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

1826. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 November 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 11. 1810.

My dear Wynn

Your letter gave me no little pleasure, for tho I have the happy faculty of caring nothing for any thing that can be said against me in prose or rhyme, I am exceedingly gratified when those whom I esteem are satisfied with my works. Doubtless it would have been a great advantage to me if while I was employed upon the Annals for 1808, [1]  I could have been had opportunities of conversing with you, & other persons who capable of giving me authentic information & correcting those erroneous opinions into which it is so easy to fall when your ones judgement is formed upon partial or imperfect statements. In many instances I am sure I should have derived this benefit from you. You have now shown me that the subordinate changes made by the last Administration were not unprecedented, [2]  – which the newspapers & common report had taught me to believe. I xxxxxxxxx {do not think} that the precedent justifies the measure, – but assuredly had this been known to me I would have taken care that the assertion {statement} should have been correct. With regard to Egypt & the Dardanelles I do not perceive any difference between us in reality. Both expeditions failed, & both from misconduct, which misconduct never was investigated & fixed upon the right person. I was always of opinion that Egypt ought to have been occupied – not Alexandria alone. But for Constantinople the project itself seems not to have been well considered, & with such an Admiral & such an Ambassador to put it in execution, – little else was to have been expected. [3] 

These however are topics which I have done with. Give me any information respecting 1809 & passing events, & you shall perceive that your views & opinions will always have great weight with me, whether they accord with my own or not. My Spanish fever as you call it continues unabated, – & is I flatter myself, a much more hopeful disease than the French ague with which so large a part of the opposition were seized when Buonaparte entered Spain. I am in the midst of Spanish affairs, & greatly distressed for details of the second siege of Zaragoza [4]  & for of that of Gerona. [5]  I am beating up in all quarters in search of documents upon these points.

Thank you for the shipwreck, – had it fallen within the year I should it would have furnished me with a very impressive page, but you date it in 1807 which is out of my limits. I have lookd for your promised narrative concerning La Fayette, – that I could introduce, because the Austrian war ought to be introduced prefaced by a view of the conduct of Austria from the commencement of the French Revolution, & I, who only hate that power less than the French Despotism, rejoice on that account in any thing which can tend to reconcile me to its degradation & future destruction. Besides the story is so interesting – & so honourable to English feelings that it ought to be made public & I am sure it would prove one of the most interesting parts of the volume. Pray obtain it for me. [6] 

I think you will be pleased with the temper in which I consider the D of Yorks business [7]  & indeed with the whole tone of my politics for the year, – except perhaps in the decided condemnation past upon Sir J Moore. [8]  I have finished the Walcheren history [9]  – {made} with great pains from the whole of the Parl. Proc. A very able narrative published xx (I have no doubt) by Capt Pasley [10]  of the Engineers, – a man of extraordinary ability, – some little private information, & the medical books concerning the disease. Can you give me any account of the temper of the Saxon Court & people when your brother was there? [11]  – & whether he supposes the Court to have acted in any degree from inclination in taking the French part. This is a point upon which I feel myself altogether ignorant. You can hardly conceive how anxious I am to make these Annals as full & authentic as possible.

Grosvenor set off today, better than when he arrived, but I fear with no radical amendment. He stays a week at Ambleside on his way. Rickman has paid me a short visit. From him I get the Parl. Proc. xxx which I shall receive in regular order hereafter. The D of Yorks papers came to night with your honours name in the direction.

I know nothing of the makers of the second part of the Register except that the Chronicle is now in other hands – a Scotch Clergyman – who has written me two enormous letters of consultation about it, which I answerd in one very short one. [12]  I expect however from his anxiety about it that it will be more carefully compiled next year.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Camelford House/ London
Postmark: FREE/ 15 NO 15/1810
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 541–543. BACK

[1] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (1810). BACK

[2] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 5, had alleged that the Ministry of 1806–1807 (of which Wynn had been a member) had undertaken a wholesale change in public appointments, to make room for ‘a set of hungry partizans’. BACK

[3] Britain was at war with the Ottoman Empire, 1807–1809, and the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 54–58 dealt with the parliamentary debates on the heavily criticised British naval expedition to the Dardenelles in 1806–1807. The Fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir John Duckworth (1747–1817; DNB), though he had to co-operate with Charles Arbuthnot (1767–1850; DNB), British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire 1804–1807. Although part of the Ottoman Fleet was destroyed, the British force was unable to compel the Empire to end its alliance with France. In March–September 1807 British troops occupied Alexandria in the hope of putting further pressure on the Ottomans, to no avail. Southey only mentioned this expedition in passing, labelling it ‘disgraceful and disastrous’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 3. BACK

[4] The Spanish city of Zaragoza was twice besieged by the French in 1808–1809. The death toll was over 54,000 before it finally fell on 20 February 1809. BACK

[5] The city of Gerona had fallen to the French on 11 December 1809 after a siege of nearly seven months. BACK

[6] Southey was mistaken as to the would-be rescuers identity. The story that was published was of a Hanoverian and an American who in 1794 had attempted to free Marie-Paul-Joseph-Roch-Gilbert Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (1757–1834) from his imprisonment at Olmutz; Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.2 (1811), 514–525; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 August 1810, Letter 1803. BACK

[7] In 1809, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827; DNB) had been forced to resign as commander-in-chief of the British army in the wake of allegations that he had profited from office trafficking. After a lengthy investigation, the charges were found to be unproven. It had, however, become apparent that his former mistress Mary Anne Clarke (c. 1776–1852; DNB) had received money from individuals keen for her to use her influence with the Duke, and that the Duke himself had known of her actions. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 109–301. BACK

[8] The British commander, Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), who was killed in battle at Corunna on 16 January 1809. Southey was highly critical of Moore’s conduct, accusing him, for example, of forming ‘unjust and self-paralysing prejudices against the Spanish people’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 479. BACK

[9] The ill-fated Walcheren campaign of 1809. Over 4000 British soldiers died and some 4000 more were affected by disease. For Southey’s account, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 660–692. BACK

[10] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB). Southey greatly admired his Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). BACK

[11] Sir Henry Watkin Williams Wynn (1783–1856; DNB) had served as envoy-extraordinary to the Elector of Saxony from April 1803–October 1806. BACK

[12] See Southey to Robert Lundie, 14 October 1810, Letter 1817. BACK

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August 2013