1597. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 11 March 1809

1597. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 11 March 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Scott

I waited till the Carriers day thinking to have told you Lord Somers [1]  was arrived when I thanked you for it – but he has disappointed me, I will not however delay longer to answer your question respecting the selections. From Wordsworth you could not I think have chosen better among his pieces of suitable length. [2]  From my own smaller poems I would rather trust your choice than my own. [3]  I have nothing by me which could possibly suit your purpose, – unless perhaps an extract from Kehama may be thought sufficiently entire; – it is very short, & I am disposed to strike it out of the poem, because tho most people would be likely to think it the prettiest thing there, – it does not seem to me sufficiently in keeping. [4]  Such as it is you have it on the other leaf – but do not use it unless you think it suitable.

The Quarterly is a little too much in the temper of the Edinburgh to please me. [5]  No man dips his pen deeper in the very gall of bitterness than I can do – witness the Reviewals in the Annual of Malthus, of the Methodists – of the Suppression-Society, & of Moores Poems, [6]  – but I do not like to see scorn & indignation wasted on trivial objects, – they should be reserved like the arrows of Hercules for occasions worthy of such weapons. I recognise you with great pleasure in Burns, in Swift, & I think, by that parallel with Scotland in the days of Edwards I – in the Spanish Article. [7]  So also in Sir John Carr, – an article in the best spirit of raillery. [8]  It is a pity that any doubt was intimated of the Cids conquest of Valencia. [9]  No fact in history is better ascertained. I thought no more of bringing authorities to confirm it, than I did for the succession of Kings.

This diversion in the North [10]  affords a grand opportunity for striking a blow in Spain, if our Ministry have leisure for any thing better than their pettyfogging defence of the D of York. [11]  Austria will probably fall, – an event no otherwise to be deplored than for the immediate triumph & temporary aggrandizement will <which> it will afford to France, – but in that country, as <it was> in Spain no good can arise till the spirit of Freedom is restored; & the immediate restoration of Spain will far infinitely outweighx the fall of Austria. Had we Lord Chatham [12]  alive again, King Joseph [13]  would be our prisoner by the time his brother is at Vienna, – but I fear we shall have one more great occasion lost to add to the long history of our misconduct.

The Ballantynes are bold speculators, & their list seems to prove them judicious ones. I am inclined to think that a Review of old Books conducted like the Quarterly would answer, – for if the Censura Literaria [14]  can pay its expences, a good publication of the same kind must needs do more. This is worth mentioning to them. – I could be a very efficient assistant to such a work.

Let me be remembered to Mrs Scott – & believe me

very truly yours

Robert Southey

Keswick. March 11. 1809.


* Watermark: J BUDGEN/ 1805
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3878. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: W. Partington, Sir Walter’s Post-Bag (1932), 46 [in part]; Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 501–502. BACK

[1] In 1809 Scott published the first volume of Baron John Somers (1651–1716; DNB), A Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on the Most Interesting and Entertaining Subjects but Chiefly Such as Relate to the History and Constitution of These Kingdoms, Selected from an Infinite Number in Print and Manuscript in the Royal Libraries (1809–1815). BACK

[2] Scott was selecting poems for the anthology English Minstrelsy. Being a Selection of Fugitive Poetry from the Best English Authors; with some Original Pieces hitherto unpublished, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1810). Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’ appeared on II, pp. 256–264. BACK

[3] Scott chose ‘Queen Urraca and the Five Martyrs of Morocco’ (English Minstrelsy, I, pp. 265–280). BACK

[4] The extract from The Curse of Kehama (London, 1810), Book 10, lines 150–171, was published as ‘Love’ in English Minstrelsy, II, pp. 236–237. BACK

[5] The Edinburgh Review, which the Quarterly Review was set up to rival in 1809. BACK

[6] Southey reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804): Part the First of An Address to the Public from the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Instituted, in London, 1802, Setting Forth, with a List of the Members, the Utility and Necessity of such an Institution, and its Claim to Public Support (1803), 187; William Myles (1756–1828), A Chronological History of the People called Methodists ... With an Appendix, Containing Two Lists of the Itinerant Preachers ... With the Last Will and Testament of the Rev. J. Wesley (1803), 201–213; Thomas Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society; with Remarks on the Speculations of W. Godwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers (1803), 292–301. In the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805) Southey reviewed Part the First of An Address to the Public from the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Instituted, in London, 1802, Setting Forth, with a List of the Members, the Utility and Necessity of such an Institution, and its Claim to Public Support (1803), 225–231. In the Annual Review for 1806, 5 (1807), he reviewed Thomas Moore (1779–1852; DNB), Epistles, Odes and Other Poems (1806), 498–499. BACK

[7] Scott reviewed in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809): Robert Hartley Cromek (1770–1812; DNB), Reliques of Robert Burns, Consisting Chiefly of Original Letters, Poems, and Critical Observations on Scottish Songs (1808), 19–36; John Barrett (1753/4–1821), An Essay on the Earlier Part of the Life of Swift, by the Rev. John Barrett, D. D. and Vice Provost of Trinity College, Dublin. To which are Subjoined Various Pieces Ascribed to Swift, Two of his Original Letters, and Extracts from his Remarks on Bishop Burnett’s History (1808), 162–177; Scott did not write ‘the Spanish Article’; a review by George Ellis [with George Canning] of Exposé des Manoeuvres et des Intrigues qui ont Préparé l’Usurpation de la Couronne d’Espagne, et des Moyens Employés par l’Empereur des Francais pour la Mettre á Exécution…; Traduit de l’Espagnol par M. Peltier [alternative title Affaires d’Espagne] (1808) and Pedro Cevallos Guerra (1760–1840), Conféderation des Royaumes et Provinces d’Espagne Contre Buonaparte ([1810]) in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 1–19. BACK

[8] Scott [and William Gifford] reviewed Sir John Carr (1772–1832; DNB), Caledonian Sketches, or a Tour through Scotland in 1807 (1808) in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 178–193. Scott also had a hand in William Erskine’s (Lord Kinneder; bap. 1768–1822; DNB), review of John Philpot Curran (1750–1817), Speeches of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, on the late very Interesting State Trials (1808), 96–107. BACK

[9] Valencia was conquered in 1094 after a long siege. The events are described in Southey’s The Chronicle of the Cid (London, 1808), p. 203. Scott had doubted that the events had really occurred in his review of Southey’s Cid in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 117–134. BACK

[10] The diversion in the north involved fighting between Russia and Sweden, which forced the latter to join Napoleon’s continental system for refusing trade with Britain, and the Poles’ (also allies of France) successful defence of their country against the Austrians. Napoleon would attack Austria himself later in 1809, and was kept from fighting in Spain by this. BACK

[11] Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), Commander in Chief of the army. He held the post from 1798–1809, but was forced to resign in the wake of allegations that he had profited by allowing his mistress, Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB), to accept money from army officers, in return for which promotion was arranged. BACK

[12] William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708–1778; DNB), Prime Minister renowned for his successful conduct of war policy in the Seven Years’ War. BACK

[13] Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte (1768–1844) was the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte who made him King of Spain as Joseph I in 1808. BACK

[14] Censura Literaria: Containing Titles, Abstracts, and Opinions of Old English Books, with Original Disquisitions, Articles of Biography, and other Literary Antiquities (1805–1809), ed. Samuel Egerton Brydges, (1762–1837; DNB). BACK

People mentioned

Ellis, George (1753–1815) (mentioned 1 time)
Canning, George (1770–1827) (mentioned 1 time)
Gifford, William (1756–1826) (mentioned 1 time)
Ballantyne, James (1772–1833) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)