1648. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 6 July 1809

1648. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 6 July 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Scott

I have just been informed that the Stewardship for the Derwentwater Estates (belonging to Greenwich Hospital) now held by a Mr Walton, [1]  is expected soon to be vacated by his death. [2]  It is a situation which would give me a respectable income, perfectly suit my present situation place of abode, & not impose upon me more business than I could properly perform with comfort to myself. Mr Sharp tells me this, & from him I learn that Mr Long [3]  is one of the Directors. Could this be obtained for me I should be well provided for – & in a pleasant way, – so I have thought it right to mention it, in consequence of your last letter, & having so done shall dismiss the subject from my thoughts. Pelle timorem, spem que fugato, is a lesson which I learnt early in life from Boethius, [4]  & have been a good deal the happier for practising.

The second Quarterly is better than the first. The affairs of Austria are treated with great power, great spirit & clear views. [5]  I expected the utter overthrow of the house of Austria, & my fears have happily been disappointed – they have profited by experience, & tho every thing is now upon the balance, & one cannot open the newspaper without great anxiety & many doubts, still it does appear that the chances are in our favour. One defeat will not destroy the Emperor if he is only true to himself, but one defeat would destroy Bonaparte. His authority out of France is maintained wholly by force; in France wholly by the opinion of his good fortune & the splendour of his successes. One thorough defeat will dissolve the spell. – His colossal power then falls to pieces like the image in Nebuchadnezzars dream. [6]  I am afraid our expedition will be too late to turn the scale. [7]  If it were now in Germany it might do wonders – but we are always slow in our measures, & xxxx game so timorously that we are sure to lose. Why not twice forty thousand men? – It has been proved that we can always beat the French with equal numbers, or at any time when we are not grievously out-numbered. Why then send ou a force that can so easily be outnumbered <doubled or trebled by the enemy? –> – for allied armies cannot act together, & whatever battles we have to fight must be fought alone. Marlborough [8]  was the only General who could ever wield a confederacy.

I have made offer of my services to Gifford to undertake Freres Defence justification against the friends of Sir John Moore, if it be thought advisable. [9]  I have offered also to provide for the fourth Number a paper upon Methodism which would be in all things unlike Sidney Smiths, except in having as much dread of its progress. [10]  I should examine the causes of its progress, the principles in human nature to which it appeals, & by which it succeeds, its good & its evil, the means of preventing the one, & of obtaining the other at less risqué, & instead of offending the whole religious public, as they call themselves, by indiscriminate ridicule I should endeavour to show of what different parties that public is composed, how some of them may be conciliated & made useful, & others suppressed, for there are limits which common sense must appoint to toleration.

I have finished an English Eclogue which is at Ballantynes service either for his Annual Register or his Minstrelsey, & which shall be transcribed & sent him forthwith. [11]  I have never yet thanked you for Lord Somers, – a very acceptable addition to my Library, – a very valuable collection, & made far more so by your arrangement & additions. [12]  I am sorry my life of D Luisa de Carvajal is printed, [13]  or I would have offered it you, as worthy of being inserted among the Tracts of James 1sts time. [14] 

Mrs S. joins me in remembrances to Mrs Scott

believe me

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.

July 6. 1809.

I do not know the value of the Stewardship, but if it be thought in Mr Fox’s phrase ‘too good a thing for me’ [15]  it might be seperated from the Northumberland estates.


* Address: [in another hand] Keswick July Six 1809/ Walter Scott Esqre/ Edinburgh/ R Sharp
Postmark: JY/ 1809/ 8
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Watermark: shield/ 1807/ T BOTFIELD
Endorsement: Southey/ 6 July 1809
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3878. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 240–242. BACK

[1] Nicholas Walton (d. 1809). BACK

[2] Southey asked several friends to intercede on his behalf for this position, including Humphrey Senhouse and George Beaumont, but in the end it was considered unsuitable for him; see Southey to Walter Scott, 8 August 1809 (Letter 1666) and Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 August 1809 (Letter 1669). BACK

[3] Untraced. BACK

[4] A paraphrase of part of a passage from Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 475–525), De Consolatione Philosophiæ. The complete passage reads: ‘Tu quoque, si vis/ Lumine claro/ Cernere rectum,/ Gaudia pelle/ Pelle timorem/ Spemque fugato/ nec dolor adsit’ and translates as ‘If you desire/ To look on truth/ And follow the path/ With unswerving course,/ Rid yourself/ Of joy and fear,/ Put hope to flight,/ And banish grief’, Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. Victor Watts (Harmondsworth, 1969; rev. edn 1999), p. 21. BACK

[5] Sharon Turner, George Canning, and William Gifford (possibly with the German statesman Friedrich von Gentz (1764–1832)) reviewed Proclamation of the Archduke Charles to his Army; Declaration of War by the Emperor of Austria; Address of the Archduke to the German Nation (1809) in the Quarterly Review 1 (May 1809), 437–455. BACK

[6] See Daniel, 2. BACK

[7] The Walcheren expedition was an unsuccessful British attempt to open another front in the Netherlands in support of the Austrian Empire’s struggle with France. Approximately 40,000 soldiers with supporting horses and artillery landed at Walcheren on 30 July 1809. There was little fighting but the army sustained heavy losses from sickness, and in December 1809 the rest of the force withdrew. BACK

[8] John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722; DNB), victor of the battle of Blenheim in which British troops fought alongside troops from Austria, the Dutch Republic, Denmark, and Brandenburg-Prussia. BACK

[9] The diplomatist John Hookham Frere was sent to Spain as minister-plenipotentiary to the Central Junta on 4 October 1808 and when the French marched on Madrid he urged Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), the Commander of the British forces in northern Spain, also to advance upon Madrid, despite his inclination to retreat through Portugal. After the disastrous British retreat to Corunna, Frere was blamed for this advice and recalled by the government. BACK

[10] Sydney Smith (1771–1845; DNB), one of the founders of, and leading contributors to, the Edinburgh Review. who reviewed John Styles (1782–1849), Strictures on Two Critiques in the Edinburgh Review on the Subject of Methodism and Missions (1809), Edinburgh Review, 27 (April 1809), 40–50. Southey responded in his review of [James Sedgwick (1775–1851; DNB)], Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in the Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[11] Southey’s poem ‘The Alderman’s Funeral, an English Eclogue’ was not included in English Minstrelsy. Being a Selection of Fugitive Poetry from the Best English Authors; with some Original Pieces Hitherto Unpublished (1810), but it was published in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.2 (1810) along with Southey’s other poems, ‘King Ramiro’ and ‘Queen Orraca’ (i-xiii). Both these works were published by Ballantyne. BACK

[12] 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). Southey owned 12 volumes of this work by Scott, published between 1809 and 1815, no. 2613 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[13] Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza (1568–1614), was a Spanish missionary who devoted herself to the cause of the Catholic faith in England during the reign of James VI and I (1566–1625, King of Scotland, England, and Ireland 1603–1625; DNB). An account of her life was written by Luis Muñoz (d.1646) as La Vida Y Virtues de la Venerable Virgin Dona Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza in 1632, and was summarised by Southey in the third edition of his Letters from Spain and Portugal (1808). Southey contributed a ‘Memoir of D. Luisa de Carvajal’ to the Athenæum: a Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information, 1 (April/May 1807), 270–277, 391–399, 495–500. BACK

[14] James I (1566–1625; DNB), King of Scotland (as James VI) from 1567, and from 1603 to 1625 King of England and Ireland. BACK

[15] In Southey’s letter to Walter Scott, dated 16 June 1809 (Letter 1645), he recounts his attempt to get a diplomatic position in Portugal through Charles James Fox who was Foreign Secretary in the ‘Ministry of all the Talents’ before his death in 1806, reporting that Fox considered the ‘Consulship’ to be ‘too good a thing for me’. BACK