2586. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 11 April 1815

2586. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 11 April 1815 ⁠* 

My dear R.

I fear the Devil of cowardice has got into our Cabinet – God grant the ague fit do not prove catching. Vigorous measures might conquer France in the course of six months, – but if six months be lost he must be a bolder prophet than I am who would venture to say when or how the struggle will terminate. Buonaparte is come back because his soldiers cannot & will not live without war, & accordingly he begins by promising them their fill of it. But he finds that the people, passive as they are, want peace, & that he is not ready to meet the allies upon this present footing – therefore he now talks about peace, & at the same time endeavours to curry favour with the old Jacobines, & take his stand upon the old ground of the Revolution. [1]  –– With all my heart I wish M. Wellesley were Minister. As for Giant Despair [2]  he knows that war ought not to be avoided if it could, & could not if it ought: & he believes that it cannot be carried on more than two years without a national bankruptcy. These are the Grenville politics!

I shall now compleat & publish my series of Inscriptions recording the acts of the Army in the Peninsula, – fit work for the P. L. but of very difficult execution. I have written ten, – about a third of the number. [3] 

God bless you


11 April 1815.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Endorsement: RS/ 11 April 1815
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 14 AP 14/ 1815
MS: Huntington Library, RS 247. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] During the ‘Hundred Days’ Napoleon gave France a Constitution, with a Chamber of Peers, elected Chamber of Representatives and a guarantee of freedom of the Press. This ‘Acte Additionel’ to the original Bonapartist regime was approved by a plebiscite. He also definitely and finally abolished the French slave trade. BACK

[2] A character in John Bunyan (1628–1688; DNB), Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). Southey seems to be applying the term to William Grenville for his gloomy counsels about the forthcoming war against Napoleon. BACK

[3] Southey’s series of Inscriptions on the Peninsular War. Only 18 of the projected 30 poems were completed and they were not collected together until they were published in Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 122–156. BACK