2707. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 3 February 1816

2707. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 3 February 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 3 Feby. 1816

My dear R.

Murray has sent me a book upon the Catacombs of Paris, which I shall probably digest into a paper for the Quarterly. [1]  By a sort of Irish xxxxxx <contrivance> the French xxxx for ever since the beginning of this city have been quarrying below as they built above, – & if the danger had not been discovered in time the people of Paris would like Korah Dathan & Abiram have gone down alive into the pit. [2]  Engineers were then appointed to prop the city & take care of the quarries, & they are now converted to Catacombs, – in which process the French have displayed a great deal of good sense & not a little of what may be called Frenchness for want of a fitter name. At present Paris is the only city in the world that is properly provided with a receptacle for its dead.

I have lately received some good documents for the peninsular war: Sir Hew Dalrymple has sent me some thro Murray, – of no great value to me, & of none to himself, – his purpose being obvious enough. [3]  I gather from them one fact, that Morla’s [4]  dislike toward the English was seen at the beginning of the Revolution, – Sir Hew x remarks it to Sir A Wellesley, & I know xxxx <that> Frere always suspected him. – I have a good account of the Douro campaign in a letter from an officer who fell at Talavera, [5]  – & the correspondence of the Portuguese committee [6]  has been sent me – that is the offical accounts which they received from Portugal of the conduct of the French under Massena [7]  & the state of the country. Ni fallor, [8]  the history of that campaign will for some generations secure the people of Europe from another such: the infamy which will be attached to Massena & his army operating henceforth in terrorem. [9] 

Remember me to Mrs R.

God bless you



* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Postmark: FREE/ 6 DE 6/ 1816
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Louis-Etienne-François, Vicomte Héricart de Thury (1776–1854), Description des Catacombes de Paris, précédée d’un Précis Historique sur les Catacombes de tous les Peuples de l’Ancien et du Nouveau Continent (1815); reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 21 (April 1819), 359–358. BACK

[2] Numbers 16, details how they were swallowed up by the earth as divine punishment for their rebellion against Moses. BACK

[3] In his first article on the ‘Life of Wellington’, in Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 215–275, especially at 242–243, Southey had criticised the conduct of Dalrymple when, arriving in Portugal as commanding officer, he had, at the Convention of Cintra, signed 30 August 1808, allowed a defeated French army free passage out of the country with its weapons and supplies intact. Dalrymple responded by sending Southey papers giving his version of events; see Robert Southey to Hew Dalrymple, 6 March 1816, Letter 2732. BACK

[4] Tomas de Morla y Pacheco (1748–1812), Spanish General and Governor of Cadiz 1800–1808. He opposed the French invasion in 1808, but was disgraced after negotiating the surrender of Madrid. Southey mentioned Dalrymple’s distrust of Morla in History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), II, p. 29. BACK

[5] The Battle of the Douro occurred on 12 May 1809 when British and Portuguese troops under Wellington defeated French troops and took the city of Porto. The Battle of Talavera took place on 27–28 July 1809 as Wellington’s British and a Spanish army met the French on the road from Portugal to Madrid. Southey discusses these battles in History of the Peninsular War, 3 vols (London, 1823–1832), II, pp. 289–313, 410–418, but the identity of the officer who wrote the account of the Battle of the Douro is not revealed. BACK

[6] The papers Southey had received concerned the £100,000 parliament had voted in 1811 to relieve the sufferings of the Portuguese people following the French invasion. The money was distributed by Commissioners, whose report was placed before the House of Commons on 6 July 1814. BACK

[7] Andre Massena (1758–1817), commander of the invasion of Portugal in 1810–1811. BACK

[8] ‘if I err not’. BACK

[9] ‘In [order to] frighten’, i.e. a warning. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)