2107. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 30 May 1812

2107. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 30 May 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 30. 1812.

My dear Scott

Tho I have long owed you a letter, I should hardly at this time have robbed Ballantyne of the time employed in writing one, if a matter of considerable importance to my own worldly interests had not just now occurred. M. Dutens his Majestys Historiographer is dead, & I believe you know that I have long looked on to the situation which he held, as one might properly be given me, & which secure would secure to me a moderate competence. [1]  It is in the Lord Chamberlains gift. – Croker immediately applied for it & his application was favourably received. On such an occasion I would not omit any means in my power which might conduce to my success. I have therefore written to Lord Lonsdale, on whose good offices I believe I may depend, – & I have written to Canning also, but have sent up the letter to Gifford that if he thinks it ill-timed, he may put it in the fire. Had Perceval been living, I might have wanted no other interest. I now write to you, being sure that if you can there be any channel thro which you can assist me, you will chearfully xxx xxx use your influence for getting me appointed to that good ship the Historiographer. [2] 

The poem upon Catalonia [3]  which you designed to send me was commuted by a not very fortunate mistake for a collection of sermons, which in addition to a similar present from Mr Lundie of Kelso made the whole cargo consist of divinity, – except your letter and its accompaniments. Catalonia however may be in time for next year. I have excellent materials for the war in that province in the years 1808 & 9 – had they existed in time, – two printed portions of a critical-military-memoir by Cabanes, [4]  & the third in manuscript, sent over by the author in that state, in the hope that it might reach me in time. Indeed I have many friends at Cadiz who take as much interest as could be wished in procuring materials for me. The Countess of Bureta [5]  wrote to me by the last packet, & enclosed a letter from Zaragoza.

You probably heard that the liberal hint in the Edinburgh Review concerning the last years Register was taken into serious consideration by the Party. [6]  I received information from various quarters that I might expect to be summoned to the Bar of the House, & I know not to whom they are indebted for preventing them from giving this noble proof of their attachment to the liberty of the press. My appearance there would have been some inconvenience, but no injury. I am as much indebted to Messrs Jeffrey & Brougham as if their friendly intentions had taken effect, & certainly shall not fail to show a proper sense of the obligation at a convenient season. Of criticism be it fair or foul I should be the last man in the world to complain, the worst which Jeffrey could say of me as a writer would never have excited any feeling of anger, – but the man must be a rascal who holds me up as an object for political prosecution.

I hope to finish the Register [7]  in the course of a fortnight, reserving the South American matters for next year when [MS torn] will appear to more advantage from the greater scope of events, & when I shall be able to give to the subject the attention which it demands, – for it will be a work of no little labour. [8]  – Of the political changes which are going on I have now neither time nor heart to speak. Strong measures are required at home to save us from the second part of the Tragedy of Jack Cade. [9]  And for the Catholic question – to suppose that it can tame the wild Irish is absurd, – but it is not absurd to fe apprehend that it may lead to a Church-Revolution in England, an event which cannot happen without drawing after it a revolution in the state. – a consummation toward which all things seem tending, – but from which Almighty God preserve us!

believe me my dear Scott

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ Walter Scott Esqre/ Edinburgh
Stamped: Keswick 298
Postmark: JU/1812/1
Watermark: IPING/ 1806
Endorsement: Southey/ 30 May/ 1812
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3882. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Wilfred Partington, Sir Walter’s Post-Bag (London, 1932), pp. 86–87 [in part]. BACK

[1] The diplomatist and writer Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB) had died on 23 May 1812. Southey hoped to succeed him as Historiographer Royal. BACK

[2] Scott actively promoted Southey, writing to Lord Melville on his behalf; see H. C. Grierson (ed.), The Letters of Walter Scott, 1787–1832, 12, vols (London, 1932–1937), III, pp. 123–124. Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville (1771–1851; DNB), had become First Lord of the Admiralty earlier in 1812. BACK

[3] Edward Hawke Locker, Catalonia, A Poem, with Notes Illustrative of the Present State of Affairs in the Peninsula (1811). BACK

[4] Francisco Xavier de Cabanes (1781–1834), Historia de las Operaciones des Exercito de Catalune en la Guerra de la Usurpacion (1809), all three volumes (two printed and one MS) were no. 3816 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] María de la Consolación Azlor y Villavicencio (1775–1814), a Spanish aristocrat who took an active role in the two sieges of Zaragoza in 1808–1809. BACK

[6] A long aside (attributed by Southey to Brougham) in the Edinburgh Review, 18 (August 1811), 420–423n, had questioned whether the ‘virulent personal abuse … levelled at the most respectable members of the Legislature’ in the Edinburgh Annual Register was in breach of Parliamentary privilege and hinted that action against the author and publishers might be taken. If it had, Southey would have been summoned to attend parliament by the serjeant-at-arms (i.e. the chief law enforcement office in the Houses of Parliament). In the event, the Edinburgh Review’s suggestion was not taken up. BACK

[7] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[8] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813), 367–421. BACK

[9] The widespread public disorder which followed the rebellion led by John [alias Jack] Cade (d. 1450; DNB). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)