1927. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 29 May 1811

1927. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 29 May 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 29. 1811

My dear Tom

I am still hard at work, – but I believe it may now be said confidently that (if nothing unforeseen should occur) we shall start on Monday June 10th that is <next> Monday week. We mean on the way up to stage it as far as we can, & go by way of Kendal & Leeds to Nottingham where we shall <stay> four & twenty hours for the sake of seeing K Whites family, – so that I suppose, we shall not reach Streatham before the Saturday.

This will be a very good volume of the Register, & so it ought to be by the length of time which it has cost. 544 pages printed, & I believe it will run hard upon 800! [1]  to the great dismay of the publishers. Even then I am compelled to put off till next year the disturbances in the E Indies, – a chapter upon our infatuated conduct in Sicily, – the rise & progress of the Guerrilla system in Spain, – & a view of the conduct of the Supreme Junta, [2]  – all subjects which may stand over without any manifest impropriety, but which, had I been writing leisurely, would have made part of this years annals.

I differ from you about the Bullion Question. [3]  & in nothing are you more wrong than in supposing it to be wholly decided as a party question <matter> in the House. – Vansittart [4]  the main speaker upon on the side of the practical men, being not a ministerialist, but of Lord Sidmouths [5]  party, – & the question being one upon which political oeconomists are now driven to confess themselves very much in the dark. Koster has given me the only light I have yet found upon the subject, he I think has demonstrated that the ideal pound must be the true standard of value, & that the price of gold, like that of every thing else, varies according to the proportion between the demand & the supply. [6]  Now the consumption has increased, probably 500 fold, within the last xxx 20 or 30 years, – & the supply has stopt, almost wholly.

About the D of York I entirely agree with you as to the impropriety & indecency of his reappointment, – but with respect to Parliament the remedy which you would apply is worse than the disease. The voice of the people is heard there, – witness his forced resignation. [7]  Make all elections popular & public opinion would instantly become despotic, – a despotism of all others the most cruel. At present public opinion has just the sway which it ought to have; the evil it does by crippling the executive in its foreign transaction is more than counterbalanced by the public morality it enforces.

Very likely the Prince has an object in view in this appointment which the ministers are from suspecting. The King [8]  is not likely to recover (so Col. Bunbury told me) – & the Prince, as soon as that point is established looks on to bringing his own party into power. It will <is> not be inconsistent with his character to suspect that he gladly makes these present men take upon themselves the odium of a measure which reconcile the country to seeing them turned out.

Aunt Mary tells me to enquire about the money (between 2 & 300£) arising from the sale of the plate & furniture at Fitzhead, [9]  which according to her account was by order of Chancery placed in the funds – Mr T. S. enjoying the interest during his life, & then the principal to be claimed by John’s heir at law.

I mean when in town to get acquainted with Blanco the editor of El Español, [10]  – & likewise if possible to get at the correspondence of the Guerrilla chiefs with our Government. They are doing great things. Mina [11]  has not less than 6000 men in Navarre, with whom he almost commands the province, the Empecinado [12]  also is very strong. Abella tells me he had just cut off 400 French in Guadalaxara, – which is only one short step from Madrid. I got a letter from mi buen amigo  [13]  a day or two ago, – with little more than the news of his safe arrival & that every thing was going on most prosperously. I am writing to him for more documents &c.

Mark the extract from Hutchinson. [14]  I fancy Amadis [15]  is out of print, but not likely to be reprinted, till I make a collection of my operas, – if I ever live to make one.

Rickman has sent me a print of Manuella Sanchez – one of the Zaragozan heroines, who fell in the second siege. [16]  Of course we have given it an honourable place –

All well. God bless you, love to Sarah – I wish I could see my niece – & I wish you could see Bertha Bruin, what a fine creature she is without her cap. O she is capital kissing!



* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ St Helens/ Bishops Auckland/ Durham.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey was right, the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811) ran to 797 pages plus a 24-page appendix. BACK

[2] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.1 (1812), 260–281, dealt with the Madras ‘mutiny’ by British troops in 1809; 472–481, with the guerrilla forces in Spain; and 353–380, reviewed the conduct of the Supreme Junta. British policy towards the Bourbon regime in Sicily was only mentioned in passing and had to wait until Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 422–437. BACK

[3] Whether Britain’s paper currency should be convertible into gold. For Southey’s later account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 89–114. BACK

[4] Nicolas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley (1766–1851; DNB), who became Chancellor of the Exchequer on 20 May 1812. He was opposed to an early return to convertability. BACK

[5] The former Prime Minister, Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; DNB), who became Home Secretary in 1812. BACK

[6] John Theodore Koster, A Short Statement of the Trade in Gold Bullion: Shewing the True Causes of the General Scarcity and Consequent High Price on that Precious Metal: Also Demonstrating that the Notes of the Bank of England are Not Depreciated (1810). It went into a second edition in 1811, and Koster followed this with Further Observations on Bullion and Bank Notes (1811). BACK

[7] Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB), had been reappointed as commander-in-chief of the British army in May 1811. He had previously held the post from 1798–1809, but had been forced to resign in the wake of allegations that he had profited from office trafficking. After a lengthy investigation, the charges were found to be unproven. It had, however, become apparent that his former mistress Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB) had received money from individuals keen for her to use her influence with the Duke, and that the Duke himself had known of her actions. For Southey’s account of this earlier scandal, see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 109–301. BACK

[8] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). He had been incapable of conducting public business since October 1810. BACK

[9] An estate belonging to Southey’s distant cousin, Cannon Southey (d. 1768). His exceptionally complex will led to much litigation. BACK

[10] El Español, the Spanish-language political journal established by Blanco White, with the discrete encouragement of the British Foreign Office. Published in London, the first number had appeared in May 1810; it ran until 1814. BACK

[11] Francisco Espoz y Mina (1781–1836), since 1810 he had been commander of the guerrilleros of Navarre against French troops. BACK

[12] Juan Martin Diez (1775–1825) (‘El Empecinado’, ‘the Undaunted’), guerilla leader who by 1811 commanded some 3000 men and attacked French communications between Madrid and Burgos. BACK

[13] ‘My good friend’. BACK

[14] Possibly a passage in the work of William Hutchinson (1732–1814; DNB), topographer and writer on Durham and the Lake District. BACK

[15] Southey’s 1803 translation of Amadis of Gaul. It was not reprinted. BACK

[16] Manuella Sanchez (d. 1809), one of many Spanish women who distinguished themselves in the defence of Zaragoza. She was shot through the heart. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 521. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Streatham (mentioned 1 time)