3247. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 15 February 1819

3247. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 15 February 1819 ⁠* 

My dear R.

Sir Robert Wilson & the Q. R. are both in the wrong. [1]  Sir Robert made a romancing dispatch to varnish an affair of which the less he had said the better; – & the Q. R. depreciates the effect of his movement upon Ciudad Rodrigo, at the time of Sir J. Moores flight; – a movement which compleatly imposed upon the French & prevented us from flying in our panic from Lisbon, – when some of the stores were actually packed for removal. [2]  At that time a certain Major Roach [3]  (he is a General now) ran from C Rodrigo, & came to Frere at Badajoz. Frere told him he had just received intelligence that Wilson had thrown himself into that place with the Lusitanian Legion then said Roach, he will never get away alive. Frere looked at him & replied – perhaps Sir that was not the first thing he thought of. Wilson was a disagreable boy (I was in the same remove with him at Westminster –) – & he is an unprincipled man – but he did signal service by that movement; – I perceived it at the time, & the opinion which I <had> formed was confirmed by Frere. [4]  – – I shall soon be deeply engaged in these transactions. [5]  You see at what rate the Brazil [6]  is proceeding, – six weeks will – almost certainly – bring me to the conclusion.

St Anselm, William Rufus’s refractory A Bishop, used waxen tablets. [7]  They fell off his bed one night & broke the wax broke, – the pieces were collected & the writing being with difficulty recovered, he had it transcribed upon parchment. – This was in Normandy. Wax would not be liable to this accident in a warmer climate.

The Spaniards have begun to publish an official history of the war. I have a French translation of the first volume: [8]  – the writers refer in one place to the Ed: Register, & speak of it as the work of one remarkable for the justice of his views & the independance of his notions, (the sort of praise that a man may be proud of receiving) – the French translator has altered Register to Review, – a natural mistake, xxxx xx (he had xxxxx heard much of the one, & nothing of the other,) – but rather a comical one. [9] 

Remember us to Mrs R. How are you going on in your health? – I ask this under the double influence of a heavy cold, – & a dose of physic. – We are wishing the next three or four weeks over were over. [10] 

God bless you


15 Feby 1819.


* Address: To/ J Rickman Esqre
Endorsement: 15 Feb 1819
MS: Huntington Library, RS 364. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] General Sir Robert Wilson (1777–1849; DNB), Letter from Sir Robert Wilson to his Constituents in Refutation of a Charge for dispatching a false Report of a Victory to the Commander in Chief of the British Army in the Peninsula in the Year 1809 (1818) was reviewed in Quarterly Review, 19 (July 1818), 478–492 (published 2 February 1819) by William Carr Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford (1768–1856; DNB), with information from the Duke of Wellington. Wilson’s pamphlet was itself a response to the review of his A Sketch of the Military and Political Power of Russia, in the Year 1817 (1817) by Reginald Heber in Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1818), 131–177. BACK

[2] Wilson had organised and commanded the Loyal Lusitanian Legion of Portuguese troops in 1808–1809. In January 1809, while British troops under Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB) were retreating to Corunna, Wilson refused to withdraw from the Spanish town of Ciudad Rodrigo. Southey believed Wilson’s actions prevented the French advancing on Lisbon, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 498–500. BACK

[3] Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Keating Roche (d. 1829), Irish soldier who went on to command a division of Spanish troops in British pay, with the rank of Lieutenant-General. BACK

[4] See Southey to John Rickman, 8 December 1815, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 2679. BACK

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

[6] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[7] St Anselm (c. 1033–1109; DNB), Archbishop of Canterbury 1093–1109 under William II (c. 1056–1100; King of England 1087–1100; DNB). Anselm wrote his Proslogion (1077–1078) on wax tablets after a divine vision, only to find the tablets broken the next day, according to Eadmer (c. 1060–1126; DNB), Vita Anselm (c. 1124). Southey read of this incident in Acta Sanctorum, 53 vols (Antwerp and Brussels, 1643–1794), April II (1678), p. 870. BACK

[8] 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 (Paris, 1818), p. 265. BACK

[9] This mistake was comical as Southey’s writings in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810) were very pro-Spanish, while the Edinburgh Review (1802–1929) was doubtful about British involvement in the Peninsular War. BACK

[10] Southey’s wife, Edith, was enduring a difficult late pregnancy and was expected to give birth imminently. Charles Cuthbert Southey was born on 24 February 1819. BACK

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