterly. That view of the Evangelical Sects was mine, [2]  – it has been praised so highly for its fairness that I am sorry to think fair reasoning should be considered so unusual. But the Ed. An. Register [3]  has taken up the greatest part of my time, & continues so to do. The year 1809 was so crowded with events that the history must be half as long again as that of the preceding year. This perhaps may be little to the satisfaction of the readers – I can assure them it is less to mine, & least of all to the publishers. [4]  The Duke of York [5]  & Mr Curwens foolish Bill, [6]  & the Austrian war [7]  must bear the blame.

I have been exceedingly fortunate in procuring Spanish documents from the poor Duke of Albuquerque’s [8]  Secretary, D Manuel Abella, who is now returned to Cadiz to resume a situation answering to that of our Under Sec. of State for foreign affairs. He has supplied me with a collection of newspapers & official documents, which when they are bound will not form less than eight volumes, – coming down to the time of his departure, & he promises me a regular supply of every thing that appears. – I have also obtained means of communication with General Carrol [9]  & had sent a few questions thro him to Romana [10]  himself, which the death of that excellent Spaniard prevented him from answering. A grievous loss to his country, as has been but too severely proved by the misconduct with which his army in the short space of a month was frittered away.

Things however yet look well, & if this country will but act with sufficient vigour we must be successful. Here is another victory at Cadiz to convince us x once more of our decided superiority over the French, & of the folly of parsimony in war! – Have you read Pasleys Essay on our Military Policy? [11]  – He talks sometimes of conquest where he ought only to talk of emancipation, but it is nevertheless the most important political work that has ever appeared, & I earnestly hope that it may prove to our military system what Clarke of Eldens treatise [12]  is said to have proved to the navy.

An acquaintance of mine at Liverpool, Mr Koster formerly a Lisbon Merchant, seems to me to have made a discovery in political oeconomy. He has been writing upon this Bullion question, & the doctrine which he advances is that the whole evil consists in the error of having fixed a standard price for gold, the value of which like that of every thing else must depend upon the proportion between the supply & the consumption. [13]  Now the supply has materially decreased of late years, & the increased consumption is truly astonishing. Nearly half a million sterling is annually worked up in gold watches in this kingdom. I suppose chains & seals <&c> are included, – & even then this seems almost incredible. The kingdom’s depreciation of Bank Notes he shows to be a mere absurdity. The depreciation of paper money shews itself like that of the stocks numerically & palpable. A pound note is not depreciated when it passes for twenty shillings. The fact is that gold has become scarcer & therefore dearer. & no maximum can controul this natural course of things.

Your little girl [14]  is by this time of an age to be a fathers live doll. Our Katharine has not thriven. She is plump but very small, & has almost continually been ailing. I doubt whether her mother will be able to wean her soon enough to accompany me to the south in May. – My brother Tom went to Durham at Christmas. my sister has lately presented him with a little girl, & I believe he is now thinking of trying his fortune once more upon the seas. A woman need have a resolute heart if she marries either solider or sailor.

Mrs S & her sisters [15]  beg their remembrances to Mrs Browne & your daughters. [16]  We never look at Barrow Street without a wish which is no breach of the tenth commandment [17]  – because we do not covet it for ourselves – believe me my dear Sir

Yours with true respect

R Southey


* Address: To/ Wade Browne Esqr/ Ludlow
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Lampreys. BACK

[2] Southey’s review of Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

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

[4] John Ballantyne was concerned enough about the length of the historical section to insist that Southey explained himself to the readers in a prefatory note; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), [v]–vi. BACK

[5] 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

[6] In 1809 the MP for Carlisle, John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), had introduced a Bill for ‘“better securing the independence and purity of Parliament, by preventing the procuring or obtaining seats by corrupt practices, and likewise more effectually to prevent bribery”’. Southey’s account is in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 249–281. BACK

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

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

[9] 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

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

[11] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). Reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–457. BACK

[12] John Clerk, of Eldin (1728–1812; DNB), An Essay on Naval Tactics (1790). BACK

[13] John Theodore Koster, A Short Statement of the Trade in Gold Bullion: Shewing the True Causes of the General Scarcity and Consequent High Price on that Precious Metal: Also Demonstrating that the Notes of the Bank of England are Not Depreciated (1810). It went into a second edition in 1811, and Koster followed this with Further Observations on Bullion and Bank Notes (1811). BACK

[14] Mary Browne (dates unknown), Wade Browne’s only child from his second marriage. BACK

[16] Wade Browne’s daughters from his first marriage: Lydia (c. 1789–1864); Elizabeth; and Sarah. BACK

[17] Exodus 20: 17: ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.’ BACK

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