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

2288. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 9 August 1813 ⁠* 

My dear Tom

It is a long time since you have heard from me, – a little uncertainty about my own movements has been one cause, ever-calling employments another, to which you may add interruptions & Lakers, & lastly that like the author of the long Psyche I too am {have} sometimes to make slow way thro the lake of my own laziness. [1]  – I am going to London, most probably tomorrow week will be the day of my departure. I could go sooner if the coach days suited us both perhaps, – but an inflammation in the lid of the eye, which Hartley & Mrs Wilson have had is come to me tho at present in a very mild form, & under the most favourable termination, (that is to say if it goes off without closing the eye & bursting) it will be four or five days before I ought to inflame my system by the jolting of a journey. It is a mere trifle at present, in no degree affecting the sight, – nor am I sensible of it, only if I life lift the lid.

Of my employments Roderick [2]  is that most interests you, – & me too just at this moment. I have been ever since the beginning of January gravelled in the 11th book, but the way opened before me on Friday evening, & I began the 12th this morning. As soon as I return it will certainly go to press, & I expect to make some progress in at Streatham.

Ballantyne & I are at issue & I withhold from him the conclusion of the volume [3]  till the dispute is settled. All that is certain at present is that he is a knave, & wants to trick me not only of the 209 £ paid for my 12/th share, but of some 200 £ more upon on the pretext of loss upon that share. – he himself having originally promised to repurchase the share at the original price whenever I might chuse to give it up, & to give me at the publication of each volume, his bill for my profits at 12 months date. The fraud is gross & palpable. I am about to lay the case before W Scott & request him to interfere. Exposure in that quarter is what Ballantyne will not like.

Murray offers me 1000 guineas for the history. [4]  Turner will be my adviser whether to accept this offer. It has a good sound, & if I could live the while without forestalling it, I should probably be contented with it. The work will occupy 18 months, reckoning from the beginning of next year. – I bring out Roderick in the spring, & Brazil [5]  in the coming winter –

I wrote to Burdon [6]  for Estradas [7]  address, & have had no answer – of course he is not at Hexham. – I am to meet Von Hesse the Hambro patriot [8]  in London, where Bedford has fallen in with him.

Murray has the exordium to the history, which he will annex to the advertisement [9]  as in the case of Nelson. [10]  It is somewhat stately, as it should be, stating the moral importance of the subject, & my own motive for undertaking it. The book is to be a splendid one, & announced without delay, to prevent the Historiographer [11]  from laying his unhallowed hands upon the {a} work which belongs to me & me alone. I expect more from the credit it will give me than from its immediate profit. The notoriety of the subject will make me know by those who know me not at present, & I think it will enable me ever after to put my own price upon any thing. – Murray says he never published any book which gave such general satisfaction as Nelson. he has sold 1200 copies.

I am afraid there will be a hollow peace patched up at Prague [12]  & if Buonaparte be left with Holland, beyond all doubt we shall have to begin again as soon as he has made a navy. No doubt we shall have an offensive & defensive alliance with Spain, but he will have a fleet before Spain will have funds for an army: for that country will be in left in a deplorable state, & moreover will have great efforts to make for xxx xxx recovering the revolted colonies. I have little doubt of her succeeding in this, & heartily hope she may. And this is a subject upon which I have framed a very unbiased opinion upon competent documents. The horrors in Spanish America are the spawn of our American war. [13]  In Mexico the insurrection is very much like the last rebellion in Ireland, & the whole character of the contest marked with a more Irish ferocity. Some Anglo-Americans have been at the head of the prison-massacres of the Europeans! Nathan is really so vile an animal that I could find in my heart almost to wish he did not speak English. [14] 

I had a hearty shake by the hand from Ponsonby about the Chesapeake. [15]  Never was any thing xx better-timed, better-placed, – or better-personed if I may use such a word.

For your promotion, – you must wait patiently till the Gods send it. I make no doubt of getting it at last some time or other. Croker I shall of course see in turn. Meantime make yourself easy about your expences an odd 30 or 40 £ in the course of the year will set all to rights, & this I shall be very well able to supply. The Bank of Faith never fails. [16] 

Love to Sarah & the young ones. All well here.

RS.

Keswick. Aug 9. 1813


Notes

* Address: To/ Capt Southey. R. N./ St Helens/ Auckland
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47890
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Joseph Beaumont (1615–1699; DNB), whose religious epic Psyche, or, Love’s Mystery, first published in 1648 and in an expanded version in 1651, runs to 30,000 verses. The quotation is from Psyche, Canto 24, stanza 9, line 6. An edition of 1702 was no. 242 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[2] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[3] Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811 (1813). BACK

[4] Southey’s proposed History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[5] The second part of the History of Brazil was published in 1817, and the concluding volume in 1819. BACK

[6] William Burdon (1764–1818; DNB), writer on politics and literature. BACK

[7] Alvaro Florez Estrada (1765–1853), Spanish economist, lawyer and liberal. He was a prominent member of the Cadiz Cortes. BACK

[8] Jonas Ludwig von Hess (1756–1823), who organised the defence of Hamburg against French and Danish forces in 1813. BACK

[9] The advertisement for Southey’s projected History of the Peninsular War. BACK

[10] Life of Nelson (1813). BACK

[11] The Historiographer Royal, James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB), whom Southey loathed. BACK

[12] There was a brief armistice between the forces of France and the Sixth Coalition 4 June – 13 August 1813, in order to allow both sides to re-group their forces. BACK

[13] The United Kingdom and United States were at war 1812–1814. Southey had been writing about South America in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 367–421. BACK

[14] A comparison of the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821) with the rising by the United Irishmen in 1798. See Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 395, in which Southey denounced the Mexican War of Independence as ‘too much resembling in its causes, conduct, and progress, the dreadful scenes which, in our time, we have seen in Ireland; – a war of havock, cruelty and extermination’. His brief account of affairs in Mexico is close to the wording in this letter. ‘Nathan’ was a common characterisation of the United States. BACK

[15] Lieutenant John Ponsonby (dates unknown) was living at Ormathwaite outside Keswick. The USS Chesapeake had been captured by HMS Shannon on 1 June 1813. BACK

[16] William Huntington (1745–1813; DNB), preacher and religious writer. His God the Guardian of the Poor and the Bank of Faith (1785–1802), in which he described how Providence had miraculously provided for his family, was vigorously denounced by Southey in Letters from England 3 vols (London, 1807), III, pp. 20–29. BACK

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August 2013