1675. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 4 September 1809

1675. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 4 September 1809 ⁠* 

Dear Tom

I know not whether I told you in my last that Ballantyne had engaged me to write a history of Spanish affairs for <during> the year xxx 1808 for his Edinburgh Annual Register’. [1]  We have now made a different arrangement, – they are so ill satisfied with the other part of the history of the year that they have paid for what is done & cancelled it, & I have undertaken to write the whole (between 4 & 500 pages) – for which I am to have four hundred pounds, – & this they wish me to do yearly. Now Tom I want some information from you. Write to me about the treatment of American vessels, & the pressing of foreign seamen, – some very striking stories you told me, of which I do not remember the particulars with sufficient exactness, but which I should like to mention, – of course avoiding all names whatever. Give me all the matter you can respecting our sailors & the Americans. [2] 

The Captains application for increase of pay unluckily did not take place till the beginning of the present year, [3]  or I should have given it a conspicuous character. It is however my full intention to write respecting the navy from your papers whenever I can find a good opportunity – which will doubtless soon be the case when I can find leisure. Meantime send me all the thoughts which occur to you, & all the anecdotes which you collect either of past or passing occurrences, – you know they will turn to good account.

I have begun this opus, & done what little is done with sufficient spirit, – not a little unlike the hum drum compilation which they have rejected, & which I requested to see. The weight of my censure falls upon the late ministry, as much for their base feelings towards Spain, now manifested in all newspapers, as for their former misdeeds, – but I fall foul of all parties in turn, & speak well of all where it is possible. Lord have mercy upon Mr Roscoe! with the sincerest personal respect & civility, I will so maul those wretched pamphlets of his that he & the peace mongers will wish they never had been written. [4]  And God have mercy upon poor Sir John Moore, [5]  – for it is my belief that if he had not luckily been killed when he was, he ought to have been shot as soon as he got home for running away.

The Annual Review is defunct, – dead of starvation, divinity & dullness. [5]  Last night brought me a letter settling my account for the third Quarterly, – the reviewal of Holmes is postponed, [6]  & there is only the S Sea Mission & old Valentia, [7]  for each of which I had something more than 24 £, – prime pay you see, & yet the Register work is at a higher rate.

Did I tell you that I got Edith, Mrs Coleridge & Miss Betham up Skiddaw on foot, – by help of sandwiches & a bottle of Bucellas, [8]  – & that Mrs C, got into a bog on her way down, more than knee deep – that she was obliged to take off her petticoat, – that I washed it for her & carried it home upon Juniper? [9]  Oh Tom how your sides would have ached if you had been present. – Yesterday we carted thro Newlands to Buttermere, Scale force was in great glory. [10]  Today Miss Betham left us, – I wish you had been here during her stay.

I have literally not been able to transcribe more Kehama [11]  for you. See how I am prest for time, – this business for Ballantyne must be done by the end of the year, & I am utterly unprepared for it having every thing to read, & not a single material at hand, except two account of Moores campaign. 432 pages of Brazil are printed. [12]  I have two chapters yet to transcribe, (that is one certainly, & the other if there is room for it) – the notes to arrange, & to put together the Bibliographical Appendix. And I suppose one Article will be required of me for the next Quarterly. These new employments however will materially improve my finances. And this reminds me to tell you that a xxx communication from Canning has been made me thro Walter Scott to know how he could serve me. I was advised by Sharp to ask for the Stewardship of the Derwentwater Estates, – this lay in Ld Mulgraves [13]  gift, & this I should get thro Ld Lonsdale (by way of H Senhouse & Sir G Beaumont) but it turns out that xxx more trouble & time are required than I either could or would afford for any income in the world. Lord Lonsdale however interested himself very amiably in the business, & in a very friendly manner offered me the assistance of any of his stewards & surveyors. However I got that information concerning the situation from Bedford & have given it up. Then I asked for the Historiographers place – it is held at present it appears by an old Frenchman – Dutens? [14]  – & when he dies I am assured that Canning will do all in his power to obtain it for me. Meantime all I have yet got by all this is some very handsome letters from quarters, – & a visit to Lowther Castle. [15] 

You have a cousin Edward Sir, – now about a fortnight old. I assure you Herbert is exceedingly interested at the news & talks about him very often. I wish you could see the sweet pictures Miss Betham had xxx made of this son of mine, & of Edith. Had you been here we should have had you.

Taking the Isle of Walcheren is a good thing, & must especially provoke & mortify Bonaparte. [16]  If Austria renew the war, it will prove a powerful diversion but what does that wretched Emperor deserve for making such an armistice – & sacrificing the Tyrolese so basely & infamously! [17]  – We shall have warm work in defending xxx Walcheren – the water is just narrow enough to make Bonaparte think he can cross it, & doubtless every means in his power will be used for the reconquest.

Rickman would have been here at this time had it not been for the death of his father. whether this will prevent him from coming this year he does not know as yet I believe we shall see Duppa here. he is in the North, & would be yesterday at Durham on his way to visit Sir John Swinburne – somewhere in Northumberland.  [18]  Fewer Lakers have reached the Hill this summer than any former one.

Poor Jackson is still alive & that is all. I hope he will be released before you receive this. – Love &c as usual. We are all well, & I expect two parcels by every coach.

God bless you


Sept 4. 1809. Keswick


* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey/ H. M. S. Dreadnought/ Plymouth Dock
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] He did; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 10 August 1809, Letter 1668. BACK

[2] Southey discussed the seizing of seamen from American ships in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 20–21. BACK

[3] In January 1809 Southey had hoped that a successful campaign to win a pay increase for naval captains would also result in an increase for Thomas, as a lieutenant; see Southey to Thomas Southey, 10 January 1809, Letter 1563. BACK

[4] Roscoe advocated peace with France in Considerations on the Causes, Objects and Consequences of the Present War, and on the Expediency, or the Danger of Peace with France (1808). Southey’s reply appears on p. 24 of the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810). BACK

[5] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), Scottish General with a long and varied military career. He was also MP for Lanark Burghs 1784–1790. After the controversial Convention of Cintra (1808), Moore was given the command of the British troops in the Iberian peninsula. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna on 16 January 1809. BACK

[5] See Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 17 August 1809, Letter 1670. Southey reviewed at least 100 books for the Annual Review during its publication (1800–1808). BACK

[6] Southey reviewed Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals; or, a Chronological History of America, from its Discovery in 1492 to 1806 in the Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 319–337. BACK

[7] In the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), Southey reviewed the Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61, and George Annesley, Viscount Valentia (1770–1844), Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (1809), 88–126. BACK

[8] A Portuguese sweet white wine. BACK

[9] Southey’s stick. BACK

[10] From Greta Hall the party took a cart southwest through the Newlands valley into the valley of Buttermere. The Scale Force waterfall cascades down the fell on the southern shore of Buttermere. BACK

[11] Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[12] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil, published in 1810. BACK

[13] Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831; DNB): a diplomatist and politician who was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in 1807. BACK

[14] Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB), a French Protestant, held the post of Historiographer Royal until his death on 23 May 1812. Southey’s campaign for the post proved unsuccessful and it went to James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB). BACK

[15] Lowther Castle, the residence of Lord Lonsdale, near Penrith in Cumbria. BACK

[16] The Walcheren expedition was an unsuccessful attempt to open another front in the Netherlands in support of the Austrian Empire’s struggle with France. Approximately 40,000 soldiers with supporting horses and artillery landed at Walcheren on 30 July 1809. There was little fighting but the army sustained heavy losses from sickness, and in December 1809 the rest of the force withdrew. BACK

[17] Britain and Austria were in alliance against France in 1809, but Napoleon advanced into Austria where he suffered a significant defeat at the battle of Aspern-Essling (22 May 1809). The Austrians failed to follow up this victory, which allowed Napoleon to seize the capital, Vienna, in early July. The Austrians were then defeated by the French at the battle of Wagram on 5–6 July 1809. Francis II (1768–1835), the last Holy Roman Emperor (1792–1806) and from 1804–1835 first Emperor of Austria, then made peace with Napoleon, abandoning his support of the Tyrolese rebellion against France’s ally Bavaria (the Tyrol having been ceded by Austria to Bavaria after Austria’s defeat by Napoleonic forces in 1805). BACK

[18] John Edward Swinburne, 6th Baronet (1762–1860), whose family estate was in Capheaton, Northumberland. BACK

Places mentioned

Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)
Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)