1901. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 10 April 1811

1901. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 10 April 1811 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

Were there any papers respecting Austria published <printed> last session? if there were, no doubt they would inform me of some things which I ought to know.

I am finishing the 17th Chapter, which relates to Turkey, Czerni George, [1]  & Levant politics. [2]  You will give me credit for industry when you see how much I have collected. The 18th begins with Spain, & with the four following Chapters is ready. [3]  Then comes the Austrian war, [4]  to be dispatched in one, – Walcheren (ready) [5]  – the Tyrol one more. [6]  Back again to the peninsular for the second act beginning with Wellesleys  [7]  arrival there – from 5 to 6 chapters [8]  – 1 for France, & a concluding one for our own ministerial squabbles [9]  – this is a long prospect, – but if it be needful I can write the two or three last chapters at Streatham, – as I shall be far ahead of the printers. Computing by Chapters is a vague way – some which are written have extended to 40 pages, some which are to write will hardly exceed 10, – none I think outstretch 20. Averaging them at 15 – there will be 150 pages which is six weeks close work, but I will be in London before the end of May if hard work can I work days & quarters to clear off my hands.

This has been vile treason at Badajoz, [10]  – of all the calamities in Estremadura Romana’s death [11]  has been the cause. I have a letter from Gen. Carrol [12]  which speaks very feelingly to this effect. Beresford [13]  will recover the places which have been lost. – As for the prisoners the French cannot certainly now spare men to escort them to France & if they are not butchered they will escape. More men – more men should be the way. An English army in Spain, with an English Commander in Chief, training & officering the Spaniards.

When will Massena [14]  make a stand? xxx I think Almeida & C Rodrigo will be recovered before he can be in a condition to make us act on the defensive. [15]  He cannot be succoured without withdrawing troops from the South; where they cannot be spared. Oh xxxx for the Troop Ships at this moment!


Monday Ap. 10. 1811.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS/ 10: April 1811
MS: Huntington Library, RS 173. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Karageorge Petrovitch [Czerni George; Black George] (1768–1817), one of the leaders of the first Serbian uprising against Ottoman rule. BACK

[2] See the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 446–469. BACK

[3] These five chapters became Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 470–560. BACK

[4] Events in Austria and its environs in fact filled Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 575–659. BACK

[5] 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

[6] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 640–659, covering the unsuccessful revolt in the Tyrol against France’s ally, Bavaria, in April–November 1809. BACK

[7] In 1809 Wellesley had been appointed ambassador-extraordinary to the Spanish junta in Seville. His main aim was to support the British army in the peninsula commanded by his brother, the future Duke of Wellington. BACK

[8] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 623–786. BACK

[9] These two items (events in France and squabbling – in the case of Canning and Castlereagh, duelling – British politicians) formed one chapter, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 787–797. BACK

[10] The ‘treason’ involved the Spanish commanders, General Gabriel de Mendizabal Iraeta (1765–1838) and General José Imaz Baquedano (1767–1834), particularly the later. Mendizabal had been sent by Wellington to relieve the besieged, strategically important Estemaduran city of Badajoz. However, he ignored orders and failed to entrench his army. The French attacked and inflicted a heavy defeat on Mendizabal, some 4000 Spanish troops were captured and 1000 killed or wounded. This victory allowed the French to concentrate all their forces on Badajoz. The commander of the city’s garrison, Imaz, decided to ‘act a dishonourable part’ and surrendered on 11 March 1811; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 4.1 (1813), 248–251 (esp. 250). BACK

[11] The Spanish general Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761–1811) had been the orignal commander of the troops sent to Badajoz. He died on 23 January 1811 before they could depart and his command passed to Mendizabal. BACK

[12] 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

[13] Southey’s confidence was misplaced, though understandable given his advocacy of the need to apply British training and leadership in the campaign in the peninsular. In 1809 and 1810 the Anglo-Irish officer William Carr Beresford, Viscount Beresford (1768–1854; DNB), had achieved great success in applying British training methods to the Portuguese army, to which he had been appointed Marshal. In early 1811 he was given a field command. Unfortunately, as the manoeuvres leading up to the battle of Albuera (16 May 1811) revealed, Beresford was significantly more effective on the parade ground than in combat. Although Albuera was an allied victory, it came at great human cost and Beresford’s tactics were roundly condemned. His career never fully recovered. BACK

[14] The French Marshal André Massena (1758–1817). BACK

[15] The Spanish cities of Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo had been captured by the French in summer 1810. Ciudad Rodrigo was recaptured by the allies in January 1812. BACK

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)