2114. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 10 June 1812

2114. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 10 June 1812 ⁠* 

My dear Scott

Thank you for your good offices. You will have seen ere this that they were too late, & that M. Dutens having fallen asleep, Stanier Clarke reigneth in his stead. [1]  – an author whose quartos certainly weigh down those of any contemporary. – Had I succeeded in this quest I meant to have proposed to Ballantyne to write the history of the Spanish Revolution. [2]  No person can be so sensible of the unavoidable defects of that portion of the Register [3]  as I am myself; the proposal would have been made to him, because in necessity the materials of the Register as far as they went, it might have been convenient to preserve some of the original workmanship, – I am certainly acquiring <have acquired so many> additional documents, & have such sources of information opened that I am sure the work could be well executed, – & if the Lord Chamberlain had been pleased to give me this title, the speculation might have proved a good one for the publisher. The project however may now take its way ‘oer the backside of the world’ into that Paradise where a good many of my projects have gone before it. [4] 

I had a very kind letter from Canning upon this business, before it was decided. He hints at other opportunities. For myself I know but one thing which would strongly tempt me to break up my quarters, & that would be if they would make me Governor of Botany Bay, [5]  – I have a strong fancy for that situation, – but unluckily Mrs Southey has as strong an objection to it, & as her objection is sufficiently reasonable, the Inhabitants of that choice colony are never likely to be benefitted by my good intentions, & the honour of crossing the Blue Mountains must be reserved for some more fortunate person. Unless indeed I should find my way there in some deportation, under the revolution which so many unhappy causes are now cooperating to hasten on.

None of our political men are sufficiently aware of the danger, they live in such a cloud of their own dust, that they cannot see the signs of the tempest gathering round them. A sense of this danger however is spreading & I will do my best to extend it. It might be crushed, – but the more I consider how deeply the causes are laid, how widely they are spread, & how long they have been maturing, xxxxxxx the worse does the evil appear; – & the end which I deprecate seems so necessary a xxxx xx the xxxxx of xxxxxx consequence of these causes, – that I confess my fears very far weigh down outweigh my hopes. When I was last in Portugal [6]  it was that year when the yellow fever first broke out at Cadiz, & we were in daily apprehension of it at Lisbon; – every person who thought at all upon the matter expected that the disease must be communicated to us, & I had xxxxx in my own mind looked about for a place of retreat, – yet we all lived as usual, ate, drank & slept, took our evening rides, & went to our evening pe[MS torn] as gaily as if there no pestilence threatening us at the door. So it is now. & God grant that the issue may be as fortunate.

I look forward with great pleasure to seeing you here. x I have all my books about me now, – venerable company they are, & you will admire my Portugueze & Spanish treasures. The latter end of July I shall be in Durham, – your journey I hope may be before that time or after it, – even if it should prove otherwise we may meet on the way, – your road may be thro Durham, – & mine on the way home will be by Greta Bridge. [7] 

Believe me yours most truly

Robert Southey.

Keswick. June 10. 1812.


* Address: To Walter Scott Esqr/ Edinburgh
Stamped: KESWICK 298
Postmark: JU/1812/12
Watermark: shield
Endorsement: Southey/ 10 June 1812
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3883. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Wilfred Partington, Sir Walter’s Post-Bag (London, 1932), pp. 87–88 [in part]. BACK

[1] Scott had assisted Southey in his campaign for the post of Historiographer Royal, vacated by the death of Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB) on 23 May 1812. It did not succeed, and James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB) was appointed instead. For Scott’s letter in support of Southey; see H. C. Grierson (ed.), The Letters of Walter Scott, 1787–1832, 12, vols (London, 1932–1937), III, pp. 123–124. See also, Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 30 May 1812, Letter 2107. BACK

[2] The Peninsular War of 1808–1814. BACK

[3] The Edinburgh Annual Register for 1810 (1812). BACK

[4] A paraphrase of John Milton (1608–1674; DNB), Paradise Lost (1667–1668), Book 3, lines 494–497: ‘Fly o’er the backside of the world far off,/ Into a Limbo large and broad, since call’d/ The Paradise of Fools, to few unknown/ Long after, now unpeopled, and untrod.’ BACK

[5] Lachlan Macquarie (1762–1824; DNB) remained in post as Governor of New South Wales 1810–1821. He was a notable promoter of exploration and encouraged the first party to cross the Blue Mountains into the interior of Australia in May 1813. BACK

[6] In 1800–1801. BACK

[7] Rokeby Hall, home of Scott’s friend, John Bacon Sawrey Morritt (1771–1843; DNB), was very near to the Greta Bridge in North Yorkshire. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)