1662. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 3 August 1809

1662. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 3 August 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Scott

I can now report progress in the Quest of the Stewardship. – a different sort of quest from what our old friends of the Round Table were wont to undertake. – Lord Lonsdales countenance is secured, he has replied both to Sir George Beaumont & Senhouse in the handsomest manner. & the former by his advice has written to Lord Mulgrave [1]  in whose gift the appointment will rest. Sir George is intimate with Lord M. & says that if it be not already promised he has ‘some prospect of success.’ – Thus far the business has proceeded & thus far every thing looks well. To Lord M. I have no other means of access, unless Sotheby [2]  is acquainted with him, as I seem to half-recollect. At all events a great point is gained, & as the answer to Senhouse was accompanied with an invitation I must go shortly & make my acknowledgements at Lowther.

Gifford sends me a letter of marque against the Methodists, [3]  but takes no notice of my application respecting Frere & Sir John Moore. [4]  He waits perhaps till James Moore’s book appears. [5]  there are two other accounts already published either of which would bring the business to a tangible shape, it may however be best to wait till they can all be compared; & perhaps he will send them to me without any further notice. [6] 

I am much obliged to Ballantyne for the offer which you communicated. In a few days I will write to Longman, consulting him as to the form in which the poem had best be published, [7]  – that it xx xx is best to do so on my own account, I am persuaded for these reasons, – that like my former poems it will sans doubt immediately pay the expences of publication. & I believe do little more at first, but if it be good for any thing it will have its day of sale at last. It is not worth booksellers while to purchase <copy-right> in hopes of a joyful resurrection, – but it is worth mine to keep it in that hope. – And for the old plan of sharing, – as there is no risque on the booksellers part, there is no good reason why I should not take the whole profits to myself little as they will be, – especially as I have been offered any advance of money necessary for such a purpose, from two quarters,–from either of which such an offer may be accepted without reluctance. The only question therefore seems to be in what form to print. 180 Madocs in the warehouse plead I am afraid strongly against the quarto, [8]  & these I think will weigh with Longman, – but I shall be glad of your opinion & Balantynes upon the subject also.

You wonder that I have never tried the drama. In spite of many resolutions so to do, a conviction that I could tell the same thing better epically than dramatically has always witheld me. Should this quest (of which but for you I never should have had a prospect) prove successful, it will make a material difference in my literary occupations. I should be relieved from the necessity of any employment which is not perfectly congenial to my own wishes & aspirations, & should without interruption pursue the great historical works on which I have so long been busied at such fits and intervals as could be spared, – relieving them by having always some poem in hand, the sale of which would then be to me a thing altogether indifferent.

The house of Austria is dishonoured as well as ruined by that base armistice. [9]  – I like our expedition, if it be meant to keep the Islands, because it will be a bold, useful & galling manifestation of British power. [10]  Still I wish 100, 000 men were sent to the North of Spain, being perfectly sure that such an army would beat any force which could be brought against them.

believe me

yours very truly

Robert Southey.

August 3. 1809. Keswick.


* Address: To/ Walter Scott Esqr/ [deletion and readdress in another hand] Edinburgh/ <Aschestiel/ Selkirk>
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: AU/ 1809/ 5
Watermark: shield/ 1808/ T BOTFIELD
Endorsement: Southey/ 3d. August/ 1809
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3878. ALS; 4p.
Previously published:; Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 512–513. BACK

[1] Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831; DNB): diplomatist and politician who was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in 1807. BACK

[2] Southey’s acquaintance, the poet and translator, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB). BACK

[3] Southey reviewed [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 Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[4] 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 retreat to Corunna, Frere was blamed for this advice and recalled by the British government. BACK

[5] James Moore (1762–1860; DNB), surgeon and biographer, published A Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army in Spain (1809), incorporating letters and extracts from his elder brother’s journals. BACK

[6] Though Southey was never asked to write a review of these books, George Ellis and George Canning reviewed James Moore, A Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army in Spain, Commanded by His Excellency Lt. General Sir John Moore, K. B. &c. Authenticated by Official Papers and Original Letters; Clinton, A few Remarks explanatory of the Motives which guided the Operations of the British Army, during the late short Campaign in Spain; Observations on the Movements of the British Army in Spain, in Reply to the Statement lately published by Brig. General Clinton. By a British Officer; Letters from Portugal and Spain &c. By an Officer; Ormsby, An Account of the Operations of the British Army &c.; Adam Neale (1778?-1832), Letters from Portugal and Spain: Comprising an Account of the Operations of the Armies under their Excellencies Sir Arthur Wellesley and Sir John Moore (1809). Robert Ker Porter (1777–1842), Letters from Portugal and Spain: Written During the March of the British Troops under Sir John Moore. By an Officer (1809), 203–234. BACK

[7] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[8] The first edition of Madoc (1805) was published by Longmans in a luxury quarto form, but sales were slow and the second edition, published in 1807, was more cheaply produced and priced. BACK

[9] Britain and Austria were in alliance against France in 1809, but Napoleon advanced into Austria where he suffered a significant defeat at the battle of Aspern-Essling (22 May 1809). The Austrians failed to follow up this victory, which allowed Napoleon to seize the capital, Vienna, in early July. The Austrians were then defeated by the French at the battle of Wagram on 5–6 July 1809 and forced to sue for peace on unfavourable terms. BACK

[10] 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 withdrew. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)