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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1729. Robert Southey to [? James] Ballantyne, [1810] ⁠* 

Dear Sir

Having found me so bold & blunt a writer, you will not be displeased at finding I am not an obstinate one also. [1]  Wherever my language can be qualified without xx sacrificing my opinions, it shall be readily done.

p. 2. the Note is cancelled.
Do – the expression concerning Mr Pitt corrected to your desire. [2] 
4. This also is altered, – & I thank you for having called me to reconsider it.
5. Mr Wyndhams bill certainly abolished the ballot. – I have no documents to refer to, but can rely upon my memory for the accuracy of the statement. Lord Castlereagh brought it back again last year, – for which it will be my duty to give him his deserts, – & it is probably {must be} under the {his} bill that your men are suffering. [3] 
6. The royal family. I perceive you have understood the latter part of the sentence as relating to the Abolition, [4]  whereas it refers to the Army Bill. This however does not lesson the force of the charge. I have altered it thus – “inasmuch as they had to contend for both against the greatest & most formidable influence.” [5] 
13. The passage concerning Wilberforce will be more difficult to alter, if it must needs be altered. I meant no stigma upon our national faith nor is {their} any implied {either} expressed or implied in the sentence. Our Church (that is the English Church) whatever may be the complection of its articles, [6]  has long been Arminian, – Mr Wilberforce is a Calvinist. Will this do, – “but he derived also considerable {great} influence from being considered as the head of the Calvinistic churchmen, & from the reverence with which he was regarded by the Orthodox Dissenters.” – This may be substituted if you think proper. [7]  Do not have any apprehension that any thing which proceeds from me, whether upon subjects of general policy, morals, fine literature, or religion, will ever be classed upon a level with Mr Jeffrays review. [8]  Speaking of things as I regard them I shall be in more danger of the charge of fanaticism than of irreligion, – referring as I needs must do to the righteous & unerring distributions of providence; & having the moral order of the Universe, for the pole star by which I steer.
p. 3. There is a blank concerning the number of hundred men which I cannot fill up. [9] 
p. 7. “after the manner in which the subject of Cath. Em. had previously been received. – Received is not the word, – & very provokingly I can neither call to mind what the word was, nor substitute one so appropriate. – By referring to the MS. it may probably be made out. – Is it waived? I think so. [10] 

Thus far I have endeavoured to correct every thing to your wish. Suffer me on my part to request that the word wanton at p. 13. may stand. [11]  Merely to speak of the “ruinous consequences” of that war, implies no censure of it, – for it might have been unfortunate & not unjust; but as I never can think of its {commencement} without indignation as well as grief, so can I never allude to it without expressing a deep conviction of its folly & injustice. – I wish also the personal pronoun I to stand p. 15. [12]  we are but one, & it is more dignified as well as more honest to use language, which appropriates the opinion delivered to the individual delivering it.

I had thought as you do, respecting a general view of the state of Europe. But upon arranging my plan & giving it as much consideration as I was capable of bestowing, it appeared to me that the first paragraph stated all which was necessary to be premised, in a way the more impressive from its brevity, & that the detail will come in more conveniently hereafter, & some of it indeed serve to lighten the weight of the Parliamentary Chapters. [13]  Do what I will with these they must be heavy; – & if there were to be a motto to them, it ought to be the old proverb ‘There is no making a silk purse of a sows ear.’

The arrangement of the subsequent Chapters is this – after the Copenhagen Debates, Ch. 4 – Those which grew out of that question concerning the Dardanelles, & the Mediation of Russia, – Ch. 5. The Orders in Council. Ch. 6. miscellaneous Debates upon important subjects – omitting the unimportant ones altogether. 7 – The Swedish war – as far as it can be collected. [14]  – What is to be done with E Indian affairs? [15]  Your title properly excludes them, – & I could wish them left to the Asiatic Ann. Register, [16]  because I am quite incompetent to the subject, never having paid the slightest attention to it. Indeed I come to this whole task {work} under many disadvantages, & had it not been for the interest which Spanish affairs excite in me, & my earnest feeling respecting the general question of war, & the lamentable mismanagement of it, I should have declined undertaking what in its dull parts is a very laborious, & in its better ones a very invidious task.

In the parts which are yet to write I will so contrive as that all the intermediate leaves which remain blank may be cut out, & not go to the ounce of postage.

I am as anxious as you can be to get on with the work, – & am using & will use as much expedition as is compatible with doing it well. A little time might be gained by paging the appendix of state papers seperately, & printing them as you went on, – this also would enable us to refer from the History to the page where the Document is to be found. [17] 

It would be an interesting & useful thing if you were to give in your second volume a complete list of all the Newspapers, Magazines, Reviews, & periodical Journals whatsoever, published at this present time in Great Britain, – & also a list of all the books published within the year. [18]  You have in your Prospectus [19]  allotted a Division for the Debates in Parliament, – so much of this must be in the History that I think there should be no more of it.

I shall be very sorry if you are startled by the opinion which I have expressed upon Tyrannicide. [20]  Should it provoke abuse, as probably it may, I will chearfully vindicate it in your second volume in an express essay upon the subject, [21]  & put to scorn the despicable cant of Mr Whitbread & such like reasoners. [22]  xxxx To confound tyrannicide with assassination is precisely the same abuse of words that it is to call a soldier a murderer.

And now Sir I have only to express my pleasure that the general spirit & manner of this chapter has satisfied you, & to repeat that in all cases where it can be done without compromising opinions to the explicit avowal of which I attach a conscientious importance, – I will qualify & soften down such passages as you think stand in need of it.

A portion of MS. goes by the same post as this, & more will be sent off in the course of the week.

Yrs respectfully

R Southey


Notes

* Address: To/Mr Ballantyne
MS: Beinecke Library, GEN MSS 298, Series I, Box 1, folder 1
Unpublished.
Dating note: The letter deals with proofing corrections for the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810) and therefore probably dates to very early 1810. BACK

[1] The letter begins with a set of proofing corrections for the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810). BACK

[2] The ‘expression’ which had been corrected could have been concerned with William Pitt’s (1759–1806; DNB) abandonment in 1804 of his pro-Catholic emancipation policy in order to become Prime Minister. For the published version, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 2. BACK

[3] William Windham (1750–1810; DNB), Secretary of State for War 1806–1807, had suspended the ballot used to recruit the militia in 1806. Viscount Castlereagh (1769–1821; DNB), Secretary of State for War 1805–1806, 1807–1809, reversed this policy with the Local Militia Act (1808), which established a new local militia in addition to the existing county militia. It was meant to replace the old system of Volunteer Infantry, who could transfer to the local militia en bloc. Recruitment was voluntary and members were not obliged to serve outside their home area. But if sufficient men did not come forward, all local men aged 18–30 were balloted to provide recruits. No substitutes were allowed; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 5, 83–92. Southey commented on Castlereagh’s initiative in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 308–310. BACK

[4] i.e. the abolition of the slave-trade in 1807, rather than William Windham’s (1750–1810; DNB), Army Act of 1806, which suspended the ballot used to recruit the militia. BACK

[5] The alternative was approved; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 6. BACK

[6] The Thirty Nine Articles (1563) outline the doctrine of the Church of England. They can be interpreted as much more in line with the teachings of the French theologian, Jean Calvin (1509–1564), than his Dutch critic, Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609), especially on the issue of predestination and free will. BACK

[7] Southey’s correction was approved; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 12. BACK

[8] i.e. The Edinburgh Review. BACK

[9] The ‘several hundred brave men’ who perished in 1807 during the failed British attempt to conquer the Rio de la Plata; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 3. BACK

[10] It was, and ‘waived’ was used in the published version; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 7. BACK

[11] It did stet, see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 13: ‘the ruinous consequences of the first wanton war against France’. BACK

[12] Ballantyne did not allow it to stand. BACK

[13] Chapters 3–9 in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 29–185. BACK

[14] This plan was not followed in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810): Chapter 4 dealt with both debates about the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807 and Russia’s offer of mediation between Britain and France; the Orders in Council of 1807 on trade with the Continent were inserted into Chapter 2; the miscellaneous debates became Chapter 8; the war between Russia and Sweden in 1808–1809 became Chapter 10. BACK

[15] An account of the affairs of the East India Company appeared in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 133–147. BACK

[16] The Asiatic Annual Register (1799–1811), published by Cadell and Davies. BACK

[17] This plan was adopted and in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810) the 42 state papers were paginated xix–ciii. BACK

[18] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.2 (1810), i–xxxii contained a list of publications for 1808. But there was no list of newspapers. BACK

[19] The ‘Prospectus’ to the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), [v]–xii. There was no separate section on debates in the final volume. BACK

[20] i.e. Southey’s justification of tyrannicide and condemnation of those who thought otherwise: ‘Shame on the age we live in, that the high and holy principles of tyrannicide should be called in question, sanctioned as they are by our own scriptures, by the universal voice of wise antiquity, by the understanding and the heart of man, and by the approbation of posterity uniformly rewarding the deed!’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 25. BACK

[21] Ballantyne did not take up Southey’s offer. BACK

[22] The radical MP Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB). For an example of Southey’s views on his politics: ‘Mr Whitbread rose, as usual, to play the part of advocate for Buonaparte, and to revile the allies of England’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 303. BACK

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August 2013