2573. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 16 March 1815

2573. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 16 March 1815 ⁠* 

16. March. 1815.

My dear Tom

Tonights news is Buonaparte at Lyons, – & it is sufficiently evident that he could not have got there unless the soldiery had joined him. The next accounts will be of his issuing orders from Paris. Louis [1]  may find one or two Marshals on whom he could rely, but they could not rely on their men, & it is well that there are troops in Flanders & strong places whither he may look for a retreat, till the Germans can again be brought forward.

The first fault was in sparing his life, – this no doubt was Austrias doing, [2]  & the Allies xxx had no choice. The second was allowing him to take his own guard, [3]  instead of placing a guard over him: for this all parties are equally to blame. Louis should not have left Massena [4]  at Toulon, – that place in particular should have been held by a Royalist. Buonaparte has shown more real spirit in this than in any former action of his life, & it is a frightful lesson concerning armies, which comes strongly in aid of my old doctrine that no country can ever be safe from foreign & domestic enemies till every man in it be trained to the use of arms. But what a world of reforms does this presuppose, for before this can be done, all men must be properly educated, & all men made to feel that their own individual interests are inseparably connected with the continuance & preservation of <the> existing order of things.

It is I fear no longer to be doubted that another desperate contest must be waged. And I fear that there are advantages on the side of France which she did not possess twelve months ago. In the first place some 300,000 troops who were then prisoners! Worse than this is the feeling of the Italians & Swiss, – perhaps of the Saxons. Had Italy been made an independent kingdom as it ought to have been, Buonaparte durst not have moved, for on every side Louis would have had allies.

However At him Trojan! There is but one course to pursue, the Allies must steer clear of the sin of the Anti Jacobin war; they must stick to Louis, & fight his battles in France, where there is certainly a Bourbon party in some provinces. I could almost persuade myself that the work of retribution was imperfect as long as Paris should be left standing, – that Marshal must fight Marshal, Frenchman kill Frenchman in battle, hang all prisoners on both sides be hanged, & the Accursed City be burnt to the ground, before all is settled.

I am, as I dare say you are also, much disquieted at the news. The work is to do over-again, – the Income Tax must be renewed, [5]  – & God knows the people are neither in a humour to bear their burden chearfully, nor are the ministers men on whose vigour or ability there can be any reliance. I wish M. Wellesley were at the head of affairs.

But away with politics while we may: only let me execrate the folly of provoking a quarrel with the mob upon Bread [6]  of all imaginable subjects!


I suppose the second edition of Roderick will soon be published. [7]  Two volumes of the poems are printed, the third consists wholly of Ballads & Tales. [8]  You will find at the end of the second my ode Down with the Tyrant, [9]  (which I now in particular am glad to have placed there) – & the intended New Years Ode which was not in the fashion of courts: its subject being the public education, & colonization. [10]  As these poems will soon be finished you had better wait for the small copies of Roderick [11]  till they can travel together – I shall order two copies of each.

The next Quarterly will have Lewis & Clarkes Travels, [12]  & a short article upon an unpublished volume of Letters & Papers [13]  by Barré Roberts, a cousin of Bedfords. The Devil has played me a vexatious trick in the shape of Capt Perkins. [14]  He lodged here during the winter, & on going away asked me to endorse a bill for 28 £ on his agent: – x the bill has been dishonoured & has cost me £29–5. to take it up. I do not suppose he intended to defraud me, but he ought not to have drawn with any such possibility of such a having the bill protested, & I think my money is in a fair or foul way of being lost – Three weeks have elapsed, & I can not <yet> find him out, – but I have letters lying for him at his Coffee House & at his Agents. This has happened at a very ill time. To be sure it will insure me against ever seeing him again, & that must be accounted as some set off.

I have been getting on with Brazil, [15]  & with my History, [16]  & have much reviewing in hand. Mrs Hill is on the point of increasing the number of our cousins. Your reports about the fortune of your intended sister Louisa are, as usual, greatly exaggerated. Her actual fortune is 6000 £. On the death of her mother [17]  she may perhaps have 2000 £ more, but that event according to the course of years should be far distant. All else is dependant upon the pleasure of an Uncle, who is a curious character, differing little fro may almost be called a miser, & bears the ominous name of Thomas. [18]  He is also a good life, – an excellently good one. I myself am rather inclined to like him, for tho he discover no more feeling than a stock fish, I cannot think those brains of his are without some good qualities attached to them. Moralists perhaps may discover latent goodness as chemists have done late discovered latent heat.

God bless you



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

[1] Louis XVIII (1755–1824; King of France 1814–1824). BACK

[2] Napoleon had married Marie Louise of Austria (1791–1847) in March 1810. She was the daughter of Francis II (1768–1835), Holy Roman Emperor 1792–1806, Emperor of Austria 1804–1835. BACK

[3] When Napoleon was exiled to Elba he was allowed a personal guard of 1,000 men. BACK

[4] Andre Massena, 1st Duc de Rivoli (1758–1817), one of Napoleon’s Marshals. He retained his command at Marseilles under the Bourbons and was studiously neutral during the Hundred Days. BACK

[5] The Government had made an announcement in the House of Commons on 9 February 1815 that income tax would be abolished. In fact, the renewed war with France in 1815 meant the war-time income tax was not finally ended until 1816. BACK

[6] The Government had introduced its proposal for a sliding scale of duties on imported corn on 1 March 1815. The Bill passed on 23 March 1815, despite much urban opposition. BACK

[7] It appeared in 1815. BACK

[8] Southey was collecting his shorter works into a three-volume Minor Poems, published in 1815. BACK

[9] ‘Ode, Written During the Negociations with Buonaparte in January, 1814’, Minor Poems, 3 vols (London, 1815), II, pp. 217–224. BACK

[10] ‘Ode, Written in December 1814’, Minor Poems, 3 vols (London, 1815), II, pp. 227–238. BACK

[11] The first edition of Roderick, the Last of the Goths was a quarto; subsequent ones were in duodecimo. BACK

[12] Meriweather Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clark (1770–1838), Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean (1814), Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 317–368. BACK

[13] Letters and Miscellaneous Papers of Barré Charles Roberts (1814), Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 509–519. BACK

[14] Captain Thomas Perkins (1778–1815), a cousin of Edith Southey. He died at Dover on 3 April 1815. BACK

[15] History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[16] History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[17] Mrs Gonne (dates unknown), wife of the Lisbon merchant and packet agent, William Gonne (d. 1815). BACK

[18] Ominous because Thomas had been the name of one of Southey’s paternal uncles, who, though wealthy, had left nothing to his nephews. BACK