2086. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [before 26 April 1812]

2086. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [before 26 April 1812] ⁠* 

My dear R.

Thank you for your letter. If Capt Paisley [1]  wins his up-hill fight, he will do us as good service as if he were in Spain himself. This was a bloody business, [2]  but of main importance, & in all likelihood it will lead to the clearance of Andalusia, – that done Madrid will be to be fought for as in 1809.

I believe the shame of this war drives Buonaparte to the Northward. His powers cannot subsist without bulletins & victories, & Spain affords him none, while it costs France more than all her conquests.

Have you seen some letters signed Vetus in the Times. [3]  At first I guessed them to be Cannings, but this I see is not the case, – tho they are by an Irishman, & one who must be about his age. I should like to know who he is. A Wellesley Opposition attacking Ministry because they do not do enough in Spain, would strengthen them greatly. There are two truths which ought to be imposed upon our rulers – 1st that any thing will make a good soldier; – otherwise the French would not be good soldiers, – for nothing upon two legs can be worse than a French man. 2dly that nothing makes so good a soldier as an Englishman. The corollary is that we should make up the account of numbers with Portugueze, Spaniards, Sicilians, Hottentots & Black Regiments from the Sugar Islands, – & the British weight would then uniformly & certainly turn the scale.

I shall not reach London before the fall of the leaf. Remember me to Mrs R. Our young ones are in the chicken pox, – otherwise all well.




* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS/ 26 April 1812; 26 April 1812
MS: Huntington Library, RS 185. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), who had served in the British army in Spain in 1808 and 1809. His Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (London, 1810), p. 241, argued that the British should have demanded ‘the chief command of every combined army in Spain’. BACK

[2] The battle of Badajoz, 6 April 1812, saw an Anglo-Portuguese army defeat the French, though with heavy casualties on both sides. After the battle, the city was sacked by the victorious troops and large numbers of civilians were killed. BACK

[3] The letters appeared in The Times between 10 March and 10 May 1812. They were condemnatory of Perceval’s administration. They were published in book form as The Letters of Vetus (1812). Vetus (‘old’) was the Irish journalist Edward Sterling (1773–1847; DNB), who later in 1812 accepted a leader writing post on The Times. BACK

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