2051. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 27 February 1812

2051. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 27 February 1812 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

Of late I have been almost overwhelmed with proof sheets, & as if the Devil were determined I should have no time ever to think of hitching him into a ballad again, he has contrived that I should have half a score of letters to write upon a subject no ways concerning me. There came to me in a parcel from Murray a book entitled Commentary on the Memoirs of Mr Fox, [1]  – evidently not yet published, for the last sheet was in its proof state, & the conclusion wanting. I had not dipt into three pages before I saw that it must be Landors, & had not read half a dozen before I found that it must involve him in about as many prosecutions. Of course I wrote directly both to him & to Murray, – & it quite vexatious to think how many letters I have written in consequence, having been obliged to act as mediator between L. & the bookseller, & now that all the actionable parts are expunged I am in my trouble is not yet over. For there remains a vehement attack upon Canning, [2]  to whom Murray is personally obliged, & which of course he would never have consented to publish had he inspected the mss. but this he did not do, in compliment to L. & confidence in him as a friend of mine. He wishes to be allowed to transfer the work to another publisher, taking the whole trouble upon himself, but L. has been so little master of himself in the correspondence with him, that M. could only make this proposal thro me, & I have not yet received the answer. [3]  All Ls letters to me upon the subject have been what they ought to be, & I expect to finish the business satisfactorily, – but it has vexed me a little, & interrupted me a good deal.

The carpet is arrived & very handsome, – but I fear very ill made in point of strength. The six shilling order seems to have come too late, 5/6 being charged for it, & the texture very coarse & very slight. The brown is rather claret than chocolate, & will neither look so well nor wear so well, – but it is very handsome & will greatly improve the grandeur of my room. The Lion is a grand Lion, – verily a most worthy beast, – but I wish the Devil had the blue sky, for ten days weather will make dirty weather of it, & every coal that would only singe the Lions hide without hurting him, will make a flaw in the firmament.

To night I have a letter from Longman, apologizing for long silence, which was because Pinkerton [4]  was not in town. For his collection it is too late, & the separate publication they think would not answer, – but they are much obliged by the offer &c. – I suppose your books are on the road, as well as some which are bound hitherwards. But if they should not the J Arc & Madoc [5]  are so nearly compleated that it is not worth while to repeat the order till all can go together.

Rickman unluckily franked the Argentina [6]  here thinking it would find you. I shall send it to Murray in about a week, to y & he will send it you with a set of the Q. Review, & the Book of Bell & the Dragon. [7] 

I believe Sarah has no reason to be uneasy about Margaret. the appearance is not very unusual I believe. Her own headaches I hope will leave her soon – You ought to have no complaints with so eminent a physician in the family.

I hope that Suchets [8]  career is stopt, – it appears that we have sent troops to Carthagena & Alicant, – both these places can always be reinforced by sea, & the remembrance of Tarifa [9]  will not encourage the French to storm a breach against British soldiers. Blake [10]  ought to have defended Valencia as Palafox [11]  did Zaragoza, & then he would have destroyed Suchet, who had no certainty of reinforcements, & the Guerrillas in full activity behind him. I doubt xxxxx whether we shall succeed at Badajoz. [12]  Soult [13]  will march to relieve it, & Marmont [14]  prevent Ld Wellington for concerting his forces there, – yet the thing will not be attempted without some p good probability of success. The D del Infantado [15]  is a man likely to adopt good measures, so is Odonnell, [16]  – who is the right O-donnel, – the one of that name taken at Valencia [17]  is not the man who distinguished himself in Catalonia. If we raise a Spanish army, the French will be beaten out of the field in twelve months, – if we do not, the war may go in on in as it does at present till France is worn out with the continual drain, or delivered by some accident from its present damnable state of oppression. C. Rodrigo [18]  was a great & important stroke: the place is not so strong as Badajoz but it is a more important position. And if the new Government exert themselves as ODonnel & Ballesteros [19]  are likely to do, they may make such play at Cadiz as shall fully occupy Soult, while General Hill [20]  carries on the siege.

Thursday Feby 27. 1812.

Last night I had a letter announcing a new cousin he-cousin, whom I am obliged to designate by the gender, because my uncle is puzzled what name to give him. His mothers he would have given, but Bigg Hill would be ridiculous as he says – if the hero should prove a diminutive. So he thinks either of Wither, which he does not like, – or Oliver, – in opposition to Rowland. [21]  – I shall recommend Bradford to him, as a name ennobled in our martyrology [22] 

Love to Sarah & kiss to my godsdaughter-niece

God bless you



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

[1] By Walter Savage Landor. Although Landor’s book was printed, Murray eventually suppressed its publication, refusing to publish a book that attacked the Tory government and was dedicated to James Madison (1751–1836), President of the United States, with whom Britain was about to go to war. BACK

[2] Charles James Fox: a Commentary on his Life and Character by Walter Savage Landor, ed. Stephen Wheeler (1907), p. 216: ‘He was a very extraordinary boy, and is a very extraordinary boy still. He has not grown an inch in intellect … [he is] answerable to the country for the loss of five thousand men, and for the worst of all our badly planned attacks [the Walcheren expedition of 1809]. Canning is among those sour productions, which acquire an early tinge of maturity, and drop off. It is idleness or unwariness in those who pick them up and taste them, and folly or shame in those who do not spit them out.’ BACK

[3] See Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 23 February 1812, Letter 2045. BACK

[4] John Pinkerton (1758–1826; DNB), editor of A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World (1808–1814). Southey had approached Murray to enquire about the possibility of publishing a ‘voyage’ narrative Tom had found or translated. BACK

[5] A fourth edition of Joan of Arc and a third of Madoc appeared in 1812. BACK

[6] Ruy Diaz de Guzman (1558–1629), La Argentina, y Historia de las Descubrimento de las Provinicas de la Rio de la Plata (1612). The copy made by Tom Southey was no. 3836 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] 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. BACK

[8] Louis Gabriel Suchet, 1st Duc d’Albufera (1770–1826), Marshal of France and key figure in the French campaign in the Iberian peninsula. He captured Valencia in January 1812. BACK

[9] The port of Tarifa near Cadiz was besiged by the French in 1811–1812. An attempt to storm a breach in the walls on 31 December 1811 failed, mainly because of bad weather. BACK

[10] 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

[11] José Rebolledo de Palafox y Melzi (1780–1847), Spanish general, who in 1808 and 1809 commanded the defending forces at the first and second sieges of Zaragosa. The city fell to the French after an outbreak of disease and Palafox was imprisoned. BACK

[12] An Anglo-Portuguese force successfully besieged Badajoz, 16 March-6 April 1812. BACK

[13] Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult, 1st Duke of Dalmatia (1769–1851), overall commander of the French forces in Spain and Portugal. BACK

[14] Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont, 1st Duke of Ragossa (1774–1852), a Marshal of France, he had taken command of the French army in the north of Spain in July 1810. In the first part of 1812 he and Wellington were involved in a series of exchanges that led to the latter’s victory at Salamanca, 22 July 1812. BACK

[15] Pedro de Alcántara Álvarez de Toledo, 13th Duke of the Infantado (1768–1841). Spanish general and grandee, who headed a mission to Britain in 1811–1812. Although Wellington proposed he should be given command of the 4th Army, his opponents vetoed this and he just had command of his own regiment. BACK

[16] The Spanish commander Henry Joseph O’Donnell y Mareschal, 1st Count of la Bisbal (1789–1834), who had been ennobled and raised to the rank of field-marshal for his exploits in the Catalonian campaign of 1810. BACK

[17] General Carlos O’Donnell (1773–1830), taken prisoner at the siege of Valencia in January 1812. BACK

[18] The city of Ciudad Rodrigo had been captured from the French on 19 January 1812. BACK

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

[20] The British general Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill (1772–1842; DNB). In spring 1812 he led a successful operation to capture strategically important sites at Almarez on the river Tagus from the French. BACK

[21] Oliver and Roland were two legendary knights and best friends in the 11th century Le Chanson de Roland. ‘Roland’ may be a play on the name of Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill (1772–1842; DNB). BACK

[22] . Bradford was the maiden name of Herbert Hill’s maternal grandfather (and Southey’s great-grandfather). It was also the name of the English Protestant martyr John Bradford (1510–1555; DNB). The new baby was eventually named Errol Hill. BACK

People mentioned