2261. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 21 May 1813

2261. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 21 May 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 21. 1813.

You know what I have written upon the Madras disturbances. [1]  The Carnatic Debts [2]  are not touched upon in that Chapter, – I had however gone thro all the papers concerning them which were laid before Parliament, & my opinion was as much in favour of Sir G. B. [3]  xx <in this> the beginning of the xx business, as it was <in the rebellion> at the end. But in the progress I thought he acted in more than one instance, oppressively. – You will believe me when I say that I should have been heartily glad to have thought him right throughout.

If however Marshs book [4]  applies chiefly to the Carnatic Debts, there is no reason why I should decline to answer him upon that point: & upon the general question – the necessity of xxx suppressing the rebellious spirit of the army, & the vigour with which it was done, too much cannot be said in praise of the Government of Madras. I have therefore no other feeling of repugnance at undertaking this task [5]  than that it makes me feel, for the first time in my life, like one whose talents are for sale, & who writes not because he has information to communicate, amusement to offer or opinions to enforce, but wholly & solely because he is paid for writing. In this there is something humiliating. But a feeling of pride ought not to stand in the way if there be no stronger reason.

I know Marsh, & if we were Bedouin Arabs he would have a right to expect my protection, – for he once ate bread & cheese & drank porter at some lodgings which I <was> occupying for a week in London. He came uninvited & unwelcome as xx well, & Wm Taylor in whose company he introduced himself would fain have been excused from bringing him, [6]  – for Marsh is a worthless fellow. He was then going to India, [7]  & x xxxx xxxxxx xx xx xxxx xxx xxxxx <was not without some fear of being shipt off> in a different direction: <for> Among many dishonesties he had committed one which brought him within reach of the law, – & I believe he had recourse to some shifts & stratagems to get safely on board. [8] 

Let me see the plan which is sketched out, that I may chew the cud upon it. The business of course must be kept secret, – & if it will not occupy much time, it had better be done at Streatham, where any alterations may be made as soon as they are suggested, & no time lost in a distant correspondence. I can come to you xx a month hence. I have a paper upon the History of the Dissenters [9]  to finish for Murray, & & also to conclude the fourth volume of the Register, & with it my labours in that work. [10]  I have long suspected Ballantyne the bookseller of intending to defraud me, & the intention is now pretty plainly avowed. Of course I have given notice that another Annalist must be provided. Some trouble xxx will probably await me, & some loss, – but I take things of this kind easily, & xxxx xx xxxxxxx xx & they give me no vexation.

You will let me know if you can receive me the last week in June, – & indeed if you cannot, the Doctor can. Coxe has applied for Mr Walpoles papers. [11]  – I must have done with them first, – & if you would like to assist me in this, which will save me some precious time, I will send them off to you. – One of the plans which I think of among xxx the ways & means which are now to be provided for, is that of compleating giving as compleat a picture as I can of what Portugal was before the Revolution: – a sort of supplement to the history of the Court, [12]  – containing all that information which is not matter for history. For this I have abundant memoranda, as well as materials, – & Mr Walpoles papers will be of considerable use.

There will be some profit in this, but more of pleasure & reputation. I think also of making some arrangements when I am in London respecting a history of the war in the Peninsula. [13]  What I have done in the Register is necessarily very imperfect – & for a regular work I think I could without difficulty procure materials from M. Wellesley, & from Government. I have a good channel open at Cadiz, & think I can find one at Coruña, where Pardo, [14]  my dirty acquaintance at Jardines, has done his devoir most nobly with the pen, & more than any other xxx man contributed to keep rouse & keep up the spirit of the Gallegos. I have MS. materials for the Catalan part, & can procure their continuance & the Countess Bureta [15]  will send me xxxxxxx Zaragozana. xxx She is married to D Pedro Maria Ric, [16]  – & there cannot be better means of acquiring every thing respecting xx Aragon.

We have had some sickness among the children. The eldest is dreadfully tormented with ascarides. I have not been well myself, & shall be the xx better for change of air, & a good shaking.



* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 10o’Clock / MY 24/ 1813 FNn
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), II, pp. 58–60. BACK

[1] A mutiny by European officers in the East India Company’s Madras Army in 1809. Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810, 3.1 (1812), 260–281, for Southey’s account. BACK

[2] An incredibly complex issue. The Nawabs of Carnatic had incurred massive debts to the East India Company and to private British traders. In 1801 a deal was struck whereby the administration of the State was handed over to the East India Company, in return for the Madras Government agreeing to pay the Nawabs’ debts. It soon became clear that many of the Nawabs’ alleged debts were not genuine and were based on forged bonds. The Madras Government’s attempt to prosecute a number of people for these forgeries produced inconclusive and contradictory verdicts; and the Government was accused of high-handed actions against local merchants and officials it suspected of being involved in the forgeries. BACK

[3] Sir George Hilaro Barlow (1763–1846; DNB), Governor of Madras 1807–1813. He was recalled in 1812 and there was much controversy about his actions during the mutiny of 1809. BACK

[4] The barrister and MP Charles Marsh (c. 1774–1835; DNB), Review of Some Important Passages in the Late Administration of Sir G. H. Barlow, Bart., at Madras (1813). This attacked Barlow’s conduct as Governor of Madras. BACK

[5] Sir George Barlow’s brother, William (1759–1839), was a neighbour of Herbert Hill’s in Streatham. In 1813 Southey was commissioned by the Barlows to write a defence of the ex-Governor’s conduct. The result was the anonymously published pamphlet An Exposure of the Misrepresentations and Calumnies in Mr Marsh’s Review of Sir George Barlow’s Administration at Madras. By the Relatives of Sir George Barlow (1813). BACK

[6] Marsh had been born in Norwich and had moved in the same circles as Taylor. In 1795 both had contributed to the locally-published The Cabinet. BACK

[7] Marsh had obtained a judicial appointment in Madras in 1804, thus dating his meeting with Southey to around this time. He returned to England in 1809 and became MP for East Retford 1812–1818. Southey’s dislike for him can also be explained by Marsh’s consistent support for Catholic emancipation and his opposition to attempts to impose Christianity in India. BACK

[8] Marsh was a controversial figure. His ‘many dishonesties’ reputedly included misrepresenting himself to the electors of East Retford as a Whig, and thus gaining his parliamentary seat by deceit. He also suffered from persistent financial difficulties. BACK

[9] Southey’s review of David Bogue (1750–1825; DNB) and James Bennet (1774–1862; DNB), The History of Dissenters, from the Revolution in 1688–to the Year 1808 (1812); Walter Wilson (1781–1847; DNB), History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches (1808–1814); Neal’s History of the Puritans (1812), Quarterly Review, 10 (October 1813), 90–139. BACK

[10] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813) was the final volume that Southey wrote for. BACK

[11] William Coxe had asked Southey for the papers of the diplomat Robert Walpole (1736–1810), Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal, 1771–1800. Southey had these papers as John May had asked him to write Walpole’s life. Coxe was rumoured to be planning, though he did not write, a life of Jose I (1714–1777; King of Portugal 1750–1777). He was, however, a royal biographer and his Memoirs of the Kings of Spain was published in 1813. BACK

[12] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[13] Southey’s History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[14] Manuel Pardo de Andrade (1760–1832), priest, journalist and poet. He had roused the Galicians against the French through his paper, Diario de la Coruna. Southey had met him in 1795–1796, see Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (Bristol, 1797), pp. 22–23. BACK

[15] 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

[16] The Spanish aristocrat and politician Pedro Maria Ric y Monserrat, Baron de Valdeolivos (1776–1831). He had married the Countess of Bureta in 1808. BACK

Places mentioned

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