3547. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 29 October 1820

3547. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 29 October 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 29 Oct. 1820

I hope you have received the books [1]  long ago; they were “shipped by the Grace of God in good order & well conditioned in & upon the good ship called the Cosmopolite, “George Holland, Master” [2]  June 27th – according to the invoice, which has been sent me since I wrote you last.

Have you heard of Sir Charles Wolseleys letter [3]  to Lord Castlereagh? [4]  I fell upon it to day in one of the Times, some week or ten days old, & copy for your astonishment the material paragraph. – “I beg leave to inform your Lordship, that if his Majestys Government will allow me a months leave of absence from my present place of confinement, I will undertake to be of the utmost service to her Majesty in the pending prosecution against her, by going from hence to Como, where during the year 1817, I lived several months with my family; & from that circumstance, & being acquainted with several people who were employed by the Queen, I have an opportunity of getting at evidence that would be of the greatest consequence, that no Englishman but myself, & a Mr Walter Landon, who is now in Italy, can have had the same opportunity of knowing.” –

You probably kne know that one of Broughams brothers has been on the continent, beating up for witnesses. [5]  If this letter had appeared in time no doubt he would have gone in search of you, & I should like to have been present at the interview. Sir Ch. W. must be half crazy. We may judge how capable he is of forming a sane opinion upon any subject, when he has so topsy-turvey a recollection of your knowledge upon this. His letter of course has not obtained the slightest notice, & xx an therefore none can be needful on your part. Had the mention of your name been such as in any way to compromise you, I should without hesitation have written to the newspapers.

Most persons seem to apprehend that this trial will not terminate without some violent explosion. Certain it is that every possible art is used for making the mob rise in open rebellion. But tho it is very possible to foresee the consequence of public opinions, – public madness must baffle all foresight; – & this is an absolute insanity. It was well observed by an acquaintance of mine the other day upon hearing that Bedlam was xxx to be enlarged, [6]  – “enlarge Bedlam indeed! – better build a wall around London.” –

The course of events in Spain & Portugal [7]  may perhaps lead to an union of the two Kingdoms, but not I think as Kingdoms. I have long thought that the tendency of revolution in the peninsula was to break it up into its old subdivisions, give to each province its own Cortes & its own fueros, & unite them in a federal compact, like the Americans. And if there were no rubs in the way, – & if the example could do no one harm in other countries this might be desired. – Alas neither the Bourbons nor Braganzas [8]  are worth a wish. I am As yet it is not known what course the King of Portugal will take; – probably he must yield to what he cannot oppose, & what in fact is both reasonable & right, considering the monstrous misgovernment which has so long prevailed. But it is very doubtful concessions made under <such> circumstances are only likely to retard the catastrophe, not to alter it. In the present state of Europe the abuse of monarchy tends to produce republics democracy, & democracy, which is more certain to produce immediate & more intolerable abuse, brings on military despotism. – The first book which I shall have to send you will contain my speculations upon the progress of society, in the form of dialogue. [9]  This is evidently one of the climacteric periods of the world. I am not afraid of the issue of this crisis in England, where we have least at stake, – that is where we have most to lose & [MS missing]. In Italy, whatever may happen, you will be only a lodger.” [10]  It is well however that we are not as young as we were at the commencement of the French Revolution. For my part, I look on it with a wholesome but not impatient interest, knowing perfectly what end to wish for, but so doubtful respecting the means, that I am well content to trust Providence, & in that confidence I rest.

I have none of the books which you mention; – & shall prize them when they arrive. [11]  direct them to Longmans care. – Every day I expect the first proof of my Peninsular War. [12]  The leaves are falling fast, – we have now long evenings, & I have a long season of uninterrupted work before me, thank God with good health & fair spirits for the prospect.

God bless you

Yrs affectionately



* Address: To/ Walter Savage Landor Esqre_/ Pisa/ Italy
Postmarks: F/ 2[illegible]7 / 20; 17 NOVEMBRE
MS: National Art Library, London, MS Forster 48 D.32 MS 35. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Forster, Walter Savage Landor. A Biography, 2 vols (London, 1869), I, pp. 463–465. BACK

[1] Wordsworth’s Peter Bell, A Tale in Verse (1819), The Waggoner. A Poem. To Which are Added Sonnets (1819) and The River Duddon, A Series of Sonnets: Vaudracour and Julia: and Other Poems (1820); and Southey’s The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820) and the third and final volume of his History of Brazil (1810–1819). See Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 20 February 1820, Letter 3443. BACK

[2] The Cosmopolite was a brig that sailed regularly between Britain and Mediterranean ports, including Genoa. The ship’s master, George Holland, is unidentified beyond the information given here. BACK

[3] Sir Charles Wolseley, 7th Baronet (1769–1846; DNB), radical politician. A public meeting in Birmingham on 12 July 1819 elected him ‘legislatorial attorney and representative’ for the town, and in April 1820 he was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment for sedition and conspiracy for a speech he had given at Stockport on 28 June 1819. He had written from prison to the government, offering to go to Italy and collect information concerning Queen Caroline (1768–1821; DNB), who was facing a Bill of Pains and Penalties that would have dissolved her marriage to George IV on the grounds of her adultery. Not receiving a reply, Wolseley had published the letter in The Times, 11 October 1820, and Southey quotes from it here. BACK

[4] Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh (1769–1822; DNB), Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons 1812–1822. BACK

[5] Brougham was Queen Caroline’s attorney-general and conducted her case against the Bill of Pains and Penalties. He had sent his brother, James Brougham (1780–1833), to Italy in March 1819 to report on Queen Caroline’s activities, and James returned to Italy in June 1820 to find and prepare defence witnesses. BACK

[6] The Bethlehem Royal Hospital for the insane had been rebuilt in Southwark in 1812–1815, but was already too small to accommodate the inmates. It was not extended until the 1830s. The friend of Southey’s who made this remark is unidentified. BACK

[7] In Spain, an army revolt in Cadiz in January 1820 had led to the restoration of the liberal Constitution of 1812 in March 1820. An army revolt in Porto on 24 August 1820 had established a junta to run Portugal; it declared its intention of organising elections to a Cortes, which were held in December 1820, and demanded John VI (1767–1826; King of Portugal 1816–1826) return from Brazil, where the court had fled in 1807–1808. These events did not lead to the dissolution of Spain or Portugal. BACK

[8] The ruling dynasties of Spain (since 1700) and Portugal (since 1640). BACK

[9] The ‘dialogue’ project became Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829). BACK

[10] A reference to the joke of an Irishman who, warned that the house he was living in was collapsing, replied it did not worry him as he was ‘only a lodger’: Alexander Pope (1688–1744; DNB) to Richard Steele (1672–1729; DNB), 15 June 1712, Mr Pope’s Literary Correspondence for Thirty Years, from 1704 to 1735, 5 vols (London, 1735), I, p. 166. BACK

[11] Landor had written to Southey in September 1820, giving details of a consignment of books that he intended to send to Southey. The works he named were Vincent of Beauvais (c. 1190-c. 1264), Speculum Historiale (1494), no. 2899 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, and Paul Hoste (1652–1700), L’Art des Armées Navales, ou Traité des Évolutions Navales (1697), no. 1431 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. See John Forster, Walter Savage Landor, a Biography, 2 vols (London, 1869), I, pp. 460–461. BACK

[12] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)