3597. Robert Southey to John Hookham Frere, 30 December 1820

3597. Robert Southey to John Hookham Frere, 30 December 1820⁠* 

Keswick. 30 Dec. 1820

My dear Sir

I am now in the press with the history of the Peninsular War. The first chapter is merely introductory, concerning the state of the three countries which were directly involved in the contest. [1]  With this therefore I had no occasion to trouble you, but upon coming to matters of fact I have desired Murray to send you the proof sheets. [2]  I should have preferred sending you the manuscript, – but you will read it with much greater facility in the printed copy. My hand writing has become a very difficult one, unless I make a transcript for the press, which in the present case is not necessary.

Now with regard to the communication of your corrections. My way with proof sheets (which make some of the happiness of my life) is to read them aloud on the evening when they arrive, keep them one post, read them aloud a second time the next day, & despatch them on the second night. In case of smaller corrections, such as are at once to be received thankfully, & without doubt, there is no need to communicate them, – return the proof at such times to Murray, & your corrections may go at once to the Printer. [3]  But in matters of more moment, where your remarks may call upon me to change an expressed opinion, to see things in a different point of view, & to modify, or totally to alter the tenour of the narrative of in that part, – then if you send me your remarks on the day after the proof has been sent to you, – they will reach me (who am always at home) on my second evening, & in good time.

The sooner you can let me have such papers in your possession as may be useful, the better. And there are some points upon which hearing your xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx by letter would be more serviceable than any other documents, as giving me what in no other way could be obtained. These, with your permission I will propose to you as they occur in my progress. At present what would be most serviceable to me would be that sort of information which you could communicate in a leisure hour concerning the leading members of the Central Junta, [4]  – who they were, what were their views, & characters. In the few opportunities which I have had of conversing with you upon Spanish affairs, a single expression of yours has given me light where I most wanted it.

You probably know that I wrote the whole historical part of the Edinburgh Annual Register for the years 1808–9-10 & 11. [5]  During the three latter years I was well supplied with Spanish materials, by a man whom you may likely have known Manuel Abella, – I obtained from him by his means many private communications, but these sources were cut off by his disgrace, which I believe was soon followed by his death. The time spent upon that obscure labour I do not regret, (tho it would have sufficed for compleating my history of Portugal [6] ) because it not only gave me an insight into this great subject which I could hardly else have attained, but also because it compelled me to look into my own opinions, & see upon what foundation they rested. Some portions of that narrative I shall incorporate.

During the contest my anticipations for Spain were always hopeful. I wish they were so now. [7]  But at present my best hope is that other countries, & especially Portugal, may be warned in times, by the evils which tremendous example which is likely to be afforded them there. [8]  Brazil I hope may escape; – for if a revolution should take place there, the whole country will soon be divided among hordes of banditti as is now the case with the provinces of the Plata, where the Revolutionists have been left to themselves. [9]  If Spain were under a settled government I believe it would not be long before deputies from Buenos Ayres would be sent to solicit that it would send out a Viceroy & put an end to their miserable state of anarchy.

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ The Right Honble/ J Hookham Frere/ &c &c &c
Seal: red wax; arm raising aloft cross of Lorraine
MS: Newnham College, Cambridge, Harold Young Papers 382a. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Gabrielle Festing, John Hookham Frere and His Friends (London, 1899), pp. 229–230 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), I, pp. 3–62. BACK

[2] See Southey to John Murray, 30 December 1820, Letter 3598. BACK

[3] Thomas Davison (1766–1831), printer for Murray and Longman. BACK

[4] The Supreme Central and Governing Junta of the Kingdom, set up on 25 September 1808 to govern those parts of Spain which were not occupied by the French. The Junta dissolved itself on 29 January 1810 and was replaced by a Council of Regency. BACK

[5] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 to 1811 (1810–1813). Much of this material was recycled in the History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[6] Southey’s uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[7] An army revolt in January 1820 led to the restoration of the liberal Constitution of 1812 in March 1820; but Spain remained deeply divided between Royalists and Liberals. BACK

[8] A liberal revolution in Portugal in August 1820 had led to the election of a Cortes in December 1820 and demands for the monarchy to return from Brazil, where it had fled in 1807–1808. BACK

[9] The United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, centred in modern Argentina, had been self-governing since 1810 and had declared their independence in 1816. They were at this time torn by a civil war between federalists and centralists. BACK

People mentioned

Murray, John Samuel (1778–1843) (mentioned 2 times)
Abella, Manuel (1753–1817) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)