3641. Robert Southey to John Murray, 27 February 1821

3641. Robert Southey to John Murray, 27 February 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 27 Feby. 1821

My dear Sir

Now that I am fairly engaged in the Peninsular War, [1]  & putting my materials together, for the press, I feel the loss of my poor correspondent in Spain, who sent me a regular supply of Spanish documents, till Ferdinand [2]  in one of his freaks of despotism, banished him from Madrid & by that vexation most probably accelerated his death. Dead however he is, to the loss of Spanish literature, & to my misfortune, who am beholden to him for my Spanish honours, & for very many important communications. [3] 

Can you obtain for me the Spanish History of the War, by a commission of Officers appointed for the purpose? You sent me a French translation of the first volume published in 1818; [4]  – the translation is useful because it contains some good notes, but it confesses in the preface that the original has been cut down, – details have been omitted, & passages which might give offence to persons whom the French translator wished to spare. This being the case, the original is indispensable for us. The first volume is excellent as far as it goes, which is but a very little way.

I find also references to the following works in Spanish

History of the War in Catalonia by Francisco de Olivares [5] 

Anecdotes of the Chiefs in the Catalonian War – by the same author

Hist: of the Spanish Revolution by Carnicero [6] 

––– of the military events in Galicia by Garcia del Barrio [7] 

Notices of the Life & exploits of the Empecinado. [8] 


in French

Journal historique du siege de Saragosse, par Daudebarde [9] 

Sieges de Saragosse & de Tortose par Rogniat. [10] 

Relation de L’expedition de Portugal en 1807 & 8 – par Paul Thiebault, General de division. [11] 


Do you intend to give plans of the battles? [12]  I mean those only in which the our army was engaged. It is not necessary, because the work is not professedly a military history; but they would make it more satisfactory to military men & might be just as well engraved in stone, as in a more expensive manner. For myself I have no wish upon the subject.

The first volume will be finished in September, printing at the rate of three sheets per week, with which I can keep up. This allows for such delays as may be expected to occur on the printers part.

I have kept back my Inscriptions Triumphal & Sepulchral to wait the publication of this work, after which they will appear to advantage. [13]  About half of them have been long since composed. – I think that a series of views in illustration of the work might be published with success, both the scenery & the costume of the whole country being singularly picturesque. [14] 

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqre
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] E/ MR/ 1821
Seal: red wax, design illegible
Endorsement: Feby. 27. 21/ R. Southey Esqr
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42552. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

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

[2] Ferdinand VII (1784–1833; King of Spain 1808, 1813–1833). BACK

[3] Southey was made a Member of the Royal Spanish Academy (founded 1713) in 1814 and of the Royal Academy of History (founded 1738) in 1815. Abella had provided a good deal of information for the historical sections that Southey wrote for the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808–1811 (1810–1813). BACK

[4] Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne contre Napoleon Buonaparte, Par une Commission d’Officiers de Toutes Armes Établie a Madrid, Auprès de S. Ex. Le Ministre de la Guerre; Traduite de l’Espanol, Avec Notes et Éclaircissemens (1818). BACK

[5] ‘On Spanish Literature, with some Account of Francisco de Olivarez’, New Monthly Magazine, 10 (October 1818), 221–223 mentioned Olivarez’s Account of the War in Catalonia (1815) and Anecdotes of Chiefs Employed in the Catalan War (1816). However, neither book seems to exist. BACK

[6] José Clemente Carnicero (dates unknown), Historia Razonada de los Principales Sucesos de la Gloriosa Revolucion de España (1814–1815). BACK

[7] Manuel García del Barrio (1766–1846), Sucesos Militares de Galicia en 1809 (1811). BACK

[8] Apuntes de la Vida y Hechos Militares del Brigadier Don Juan Martin Diez, el Empecinado: Por un Admirador de Ellos (1814). BACK

[9] André-Etienne-Just-Pascal-Joseph-François, Baron d’Audevard de Férussac (1786–1836), Journal Historique du Siége de Saragosse (1816). BACK

[10] Joseph, Vicomte de Rogniat (1767–1840), Relation des Siéges de Saragosse et de Tortose par les Français, dans la Dernière Guerre d’Espagne (1814). BACK

[11] Paul Charles François Adrien Henri Dieudonne Thiébault (1769–1846), French General and commander in the Peninsular War; author of Relation de l’Expedition du Portugal Faite en 1807 et 1808 (1817). BACK

[12] The History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832) did not include battle plans. BACK

[13] Southey had planned a sequence of thirty inscriptions to commemorate the heroes and battles of the Peninsular War in 1813 and the volume had been advertised. However, he completed only eighteen and produced fragmentary versions of two more inscriptions. Those that were completed were not published together until they appeared in Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 122–156. BACK

[14] The History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832) was not illustrated. BACK

People mentioned

Abella, Manuel (1753–1817) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)