1692. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 12 October 1809

1692. Robert Southey to Sir George Beaumont, 12 October 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick, Oct. 12, 1809

My Dear Sir,

Having gone thus far through life – not indeed without receiving kind offices, but without ever having solicited them, – it requires some effort to expose myself to the hazard of being thought obtrusive by you, for a second application. I have a brother in the Navy, and it has been advised me by Williams Wynn (who in all things concerning my welfare has long been my privy counsellor) to make application in his behalf, and get him, if possible, in the list of post-captains, he having been ten years a lieutenant. Wynn wished me to avail myself of Mr. Canning’s expressed good-will to this effect; but it appears to me from what passed respecting the Derwentwater stewardship [1]  that Mr. C. has little influence at the Admiralty, and indeed were it otherwise, and I a bolder asker than I have yet learned to be, this would not be a time to trouble him with my concerns. It is said that Lord Mulgrave [2]  intends soon to make a large promotion of admirals, and this is the circumstance which made Wynn exhort me immediately to make application. What I have further to state will, I hope, justify me for applying to you, and requesting your influence in a matter which interests me so nearly.

My brother is at present first lieutenant of Admiral Sotheby’s ship. [3]  His lieutenancy he earned by his services, having distinguished himself in the action between the Mars and L’Hercule, an important action upon the whole for him, because Captain Hood, who was his friend, was killed in it. [4]  Twice he has been disappointed of promotion when he had every prospect of it, first by the recall of Sir Samuel Hood [5]  from the West Indies, afterwards by the displacement of Mr. Grenville. There is now no chance of getting forward in the course of service; all opposition upon the sea is at an end. Nothing is to be done except by personal interest.

Admiral Sotheby’s ship is likely to go into dock, and in that case will be paid off. My brother’s situation cannot be altered for the better in his present rank, and it unfortunately happens that the longer a man remains in that rank, the worse does his situation become, for this reason, that most captains have their own first lieutenants, and as there are few ships in which one of ten years’ standing would not take that place by seniority, old lieutenants are usually disposed of in gun-brigs and small craft, the least reputable and the most uncomfortable part of the Navy. There is one circumstance which renders me peculiarly anxious to obtain promotion for him. We have an uncle, a wealthy man, possessing property, which in the common course of inheritance would have devolved upon us instead of him, as children of an elder brother. He is a man of that sort of disposition that the less his relations wanted his estates, the more he would be disposed to bequeath them as he ought to do. If Tom were Captain Southey he would in all probability be appointed his heir; if he remains what he is, the whole, there is every reason to believe, will be left to strangers. I have little doubt that a captain commission would secure to my brother an estate of a thousand a year. I could mention another circumstance more important to his happiness, and little less so to his welfare, to which the want of professional rank, and the prospect which it opens, is the obstacle; and this consideration it is which induces me, reluctant as I am, once more to solicit your good offices with Lord Mulgrave.

I do not wish to have him employed, confident as I should be that if he were on the Spanish coast he would eminently distinguish himself. To promote him and send him ashore would be conferring upon me the highest obligation. Family ties grow stronger as we advance in life, and they become fewer in number. There are few persons who are so rich in friends as I am. But among them all there is not one who loves me so dearly and entirely as he does. Nor is there that possible circumstance which would contribute so greatly to my happiness as to have him settled here beside the Lake.

I know not, Sir George, in what manner to apologise for an application which I am so little entitled to make. Yet I should have reproached myself had I not made it. The motive must plead for me, and I will rely upon your goodness to excuse me, if it should not be in your power to do more. – Your health, I hope, is better than it was. Present my respects to Lady Beaumont, and believe me, yours respectfully, and very thankfully for your late interference,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from William Knight (ed.), Memorials of Coleorton, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1887)
Previously published: William Knight (ed.), Memorials of Coleorton: Being letters from Coleridge, Wordsworth and his sister, Southey, and Sir Walter Scott to Sir George and Lady Beaumont of Coleorton, Leicestershire, 1803 to 1834, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1887), II, pp. 78–81. BACK

[1] In July 1809, Southey was informed by Richard Sharp that the stewardship of the Derwentwater Estates (which were owned by Greenwich Hospital) would soon become vacant on the death of the incumbent. Southey asked several friends to intercede on his behalf, including Sir 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

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

[3] Thomas Southey was serving on HMS Dreadnought, a 98-gun second rate ship of the line launched in 1801. She had fought at the battle of Trafalgar (1805) and was now under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas Sotheby (1759–1831), younger brother of the author, William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), who was Southey’s acquaintance. BACK

[4] The battle in 1798 between HMS Mars (a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line) against the French seventy-four gun Hercule ended in the French ship’s surrender, it having lost over three hundred men. On Mars 31 men were killed and 60 wounded, including the captain, Alexander Hood (1758–1798), who died of a wound to the thigh, on 2 April 1798. BACK

[5] Commodore (later Vice-Admiral) Sir Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet (1762–1814; DNB). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)