2435. Robert Southey and Edith May Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 5 June 1814

2435. Robert Southey and Edith May Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 5 June 1814 ⁠* 

My dear Harry

For reasons which Grosvenor will explain to you, or which I may shortly explain myself by saying that it is supposed to be both symptomatic of fashion & instrumental thereto, I have consented to the application of two magazine men for my laureated head. The one will engrave from Grosvenors drawing by Edridge  [1]  – the other C Colburn of the N Monthly Magazine, will come to you for the bust. [2]  – Here are two inscriptions for you, & the Edithling shall copy some more.

God bless you

in haste


June 5. 1814.

At Coruña: [3] 

[start of Edith May Southey’s hand]


When from these shores the British army first
Boldly advanced into the heart of Spain,
The admiring people who beheld its march
Called it the Beautiful. And surely well
Its proud array, its perfect discipline,
Its splendid furniture of war compleat,
Its powerful horse, its men of british mould,
All high in heart & hope, all of themselves
Assured, & in their leaders confident,
Deserved the title. Few short weeks elapsed
Ere that disastrous army here returned,
A fourth of all its gallant force consumed
In hasty and precipitate retreat,
Stores treasure & artillery in the wreck
Left to the fierce pursuer; horse & man
Foundered, & stiffening on the mountain snows.
But when the exulting enemy approached
Boasting that he would drive into the sea
The remnant of the wretched fugitives,
Here, ere they reached their ships, they turned at bay.
Then was the proof of English courage seen;
Against a foe whose host outnumbered theirs
Thrice told, a foe rejoicing in pursuit,
Sure of the fruit of victory whatsoever
Might be the fate of battle, here they stood
And their safe embarkation all they sought
Won manfully. That mournful day avenged
Their sufferings & reclaimed their countrys name:
And thus Coruña which in that retreat
Had seen the else indelible reproach
Of Britain, saw the stain effaced in blood.


He who in this unconsecrated ground
Received a soldiers grave, hath left a name
Which must endure in history; the remains
Of Moore, the British General, rest below. [4] 
Son of a prosperous father who had won
The meed of literary praise, his course
Auspicious he began, & his career
Honour & favouring Fortune blest alike.
His early prowess Corsica beheld,
When at Mozello bleeding thro the breach
He past Victorious; the Columbian Isles
Then saw him tried; upon the sandy downs
Of Holland was his riper worth approved;
And leaving upon Egypts soil his blood
He gathered there fresh palms. High in repute
A gallant army last he led to Spain,
In arduous times, for moving in his strength
With all his mighty means of war compleat.
The Tyrant Buonaparte bore down all
Before him; & the British Chief beheld
Whereer he looked rout, treason & dismay,
All sides with <all> embarrassments beset, and dan
And danger pressing on. Hither he came
Before the far out-numbering host of France,
Retreating to his ships & close pursued.
Not were there wanting men who counsell’d him
To offer terms, & purchase from the foe
Indulgence to embark in peace, – so far
The peril had subdued their feeble minds:
That shameful counsel Moore, in happy hour
Remembering what was due to Englands name,
Refused; he fought, he conquered, & he fell.

[end of Edith May Southey’s hand]


* Address: To/ Dr Southey/ Queen Anne Street/ Cavendish Square/ London/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 8 JU 8/ 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don. d. 3. (A)LS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A ‘Memoir of Robert Southey, Esq.’ and a portrait ‘Engraved by Blood, from an Original Drawing by Edridge, in the Possession of G.C. Bedford, Esq.’, appeared in European Magazine, 66 (July 1814), [3]–5. BACK

[2] Colburn had asked to borrow a portrait of Southey, in order to produce an engraving for the New Monthly Magazine. Not entirely satisfied with Southey’s response, he borrowed the bust sculpted by James Smith (1775–1815) in October 1813 and ‘got someone to attempt the impossible task of making a portrait from it, which he engraved as an original picture: – a miserable looking wretch it is – something in physiognomy between assassin & hangman’ (see Southey to Anne Grant, 24 July 1824). The offending engraving, accompanied by a ‘long Memoir’, appeared in the New Monthly Magazine, 1 (January-July 1814), Frontispiece; 566–571. BACK

[3] One of Southey’s ‘Inscriptions Triumphal and Sepulchral, recording the acts of the British army in the Peninsula’, advertised as ‘nearly ready for publication’ (e.g. in European Magazine, 65 (January 1814), 77). The promised volume did not appear and only 18 of the proposed 30 inscriptions were written. They were not collected together until 1837–1838 when they appeared in the last-lifetime edition of Southey’s Poetical Works. This inscription and the one following commemorate the Battle of Corunna (1809). BACK

[4] Sir John Moore (1761–1809), who was killed in battle at Corunna. He was buried near the citadel. BACK

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