2156. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 October 1812

2156. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 9 October 1812 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Thank you for your news, – its substance tho not in the Bulletin form, is in the Courier, [1]  – but I am afraid that Bulletin & all will not quite justify three chears, – like Ld W.s entrance into Madrid. [2]  The great battle is manifestly the battle of Mojaisk, [3]  – tho the circumstances are xxxxxxx <much> at variance with the French accounts, unhappily xx Buonaparte dates from Mojaisk, – so that he has evidently not been beaten back. Nevertheless I am satisfied that he has little to boast, & that he may say with Pyrrhus [4]  another such victory will be his ruin: the Russians must ultimately be victorious, if they are neither betrayed not frightened into a peace; till they are victorious, I confess myself apprehensive of such a result.

Certes, & Certissime, [5]  Grosvenor, there is nothing which I should like better than to write the history of the Peninsular war, [6]  – so in whatever you may say to Gifford upon the subject, my disposition to the subject must be taken into the account.

The first proof of the Register is on my table. [7]  John Ballantyne is a thorough shuffler. I asked him to make his arrangements so that my drafts might be payable in London instead of Edinburgh: & this he said should be done; – yet he did not at the same time tell me where I was to draw upon him, & delays writing I suspect for the purpose of procrastinating my bills. Not that the man is or can be embarrassed, – but that every delay is so much interest saved. Meantime he has about 110£ of mine in his hands, & while he is shuffling I am in want of money. Can you lend me thirty pounds, till I get this fellows address? As soon as it comes I will draw upon him to the full & send you the draft. And most assuredly if he attempts to play me any trick I will have done with him at the end of the volume.

Did you receive the Common-Place-Book? [8]  – Your note was duly delivered to Sally Crosthwaite [9]  by the hands of Dr Bell.

Downmans [10]  price is ten guineas. He is gone to Newcastle, & did not talk of going to London, – otherwise he could xxx of course have no objection to copying from a picture.

Concerning Marquis Wellington. I suspect some want of conduct in Clinton [11]  who was <left> at Cuellar when Lord W. went to Madrid, & who let the French advance to Astorga, & bring off their garrison from Toro & Zamora. – We are clumsy at sieges & do that by lavishing brave blood which ought to be done by sciences: generals who act thus, ought to when they storm a place to put the garrison to the sword. Every Frenchman who might have been thus sacrificed at C Rodrigo would have saved five English at Badajoz. [12]  It seems to me that 2500 men would not have been left by the French at Burgos, unless Massena [13]  meant to make an effort to relieve them: if so there will be another battle, & sans doubt another victory, – at less expence probably than the Fort itself will cost our xxxxxxx bungling engineers. An second victory would enable Lord W. to push on part of his army to Vitoria & seize the stores; the Spaniards might <then> blockade Pamplona, & be these things as they may, I think he will; as soon as he has crippled Massena, march upon Zaragoza, [14]  – where I think I would give one of my eyes to see his entrance with the other.

I should dearly like to write the history of this war, & to make it as compleat as views, portraits, plans & human industry could make it. What fine materials the Countess would procure concerning Zaragoza! [15]  But this is a dream & the sooner I wake from it the better. You may <be> sure his Majesty’s Historiographer [16]  will deal by Lord Wellington as he has dealt by Nelson, [17]  & disgrace our military hero as he has done our naval one by a clumsy compilation.

God bless you


Keswick. Oct 9. 1812.

I am sorry that Canning stands for Liverpool. [18]  A contest with Brougham seems to be letting himself down. [19]  What respectability can he derive from being Member for Liverpool, or what weight in the House? If he sat for Old Sarum he would be Canning still, & Middlesex, Westminster or Yorkshire [20]  could make him nothing more!


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr./ Exchequer/ Westminster.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 12 OC 12/ 1812
Endorsement: 9 Octr 1812
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The battle of Borodino, or Mojaisk, was reported in the Courier, 7 October 1812. The issue of the newspaper, probably that for 8 or 9 October 1812, that dealt with Wellington’s entry into Madrid does not survive. BACK

[2] Wellington had entered Madrid on 12 August 1812. BACK

[3] The battle of Mojaisk, also known as the battle of Borodino, 7 September 1812, saw massive casualties on both sides. Although it was a French tactical victory, in the longer-term Napoleon’s failure to destroy the Russian army marked a turning point in his campaign in Russia. BACK

[4] King Pyrrhus of Epirus (319/318–272 BC), whose army suffered massive casualties in defeating the Romans in the battle of Heraclea, 280 BC. Hence, the phrase, a pyrrhic victory. BACK

[5] ‘Certainly, and very certainly’. BACK

[6] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War was published between 1823–1832. BACK

[7] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[8] Southey might have lent Bedford one of his own common place books; or he could be returning one of Bedford’s own books; see Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 29 September 1812, Letter 2152. BACK

[9] Peter Crosthwaite (1735–1808), was a retired naval commander, publisher of maps and inventor of the aeolian harp. In the 1780s he established the first museum in Keswick. Its treasures included a set of musical stones, a stuffed albatross and a pig with no legs. By 1811 the Museum was run by his son Daniel (c. 1776–1847), a portrait painter. Sally Crosthwaite might be his sister, Sarah Crosthwaite (1771–1817). BACK

[10] John Downman (1750–1824; DNB), who in autumn 1812 painted two portraits of Southey (one commissioned by Murray) and one of Edith. BACK

[11] The British officer Henry Clinton (1771–1829; DNB). BACK

[12] The British took Ciudad Rodrigo on 19 January 1812 and Badajoz on 6 April 1812. BACK

[13] The French Marshal André Massena (1758–1817). BACK

[14] The French had finally taken Zaragoza on 20 February 1809 after two lengthy sieges. BACK

[15] The Countess of Bureta, María de la Consolación Azlor y Villavicencio (1775–1814), a Spanish aristocrat who took an active role in the two sieges of Zaragoza in 1808–1809. BACK

[16] James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB), who earlier in 1812 had been appointed Historiographer Royal, a post Southey had coveted. BACK

[17] James Stanier Clarke and John McArthur (1755–1840; DNB), The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from his Lordship’s Manuscripts (1809). BACK

[18] Canning was elected an MP for Liverpool in the general election of 1812. This was a constituency with a large electorate (c. 4,000), compared to the handful of voters at the pocket borough of Old Sarum. BACK

[19] Brougham was the Whig candidate for Liverpool. He was not elected. BACK

[20] All popular constituencies with relatively large electorates. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)