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

2050. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 27 February 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby. 27. 1812.

My dear Sir

I have great pleasure in telling you that the Grate is arrived, that it is fixed, & bids fair, as far as can yet be judged to remedy the great evil of a smoky chimney. [1]  The delay must have been at Liverpool, where there is always delay. I have had many packages sent by that route, & in every instance have been obliged to cause inquiry to be made there.

Your friend [2]  the Barristers information was well-founded. Sundry intimations to the same purport had reached me, – one in particular gave Ld Dudley & Ward’s [3]  authority that the thing was to be done. The hint was given by the Edinburgh Review, & very well should I have been pleased if it had been taken, – the only unpleasant consequence would have been that my journey {to London} would have taken place in January instead of November. [4]  My intention was to have written & read what, with all due respect to the House of Commons, would have been a justificaiton of the freedom which as an Englishman & an Historian I had lawfully, as I conceived, – fearlessly & conscienciously used. A very few sentences would have sufficed: I should not have wanted friends in the House, & the discussion would have given to the Register a greater sale than {at} once than it will make by its own merits in ten years. The party knew this, & they knew likewise that it would not be very creditable to make an attack upon what {may} truly be called the freedom of the press, in the person of a man whose principles were so clearly declared, & who xxxxx xxxx whose name would have exercised the attention of the public & who would have been so well able to have vindicated himself. So they wisely gave up their intention but that the thing should have been intended is a fine proof of their regard for the liberty of the press. I think it very likely that Lord Holland prevented them from exposing themselves to the certain shame which must have recoiled upon them. Many reasons would induce him to this; he feels as I do respecting Spain & if his hopes are not as strong as mine, it is, if I may be allowed to say so, because he is more of a professional politician, & less of a philosopher – because he confines xx his views to the tangible resources of a country, & does not take national character into the account.

Of the various administrations which we have seen in Spain, & of the majority of the higher orders I think precisely as you do, but I cannot think that the sacrifices which the people have made are unavailing. Four years have now elapsed, & in spite of all this gross misconduct, of all these hopes, of all this treachery, – the country is unsubdued & the spirit of the people unbroken. No human foresight can see any termination to the struggle – but while it it is prolonged whatever cause the chapter of incidents may produce, must be in favour of Spain. A war in the North xx may operate as a diversion, the French Peninsular may at last be unable longer to bear this dreadful & continual waste of men in a contest not merely inglorious, but infamous; – & the hand of God or of man may at any moment rid the world of Buonaparte. For we must never forget that the enormous military power of France is held by the tenure of his single life. Look too at the relative reputation of the British & French troops compared to what things were {it was} before the struggle. – The new regency has two men in it from whom I expect much, the Duke del Infantado [5]  – & O’Donnell. [6]  But even if the same wretched imbecillity should predominate in the Spanish Government, while the people carry on their war by night & day, they enable us to fight our battles in Portugal instead of in Ireland: upon that ground we have baffled the greatest effort which {the enemy} could be made against us, & there we shall continue to baffle them. My hearts desire is that the Ministry would attempt more, – that they would double Earl Wellingtons force, & enable him to attack the French wherever find them. A year of vigorous war would decide the contest.

Mr Spedding I have no doubt would enter with zeal into this combination against the Rate, [7]  & so perhaps would Calvert, if he should not take it into his head to disbelieve the efficacy of the xxxxxxx receit. Curwen [8]  would be the fittest person to manage the business here. I will see Calvert & talk to him about it.

I am sorry we must not see Wade. [9]  Mrs S. & her sisters [10]  beg their kind remembrances to Mrs Browne. Coleridge has been here about a week, in tolerable health & good spirits

believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly & respectfully

Robert Southey.


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

[1] See Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 6 February 1812, Letter 2031. BACK

[2] Unidentified. BACK

[3] The politician John William Ward, Earl of Dudley (1781–1833; DNB), at this time MP for Wareham 1807–1812. BACK

[4] A long aside in the Edinburgh Review, 18 (August 1811), 420–423n, had questioned whether the ‘virulent personal abuse … levelled at the most respectable members of the Legislature’ in the Edinburgh Annual Register was in breach of Parliamentary privilege and hinted that action against the author and publishers might be taken. In the event, the Edinburgh Review’s suggestion was not acted on. BACK

[5] Pedro de Alcántara Álvarez de Toledo, 13th Duke of the Infantado (1768–1841), who had been in London on a mission to the British government. He returned to Spain in 1812 and, although Wellington proposed he should be given command of the 4th Army, his opponents vetoed this and he just had command of his own regiment. BACK

[6] The Spanish commander Henry Joseph O’Donnell y Mareschal, 1st Count of la Bisbal (1789–1834), who had been ennobled and raised to the rank of field-marshal for his exploits in the Catalonian campaign of 1810. From January 1812–March 1813 he was a member of the Council of Regency. BACK

[7] Southey may have been organising a protest against the way in which local rates operated in Keswick. BACK

[8] The wealthy colliery owner and MP for Carlisle, John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB). BACK

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

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Published @ RC

August 2013