1995. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 December 1811

1995. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 December 1811 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

Taking it for granted that we shall see you soon, – your best way of coming will be to sleep at Bowes, & take the mail the next morning, which will set you down at Penrith early enough to reach this place by the time evening closes in. Should <Lest> the weather <should> prove too bad for walking, you had better so time your movements that the next morning may be the coach day to Keswick, – either Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

Longman will send you the two years Registers in the same parcel with Vancouver. [1]  I am under-weigh with the third, [2]  & shall in the course of a few days send off the first portion to the Press. At present we are in the midst of a mighty operation, – cutting up the whole years newspapers, & pasting the excerpts in blue books, – to be bound up as “Newspaper Collections for the History of 1810.” – arranged under the various heads of Spain, – North of Europe, – United States &c &c –

My progress in Dutch is a great joy, & will I perceive soon put the German within my reach. – I met with a ludicrous mistake the other day of the manner in which a metaphor strikes us in another language tho the same metaphor is perfectly familiar in our own. We talk of a glass of spirits – & perceive nothing remarkable in the term, – the Dutch call it a glass of ghosts.

General Hills [3]  is indeed a master stroke, – it is the first example of what we want so sorely, enterprize & celerity. I do not know whether I told you that Herries is made Commissary General. I wrote to him about portable soup for the soldiers, in such cases as this where speed is required, – & shall communicate to him all the notions for bettering the condition of the soldiers which come into my head. – We must I fear expect to hear that Valencia is fallen, – nevertheless things are going on well upon the whole in Spain. It is manifest by Blakes [4]  last defeat, & by all the movements of Ballasteros [5]  that the Spaniards are improving in skill, & if we do but learn enterprize, nothing more is wanted. I wish to Heaven the affairs of S America looked as well as those of the mother country. Miranda [6]  seems to be as blood-thirsty as if he were still in the French service.

You know probably that Brougham in the Edinburgh recommends the Register to the notice of Parliament. [7]  Would not be amusing if I were to be summoned to the Bar of the House, & delivered over to form an acquaintance with Mr Coleman the Sergeant at Arms? [8]  – As I am no speaker I should read my defence, which would be very short & very pithy – full of respect for the house, claiming the privileges of an historian living under a free government, & enjoying the freedom of the press, – & appealing to the whole tenour of the book whether it were contemptuous toward that House, or aimed at sowing disaffection, & finally appealing to its justice, – this with a cut or two at Mr Brougham & the “friends of freedom” who want all freedom for themselves & none for any body else would read well in the next days papers, make the book in requisition & give me as much notoriety as any private gentleman need wish for. That I should keep my head upon my shoulders is pretty certain, – but it is by no means so certain that I shall be able to keep it out of the shop windows. – Such an event would do more for my books than all their intrinsic merit has done, – for I should have something said on my behalf by Canning & perhaps Perceval, – which would be worth all the praise of all the reviews that ever have been or will be written. Perhaps the fear of having an odium brought upon themselves will deter the Whitbreadites [9]  from this wise measure. To me it would be attended with no other inconvenience than a journey to London six months earlier than I intended with perhaps a few nights lodging in Newgate, [10]  – that however would be very doubtful, – a reprimand from the Speaker might perhaps be thought enough. But I might possibly come off with flying colours, N’importe, – with honour assuredly in any way.

As for Brougham he is delivered into my hands in Dr Bells quarrel. [11]  I have him on the hip, & will give him such a cross buttock as he has never had before. About that question I shall say no more than that what you have heard about Coleridge is from one end to the other false. [12] 


We are up to the knees in papers – cutting up the Times & the Chronicle of the whole year & arranging the materials into my “Newspaper Collections for 1810 – a labour which is far greater than you would suppose. Perhaps you will come before it is concluded. We are got on as far as June 23 to day.

If I knew what day to expect you I would walk out to meet you, but this you can hardly tell me, so much indeed does it depend upon circumstances. Come however soon, & stay as long as you can when you do come. I wish Sarah & Miss Margery could come with you, but I suppose they will not come till I go fetch them. My love to them. I shall find my way to St Helens some time in 1812.

This evening the first xxx batch goes off to Ballantyne. Ediths love. The young ones have all a cold – was there ever such a succession of stormy weather! –

God bless you


December 7. 1811.


* Address: To/ Captain Southey. R.N./ St Helens/ Auckland/ Durham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810) and 1809 (1811), together with George Vancouver (1757–1798; DNB), A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean (1798). BACK

[2] i.e. Southey’s contribution to the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[3] Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill (1744–1833; DNB), had recently pursued a successful campaign in Portugal against French forces led by General Jean-Baptiste Girard (1775–1815). BACK

[4] The Spanish officer Joaquin Blake y Joyes (1759–1827). After a series of defeats, Blake and his forces were trapped in Valencia, where they surrendered on 8 January 1812. BACK

[5] Francisco Ballesteros (1770–1832), one of the Spanish commanders in the south of Spain. BACK

[6] Sebastian Francisco de Miranda Ravelo y Rodriguez de Espinoza (1750–1816), Venezuelan revolutionary who played a key part in his country’s struggle for independence in 1810–1812, until he was captured by the Spanish. He had fought in the French army in 1791–1792 and was a friend of the leading Girondins. Southey’s account of events and analysis of the ‘adventurer’ Miranda’s character appeared in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 367–394. He accused Miranda of labouring ‘from the beginning to promote his own views of ambition’ (386). BACK

[7] A long aside in the Edinburgh Review, 18 (August 1811), 420–423n, had questioned whether the ‘virulent personal abuse … levelled at the most respectable members of the Legislature’ in the Edinburgh Annual Register was in breach of Parliamentary privilege and hinted that action against the author and publishers might be taken. In the event, the Edinburgh Review’s suggestion was not acted on. BACK

[8] Francis John Colman, serjeant-at-arms (i.e. the chief law enforcement office in the Houses of Parliament) 1805–1811, died in Portugal on 12 December 1811. His successor was John Clementson (1780–1856), who served in a temporary capacity from January-March 1812, when the post went to Henry Seymour (1778–1844), who held it until 1835. BACK

[9] The Whigs as followers of Samuel Whitbread (1758–1815; DNB). BACK

[10] London’s main prison, at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey. BACK

[11] Probably a reference to Southey’s The Origin, Nature, and Object of the New System of Education (1812), an expansion of Southey’s appraisal of the educational systems advocated by Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster, Quarterly Review, 6 (October 1811), 264–304. Brougham was an advocate for Lancaster’s system and a member of the board of directors of the Royal Lancastrian Institution (later the British and Foreign Schools Society). He had severely criticised Bell in ‘The Education of the Poor’, Edinburgh Review, 17 (November 1810), 58–88. BACK

[12] Coleridge did support Andrew Bell and the Madras system. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)