1895. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 2 April 1811

1895. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 2 April 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. April 2. 1811

My dear Scott

You can probably tell me how I could transmit a copy of Kehama [1]  to your friend Leyden, [2]  for whom tho I do not personally know him, I have always felt a very high respect, regarding him with one only exception (which might be more properly expressed to any person than to you) as a man of more true genius & far higher promise than any of his contemporary countrymen.

In your last you mention a probability of your going to London in the spring. I hope either to meet you there, or to see you on your way. I thought to have been there early in May, but the year 1809 left behind it such a load of labour upon my shoulders that I know not when it will be got rid off of, & till it is done I am chained to the oar. The history will sum to 700 pages, which is half as much again as that of the preceding year. [3]  It could not be shortened without leaving undone those things which ought to be done, [4]  & yet I fear that the length will be urged against it as an objection, tho God knows it is a greater inconvenience to me than it can possibly be to any body else.

No doubt you have seen Pasley’s Essay, [5]  it will be in the main a book after your own heart as it is after mine – He talks sometimes of conquest where he should talk of emancipation. – a system of unlimited conquest leads at last to the consequences which we have seen exemplified in the fate of the Roman Empire. For ourselves I would wish no other accession of dominion than Danish Zealand & Holland in the North, with as many islands as you please in the Mediterranean. Italy to be formed into an independent state under our protection as long as it needed it. – I have been reviewing Pasley (with some help upon statistic points). [6]  – my object has been rather to spread his fame & convert unbelievers to the true faith than to dwell upon any points of difference between us, – for I am fully persuaded that if the war be carried on with vigour & the means which we so abundantly possess be f but fairly excited we may dictate a peace under the walls of Paris. & I believe also that the Ministry do not want the inclination to act vigorously, – but that they want the public opinion to go before & protect them against the opposition. These men & their coadjutors the Morning Chronicle [7]  & the Ed. Review [8]  – have neither patriotism, nor principle, nor feeling, nor shame to stand in their way. They go on predicting the total conquest of the Peninsula with as much effrontery as if they had not predicted it two years ago, – nay even asserted that it was then compleated: – & they deliver their predictions in such a way, that it requires more charity than I possess not to believe that they [MS torn]sh to see them fulfilled: – for this is the last & worst. yet the ne[MS torn]ry effect of party spirit when carried as far as thes[MS torn] politicians carry it.

I do not know that I ever regretted being alone so much as when the news of Grahams victory [9]  arrived. It gave me more delight then I could well hold, & I wanted somebody to share it with me. We shall have great news too from Portugal. Massena [10]  has no lines to fall back upon, & if Lord Wellington can but bring him to action we know what the result must be. How happy his retreat must make Lord Grenville who had just delivered so wise an opinion upon the state of Portugal in the House of Lords! [11] 

Longmans new Review [12]  will interfere with the Quarterly, & so far as it succeeds, so far will it preventxx the extension of our sale. I have not learnt who are the proprietors of it. – Not Longman himself, for he wrote to me some eight or ten weeks ago, xxx wishing me to bear a part in it, & giving me to understand that it was set on foot by some independent M.P’s. – so at least I understood his language. Of course I returned a refusal upon the ground of my previous connection with the Quarterly. [13]  – They have set out better than we did, tho they have a considerable portion of heavy matter, & their first article ought to have been in a very different tone. [14]  Jeffray is to be considered in two characters. as a party-writer & as a critic. his strength is in the former character, & if I were to grapple with him in that it would be no great exertion would be required to serve him as Orlando did the xx prize wrestler in As you like it. [15]  As a critic he requires the same sort of treatment which Gifford bestowed upon the Della Cruscans, – fix the dunces cap upon him & then flog away without mercy. [16]  – Remember me to Mrs Scott & believe me

yrs very truly

R Southey

I hope you received your copy of Kehama.


* Address: To/ Walter Scott Esqr/ Edinburgh
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: AP/ 1811/ 4
Watermark: shield/ JW & BB/ 1808
Endorsement: Southey/ 2d April/ 1811
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3880. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 307–308 [in part]. BACK

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

[2] The poet and linguist John Leyden (1775–1811; DNB). BACK

[3] Southey was not alone in his worries. 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

[4] A line from the ‘General Confession’ in the Book of Common Prayer (1662). BACK

[5] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). BACK

[6] Southey received assistance from Rickman in his review of Pasley. The final product was deemed by Gifford to be ‘perfectly incorrect and dangerous’. The version published in the Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–457, was, therefore, much altered by Croker, in consultation with Gifford and Murray; see Jonathan Cutmore, The Quarterly Review Archive. BACK

[7] The London daily newspaper, which ran from 1769–1862. At this time, under the ownership of James Perry (1756–1821; DNB), it was firmly allied with the Whigs. BACK

[8] The Edinburgh Review (1802–1929) was a quarterly journal closely allied to the Whigs. BACK

[9] Major-General Thomas Graham (1748–1843; DNB), had played a crucial part in the victory of an Anglo-Spanish force at Barrosa on 5 March 1811. BACK

[10] The French commander André Massena (1758–1817) had commenced a retreat from Portugal into Spain on 13 March 1811. BACK

[11] Grenville had made a speech in the House of Lords on 18 March 1811 on the futility of British intervention in Spain and Portugal. Southey noted laconically, ‘Two days after these opinions were delivered, the telegraph announced the news of Massena’s retreat’, Edinburgh Annual Register, 1811, 4.1 (1813), 264. BACK

[12] Longmans’ British Review and London Critical Journal, which ran from 1811–1825. Southey considered contributing, but did not. It was owned by John Weyland (1774–1854: DNB). BACK

[13] Southey’s reply to Longman does not appear to have survived; see also Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 14 January 1811, Letter 1853. BACK

[14] British Review and London Critical Journal, 1 (March 1811), 1–17, a review of Edward Copleston (1776–1849; DNB), Advice to a Young Reviewer, with a Specimen of the Art (1807). BACK

[15] As You Like It, Act 1, scene 2, where Orlando overcomes Charles, the champion wrestler. BACK

[16] Gifford’s The Baviad (1791) and The Maeviad (1795) had attacked the political and poetic principles of the Della Cruscan school of poets whose leader was Robert Merry (1755–1798; DNB). Southey had attempted his own Della Cruscan parodies, see, for example, his letter to Thomas Davis Lamb, 17–29 May 1793, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 49. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)