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

1844. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 24 December 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 24. 1810.

My dear Scott

I hope you have received Kehama. [1]  It has the merit of applying a principle of typographical regularity to irregular verse, but Ballantyne struck off three sheets before he perfectly understood my meaning, & thus the book is unfortunately defective.

I was very glad to see Coleridges disavowal of that paltry piece of malice in the Courier; [2]  – a rascally imposition which he resented more strongly than I thought he could have resented any thing. I have a strong suspicion that it came from a man who spits his frothy venom occasionally both at you & him in the Monthly Mirror, – whose name is Dubois [3]  – Sir John Carr’s antagonist. [4]  – a man possessed of some classical x reading, tho not very deep in that, & a great stock of small wit, but as full of malice & of mischief as he can hold. He brought out two letters of introduction to me at Lisbon, one from a person who did not know him, the other from a person who did not know me. Since that I have met him occasionally at Hill’s the book-collector in Queen Hythe, for whom he edites the M. Mirror – any number of which shows of what stuff he is made. Hill sends me this Magazine, [5]  & what I have seen there added to my knowledge of Dubois’s character made me immediately suspect him of the trick, & subsequent observation has confirmed me in that suspicion. The letter to the Courier imposed upon the Editor [6]  by the handwriting, which is very curious. It was post-marked Aylesbury, – I think, – but am not certain, that he comes from that part of the country. – The thing is scarcely worth a thought, but it vexed me at the time, & it is xxx a new species of literary fraud against which no man can be secure.

It is to be hoped this unfortunate illness of the King [7]  has not prevented ministers from taking vigorous measures in aid of Lord Wellington. They are got into the right way, & it must be their own fault if they do not bring this tremendous contest to a glorious termination. There has not been quite enough done with the Portugueze army, – at first it should have been almost wholly officered with British, & the natives promoted from the ranks as fast as they could possibly show themselves worthy of it, so as This ought also, if the high Spanish sense of pride would permit it, to be done in Spain, – for in those countries it is only by a revolutionary army that all danger of treachery can be done away, as well as all chance of incapacity, which is so frequently not to be distinguished from it. We shall have a warm winter xxx in Portugal. The French will probably enter Alem-tejo from the side of the Guadiana. Lisbon derives xxxx {most of} its fuel from thence, & much of its grain, – & might be bombarded from that side. but with the command of the river Lord Wellington, if he has but men enough, can always push over a greater force than the enemy; – there however & at Abrantes I think the heat of the contest will be. Meantime this Fabian system of war [8]  is in our favour, because every day adds to the discipline of the Portugueze, & no people in the world have better xxxxxxxx for the soldier can make better soldiers; xx their past history abundantly proves this, & xxxx the manners & habits & character of the peasantry remain unchanged. Only keep up the heart of England against such politicians as Whitbread [9]  & Brougham & Jeffray, – & we shall live to sing Te Deum [10]  for the destruction of [MS torn]te.

The Quarterly I should think must be gaining ground. I have an article upon Methodism in the next number, [11]  which will appear to great advantage after Sidney Smiths [12]  shallow performances upon the same subject, – & I am not sorry to see the Edinburgh professing their belief in Malthus [13]  at the very time when I am making ready to come upon that precious philosophist or philosophicide, with a thunder clap. [14]  – The Register [15]  employs me closely at present, & I have now attaxxx {got at} good sources of information both for our home politics & for Spain.

Mrs Southey joins me in remembrances to Mrs Scott

believe me

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Walter Scott Esqr/ Edinburgh/ [redirected in another hand] Meadow house/ St Boswells
Stamped: [partial] 98
Postmark: DEC/ W 26 A/ 1810
Watermark: JW & BB/ 1807
Endorsement: Southey/ 24 Decr. 1810
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3879
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 550–552. BACK

[1] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[2] The London newspaper the Courier (15 September 1810) had published an article entitled ‘Some Imitations of Scott’ and signed ‘S.T.C.’. This compared extracts from The Lay of the Last Minstrel and Marmion with ones from Dryden, Baillie, Home, Ossian, Pope, Spenser, and Southey (Madoc) in an attempt to prove that Scott had been ‘more particularly … guilty of imitation’. A declaration, supplied by Coleridge, that the ‘S.T.C.’ who had signed the piece on Scott was not the same person as ‘Mr. S. T. Coleridge’ appeared in the Courier on 20 September 1810. BACK

[3] Edward Dubois (1774–1850; DNB), writer and at this time editor of the Monthly Mirror. BACK

[4] Dubois’s My Pocket-Book, or, Hints for a ‘ryghte merrie and conceitede tour’, in Quarto, to be Called, ‘The stranger in Ireland’ (1805) satirised the travel writing of Sir John Carr (1772–1832; DNB). The latter’s nickname ‘the jaunting car’ paid ironic tribute to his prolific, if superficial, output. One of Carr’s friends responded with Old Nick’s Pocket-Book (1808) and Carr himself brought legal action against the publishers of Dubois’ book. Carr lost the case and the third edition of My Pocket-Book included an account of events. BACK

[5] Monthly Mirror, no. 1990 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey seems to have received the periodical from 1807. BACK

[6] Either Daniel Stuart, or his partner Thomas George Street (dates unknown). BACK

[7] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB) had finally become totally incapable of conducting public business in October 1810. BACK

[8] A strategy, whose name derives from the tactics used against Hannibal (247–183/812 BC) by the Roman commander Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator (c. 280–203 BC). In a Fabian war, decisive battles are avoided and the opponent is worn down by a campaign of attrition and indirection. It applied to Wellington’s methods: ‘He held his army in hand, keeping it with unmitigated labour always in a fit state to march or to fight; and thus prepared he acted indifferently as occasion offered on the offensive or defensive, displaying in both a complete mastery of his art’, W.F.P. Napier, History of the War in the Peninsula, 4th edn, 3 vols (Brussels, 1839), III, pp. 418–419. BACK

[9] The radical MP Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB). BACK

[10] ‘Thee, O God’, an early Christian hymn of praise. BACK

[11] Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[12] Sydney Smith (1771–1845; DNB), one of the founders of and leading contributors to the Edinburgh Review. His attacks on Methodism included reviews of: Robert Acklom Ingram (1763–1809; DNB), Causes of the Increase of Methodism and Dissention (1807), Edinburgh Review, 11 (January 1808), 341–362; John Styles (1782-1849), Strictures on Two Critiques in the ‘Edinburgh Review’, on the Subject of Methodism and Missions; with Remarks on the Influence of Reviews, in General, on Morals and Happiness (1808), Edinburgh Review, 14 (April 1809), 40–50. BACK

[13] The political economist Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), defended in Edinburgh Review, 16 (August 1810), 464–473. BACK

[14] The first of a series of Southeyan articles on the poor appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356, was intended as ‘an attack upon Malthus’, amongst others; see Southey to Charles Danvers, 5 January 1813, Letter 2199. BACK

[15] The Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013