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

2031. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 6 February 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby. 6. 1812.

My dear Sir

Perceiving by the Psalms which Edith & her cousin Sara have received from Mr Wolseley [1]  that Wade [2]  is returned to Mr Fawcetts, [3]  I hope you will allow me to bespeak him as a companion for Hartley, for as long a time as he can be spared at Easter.

I thought much earlier to have thanked you for your letter of the 6th December, but waited thus long in expectation of the arrival of the Grate. [4]  It has not yet appeared, so that it is either unreasonably delayed by the way, or perhaps was not sent off so soon as you imagined – which as I have not received any advice xx concerning it from Mr Bradley [5]  may possibly have been the case.

This evening’s paper brings the not-unexpected news of the fall of Valencia. Blake is a man upon whom all experience has been thrown away. [6]  – & unhappily the Spanish Government partakes too much of the same fault. It is absolute madness to shut up an army in a beseiged town, unless there be a determination, as at Zaragoza, [7]  to sell the place by inches; – the Valencians did not want resolution for this, & had Blake been a man like Palafox, [8]  or a Mariano Alvarez, [9]  the city might indeed have been destroyed, but Suchets [10]  army would have been destroyed also, for the French in Spain are not now in a condition to afford such a consumption of men as Zaragoza cost them. The evil sustained is by no means commensurate to the advantage which might have gained had Suchet been defeated in his attempt – such a defeat would in its consequences have cleared the whole south of Spain; – his victory only puts Valencia in his power, & as much of the province as its garrison can command. And his army instead of having an army to contend with, inferior to itself in every thing which constitutes an army, will have to carry on a harrassing & hopeless warfare with the Guerillas. I shall regard the recovery of Ciudad Rodrigo [11]  (if it has really taken place) as more than compensating the loss of Valencia, because it is a strong hold, & the invasion of Portugal xx will not be again undertaken on that side till the French have again captured it, an operation which cost Massena [12]  many weeks in 1810.

Blake was the man who prevented the Spanish Government from training their army and British Officers. It is well therefore that he is out of the way. I wish Mahi [13]  had been taken too. for there is reason to suspect him. Zayas [14]  is a great loss to the Spaniards – he was one of their most promising officers. But it is in vain to look for any success from regular armies there, till they will suffer us to form them, as has been done in Portgual. Till that is done a single individual like Mina [15]  or the Empecinado [16]  is of more service than a dozen ill-formed regiments, where the men can have no confidence in themselves because they have none in those who lead them on.

Our own movements in the peninsula indicate a growing spirit of enterprize, tending to give both the men & officers a feeling of their own superiority to the enemy. If our counsels are not stricken with the dead palsy of husbanding politicians I look confidently forward to a career of glory for the British arms, not inferior to that of Marlborough [17]  in its splendour, or far transcending it in the importance of its consequences. It has been proved that we can baffle in Portugal the largest force which Buonaparte could assemble against us, – should we ever beat such a force in fair battle, – which is the same thing as saying, should we ever chuse to oppose him with an equal force, his sun would set for ever.

You will be surprized to hear that I have not seen Trotters book, [18]  – tho if you saw me up to the eyes as I am in books of all kinds which my various occupations require, you would not wonder that I have not found time even to wish for it. I am closely engaged upon the Register for 1810, [19]  – yet not so closely but that my evenings are reserved for other pursuits. You would trace me in this last number of the Quarterly upon the Inquisition, [20]  & upon Montgomerys Poems: [21]  for the next I am busy upon the travels in Iceland of Sir G Mackenzie & Hooker, [22]  both good books. & if there should be time I propose to preface an article upon the modern French Biography, [23]  – that is in other words upon the French Revolution. In the course of a few weeks I propose to send you the reviewal of the Bell & Lancaster controversy in a separate form, somewhat altered, enlarged, & I believe materially improved, so as to contain a full, clear & I am sure a very faithful view of the whole subject. [24] 

Mr Wolseleys Psalms are better than most attempts of that kind: yet I confess it swept oer me that persons who feel the sublimity of the Psalms strongly should not perceive how that the com version in the Psalter [25]  is & must be superior to any versification of xxxxxxx {it} because it adheres more closely to the original. The use of these versions is gone by. They were employed at the Reformation as weapons against Popery, & put into rhyme as Fuller says that they might be ‘more portable in peoples memories.’ [26]  Hymns must now serve all purposes of devotion as well.

No better reason can be essayed for poor Tommys [27]  fate than that his brother did so before him forty years ago, – an odd thing to run in a family. It seems to have been a sudden fit of insanity – precisely what the common people mean when they say the Devil put such a thing into his head. Yet one might think that when there was such a person as Buonaparte in the world, the Devil might have let poor Tommy alone.

Mrs Southey & her sisters [28]  beg to be remembered & join me in remembrances to Mr and Miss Brownes. [29]  Little Mary [30]  I suppose is again grown out of our knowledge. Our young ones would delight in seeing her.

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs most truly & respectfully

Robert Southey. [31] 


* Address: To/ Wade Browne Esqr/ Ludlow
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Probably Robert Wolseley (c. 1768–1815), A Poetical Paraphrase, of a select portion of the Book of Psalms (1811). Wolseley had been at head of school at Westminster at the time Southey went there; see Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 3 August 1808, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 3, Letter 1483. BACK

[2] Wade Browne (1796–1851) was the only son of Wade Browne. He became a country gentleman at Monkton Farleigh in Somerset. BACK

[3] Possibly James Fawcett (1751–1831; DNB), a Leeds clergyman who became Norrisian Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge 1795–1815 and Rector of Thursford and Great Snoring in Norfolk 1801–1831. BACK

[4] The grate arrived later that month; see Southey to Wade Brown, 27 February 1812, Letter 2050. BACK

[5] Possibly James Bradley (dates unknown), an iron-founder, based in Southwark. BACK

[6] The Spanish general Joaquin Blake y Joyes (1759–1827). After a series of defeats, Blake and his forces were trapped in Valencia, where they surrendered on 8 January 1812. BACK

[7] Zaragoza had fallen to the French in 1809 after two sieges. BACK

[8] José Rebolledo de Palafox y Melzi (1780–1847), Spanish general, who commanded the defending forces at the siege of Zaragoza. The city fell to the French after an outbreak of disease and Palafox was imprisoned. BACK

[9] Mariano Álvarez de Castro (1749–1810), Spanish general in charge of the garrison at the siege of Gerona 1809. His forces held out against French troops for eight months before capitulating. Álvarez was imprisoned by the French and died shortly afterwards. BACK

[10] Louis Gabriel Suchet, 1st Duc d’Albufera (1770–1826), Marshal of France and key figure in the French campaign in the Iberian peninsula. He captured Valencia in January 1812. BACK

[11] The city of Ciudad Rodrigo had been captured from the French on 19 January 1812. BACK

[12] The French Marshal André Massena (1758–1817), one of the commanders of the invasion of Portugal in 1810. BACK

[13] General Nicolas de Mahy y Romo (1757–1822) prevented his troops being trapped inside Valencia after the battle outside the city on 26 December 1811. Despite Southey’s doubts he ended his career as Governor of Cuba 1821–1822. BACK

[14] The Spanish commander José Pascual de Zayas y Chacón (1772–1827), famed for his skill and daring. He was captured when the Spanish army in Valencia surrendered, and imprisoned in France 1812–1814. BACK

[15] Francisco Espoz y Mina (1781–1836), since 1810 commander of the guerrilleros of Navarre against French troops. BACK

[16] Juan Martin Diez (1775–1825), known as ‘El Empecinado’, ‘the Undaunted’, guerilla leader who by 1811 commanded some 3,000 men and disrupted French communications between Madrid and Burgos. BACK

[17] John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722; DNB), British general who had achieved a series of vital military victories during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). His most famous victory, Blenheim (1704), provided a backdrop to Southey’s anti-war poem ‘The Battle of Blenheim’ (1798). BACK

[18] John Bernard Trotter (1775–1818; DNB), Memoirs of the Latter Years of Charles James Fox (1811). It went into three editions within the year of publication, but was criticised for misrepresentation of Fox’s religious views and for insinuations against his family. BACK

[19] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1810 (1812). BACK

[20] The History of the Inquisitions; including the Secret Transactions of those Horrific Tribunals (1810); Letter upon the Mischievous Influence of the Spanish Inquisition as it actually exists in the Provinces under the Spanish Government. Translated from El Español, a periodical Spanish Journal published in London (1811); Narrativa da Perseguição de Hippolyto Joseph Da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça, Natural da Colonia do Sacramento, no Rio-da-Prata, prezo e Processado em Lisboa pelo pretenso Crime de Fra-Maçon, ou Pedreiro Livre (1811), Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 313–357. BACK

[21] James Montgomery, The West Indies, and other Poems (1810) and The Wanderer in Switzerland, and other Poems (1811), Quarterly Review, 6 (December 1811), 405–419. BACK

[22] Sir George Steuart Mackenzie (1780–1848; DNB), Travels in the Island of Iceland, in the Summer of the Year 1810 (1811) and Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785–1865; DNB), Journal of a Tour in Iceland, in the Summer of 1809 (1811), Quarterly Review, 7 (March 1812), 48–92. BACK

[23] Biographie Moderne: Lives of Remarkable Characters who have Distinguished themselves from the Commencement of the French Revolution to the Present Time (1811), Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 412–438. BACK

[24] Southey’s defence of Bell’s system over Lancaster’s had originally appeared in the Quarterly Review, 6 (August 1811), 264–304. This formed the basis of his The Origin, Nature, and Object, of the New System of Education (1812). BACK

[25] The psalms in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer (1662). BACK

[26] Thomas Fuller (1607/8–1661; DNB), The Church History of Britain (London, 1655), p. 406. BACK

[27] Unidentified. BACK

[29] Probably a reference to Wade Browne’s daughters by his first marriage, Lydia (c. 1789–1864), Elizabeth (dates unknown) and Sarah (c. 1793/1794–1860s). BACK

[30] Mary Browne (dates unknown), Wade Browne’s only child by his second marriage. BACK

[31] let poor … Robert Southey: Written at top of fol. 1. BACK

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August 2013