2366.1 Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 21 January 1814

2366.1 Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 21 January 1814 ⁠* 

When you are in that neighbourhood will you look in at Rodds,  [1]  the dirty bookseller at No 2. Newport Street, the top of St Martins Lane, & see whether No 2207 of his catalogue is worth five shillings – it contains a Guide to Rome, Monserrat, Compostella & all other places of pilgrimage, 1610, – the second article in the book.  [2]  A pilgrims book of the road may very likely have some curious things in it.


Your neighbour [3]  has just sent me down a number of the New Quarterly, & two numbers of the Anti-Jacobine.  [4]  I see by the direction that he paid the carriage, – & according to the constant system of imposition which is practised in these things “carriage paid” is blotted with a line drawn across it, & I have six shillings to pay for a cargo which is only worth its weight as waste paper. I am heartily sorry for Mr B. & know not what to say to him. If he could make & keep a resolution never again to look into any book or journal which touched upon this fatal subject, he would best consult his own peace, but in his present state, his feelings are at the mercy of every journalist. I wish he could be persuaded that the question is one on which it is utterly impossible to excite any public interest. That these articles come from persons connected with the parties concerned, & but for this sort of personal xxxx influence that the subject would not find its way into the reviews. So well am I convinced of this that I think it very likely Mr Grant [5]  may not be able to get it reviewed in the Quarterly: – certain I am that if he should, it will only be a sacrifice both on the part both of the Editor & Publisher to oblige him. Nothing can be done but to let things take their course. Sir G. is coming home;  [6]  – a discussion will take place in Parliament which the public will regard with as much indifference as they did Paulls [7]  struggle against M. Wellesley. Ministers in common decency will lay the matter at rest, & when they have thus given Sir G. a quietus, they will think they have done for him all that he has any reason to expect. He is an ill used man – but when things come to the worst that will befall him is that he must be content to live like an English Gentleman of moderate fortune instead of an Indian Governor, – & the family must wait for a peerage till George Barlow wins one for them in the field of battle, – which if he lives he is likely enough to do some five & twenty years hence.

I have wrought up the virile stanzas of the Carmen into a separate Ode, which is gone to the Courier,  [8]  – or rather to Stuart to be inserted by him if he thinks it not unfit for the palate of this mealy-mouthed generation. If it should not appear there I will transcribe it for you. As for the printed piece of Peellery, it is, from its very nature one of those things which must disappoint every body, & there are xx xxxx very few persons who can be expected to take the trouble of perusing it in a second time, & asking themselves whether any they had any reason for expecting any thing better, or whether any thing better could be made of the same materials. I care not how much it may be criticised, nor how much it may be abused: for I shall never see what is said of it, & if I were {to see} I have a constitutional indifference to praise or censure, which it {would be} giving myself too much credit to ascribe to philosophy. The only difference which there could be between my own opinion & that of the severest critic would be this, that he might call the verses bad, whereas I affirm that they are simply good-for-nothing.

How is Massenas [9]  name accented, Massena or Massena? I want to know because it must be introduced in some of my Inscriptions.  [10]  I may as well fill the remainder of the x sheet by transcribing one of them, – it is for the Battle of Coruña.  [11]  – There is a separate one for Sir J Moore,  [12]  whose ignominy I have taken care not to remember in his epitaph.

When from these shores the British army first
Boldy advanced into the heart of Spain,
The admiring people who beheld its march
Call’d it the beautiful. And surely will                 El hermoso exercito [13] 
Its proud array, its perfect discipline,
Its goodly furniture of war compleat,
Its powerful horse, its men of British mould
All high in heart & hope, all of themselves
Assurd, & in their leaders confident,
Deservd the title. Few short weeks elapsed
Ere that disastrous army here returnd
In hasty & precipitate retreat,
A fourth of all its gallant force consumd;
Stores, treasures & artillery in the wreck
Left to the fierce pursuer, horse & man
Founder’d, & stiffening on the mountain snows.
But when the exulting enemy approachd
Boasting that he would drive into the sea
The remnant of the wretched fugitives,
Here, ere they reachd their ships, they turnd at bay.
Then was the proof of English courage seen:
Against a foe whose strength host outnumberd theirs
Twice-told, – a foe rejoicing in pursuit,
Sure of the fruit of victory, whatsoeer
Might be the fate of battle, here they stood
Xx And their safe embarkation, all they sought,
Won manfully. That mournful day revenged
Their xxxxxxxx {sufferings} & redeemed their countrys name.
And thus Coruña which in that retreat
Had seen the else indelible reproach
Of Britain, saw the stain effaced in blood.

We are all well at present, thank God, – but it is yet too soon to be certain that the very slight attack of scarlet fever which Edith had, has not communicated itself. For my own part I growl at the weather, & wonder that any body will live in England who can live in a better southern climate. We have been covered with snow for three weeks, & the weather belongs to England, not to Cumberland, – for it is worse in Devonshire than it is here. Love to my Aunt & the three Peers.  [14]  I rejoice to hear of the goats fecundity.


Jany. 21. 1814.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Postmarks: 7 o’Clock/ JA 26/ 1814 Nn; [1 illegible]; Too Late for/ Morng Post
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 5. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Thomas Rodd (1763–1822; DNB), bookseller and poet, with a special interest in Spanish literature. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[3] William Barlow (1759–1839), merchant and neighbour of Herbert Hill in Streatham; he commissioned Southey to write the anonymous pamphlet, An Exposure of the Misrepresentations and Calumnies in Mr Marsh’s Review of Sir George Barlow’s Administration of Madras. By the Relatives of Sir George Barlow (1813). BACK

[4] Southey’s reference to the ‘New Quarterly’ is unclear, but the Barlow controversy had been continued in the second edition of Marsh’s Review of Some Important Passages in the Late Administration of Sir George Barlow, Bart., at Madras (1813). Barlow had sent Southey the review of this in the Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, or, Monthly Political and Literary Censor, 45 (November–December 1813), 451–458, 555–564, 625–643; 46 (January 1814), 119–134. This article was continued in vol. 46 (April–May 1814), 362–378, and [417]–440. BACK

[5] A Letter Signed by C. Grant, Esq. …Containing a Minute Examination and Full Vindication of the Measures Adopted by Sir George Barlow, During the Dissensions at the Presidency of Madras (1812). The letter was written by Sir Charles Grant, 1st Lord Glenelg (1778–1866; DNB), a politician closely connected to Indian affairs. It was not reviewed in the Quarterly Review. BACK

[6] Sir George Barlow (1762–1847; DNB), Governor of Madras 1808–1813. His career was blighted by a mutiny of local army officers in 1809. BACK

[7] James Paull (1770–1808), made a fortune in trade in India, became MP for Newtown, Isle of Wight 1805–1807 and conducted a prolonged campaign against Wellesley’s conduct as Governor-General in India. BACK

[8] Southey had been compelled to amend his first New Year’s Ode as Poet Laureate, Carmen Triumphale (1814), because of its disagreement with British government policy towards France; the deleted sections were published as an ‘Ode’ in the Courier, 3 February 1814. BACK

[9] André Masséna (1758–1817), French Marshal and commander of the unsuccessful invasion of Portugal in 1810–1811. BACK

[10] Southey’s series of inscriptions on the Peninsular War, planned in 1813–14. BACK

[11] ‘At Coruna’, commemorating the Battle of Corunna in 1809. It was not published until Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 125–126. BACK

[12] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), commander of the British forces at Corunna. Southey’s ‘Epitaph’ was published in his Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 127–128. BACK

[13] El … exercito: written in Southey’s hand in right hand margin; it translates as ‘the beautiful army’, a term used by the Spanish to describe the British forces sent to Iberia in 1808–1809. BACK

[14] The Hills’ three eldest sons, Edward, Herbert, and Errol, to whom Southey affectionately gave aristocratic titles. BACK