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

2177. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 13 November 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov. 13. 1812

My dear Grosvenor.

Thank you for the half notes. [1]  – They leave me till that cursed draft is convertible, nearly 50 £ in your debt, a burden however which (if it has not inconvenienced you) I shall not feel. I have written to B. desiring he will send me such Bills in future as may save me from these embarrassments, – having just received from him a promisory note for a second £ 50 – at the same date – when your letter arrived. The fellow has put me to my shifts.

Thank you for your news, & pray present my thanks to Mr Rosenhagen [2]  for the Gazette. [3]  It is very good as far as it goes, – & it goes a good way; – but it leads me to expect a murderous engagement of greater import, & to fear that there will be a numerical superiority on the {part of the} French. For Kutosows victory over Murat will not prevent the junction with Victor. [4]  Where is the Incarnate Devil [5]  himself? – I do not believe the Swedish story that he was on his way home. [6]  That Lord Cathcart [7]  seems to have a miserable talent for writing dispatches, – xxxx he tells me that the enemy have left Moscow, & does ever by any hint or collateral circumstances enable us to guess where they are, nor in what direction they have marched. It is disgraceful to see such compositions.

The recapture of Polotsk [8]  seems the most consequential of these affairs. That of Moscow is a mere matter of occupancy. But that the French should have left it after declaring their intention of wintering there, proves that they must be dreadfully distressed. [9]  The winter by their own account has begun & they are in the field. Will they push for Petersburgh? 500 miles even for a French army is at least three weeks march; – with roads so easily destroyed, – with winter for their ally, with such armies on foot, & with a nation in arms, the Russians must be dotards if they suffer him to reach it.

I see no signal success, – no decisive advantages gained, – but certainly I see the right spirit, advantages in detail, & ground of hope. & I cannot help thinking it every day more & more likely that the Devil is at this time stirring up the fire for the purpose of giving his Viceregent a warm reception, & in expectation of his speedy arrival.

The Gazette disappointed me at first. I hoped it had been a victory over Soult. [10]  Was Lord W. right in attacking Burgos? [11]  from the beginning I feared that he was not. There is however an opening of hope in the North now, & there is hope from Paris France itself, [12]  blue sky enough in the political horizon to make a pair of trousers certes.

The printer, especially if a Scotch printer, will beastify the copy of Pelayo [13]  but you & the Dr between you may keep it till it goes to press (& Harry will not wish to have it long I dare say) – & after that time your honour knows that it a manuscript is of less utility than the printed book.

I am going to a grand party at the Senhora’s, – who daily expects the prescription. [14] 

I am likely to have a job upon my hands, – a sort of superintendance in the good work of putting our the high school [15]  here upon Dr Bell’s plan. – a change neither sought nor wished by me, – but not to be declined, tho little suited to my talents, less to my inclination, & least of all to my convenience.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqr/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 16 NO 16/ 1812
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 24
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Half-banknotes – a secure way of sending money in the post, by tearing banknotes in half and sending the two halves separately. BACK

[2] Anthony Rosenhagen (1778–1854), Treasury official and friend of Landor. He was Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1811–1815. BACK

[3] London Gazette, 11 November 1812. BACK

[4] The Gazette reported that Mikhail Kutuzov (1745–1813), Marshal of the Russian Army, had defeated Joachim Murat (1767–1815), King of Naples 1808–1815, and commander of the advance guard of the French army, in an engagement outside Moscow on 18 October 1812. Claude Victor-Perrin, Duc de Belluno (1764–1841) commanded the French forces in Smolensk and was reported to be on his way to join the main French army. BACK

[5] Bonaparte. BACK

[6] Nevertheless, it was true. BACK

[7] William Schaw Cathcart (1755–1843; DNB), army officer and politician. He had taken up the post of Ambassador to the Russian court in July 1812. He was actively involved in Russian attempts to resist Bonaparte and sent regular dispatches to the British government. Southey was being cutting about his despatch of 27 October 1812, which appeared in the London Gazette, 11 November 1812. BACK

[8] Polotsk had been retaken by the Russians after the battle of 18–20 October 1812. BACK

[9] The French army had left Moscow on 18–19 October 1812. BACK

[10] Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult, 1st Duke of Dalmatia (1769–1851), overall commander of the French forces in Spain and Portugal. BACK

[11] Wellington and his allies had beseiged the Spanish city of Burgos from 19 September–21 October 1812, but failed to capture it. BACK

[12] The attempted Parisian coup of 23 October 1812 led by Claude François Malet (1754–1812). This planned to announce the death of Bonaparte and establish a provisional republican government. It failed and the leaders were executed on 31 October. BACK

[13] The early name for Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[14] A prescription for Grosvenor Bedford’s mother; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 October 1812 (Letter 2161) and 30 October 1812 (Letter 2166). BACK

[15] The Free Grammar School at Crosthwaite, Keswick (founded 1571). It was open to all the children of the parish and the education given was fairly basic. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013