Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2356. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 28 December 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Dec. 28 1813

Longman will send you two copies of what ought to be called Carmen Castratum, [1]  — one you may transfer to your neighbour. [2]  I looked in the last battle list for his nephews [3]  name, with a sort of fear which, having no friends in the army, I had never before felt, – & finding it there I thought more of him than of the victory. For his letters have given me a great interest in his safety. Tell me how he is, & where; – severely, does not necessarily imply dangerously.

I am sorely out of humour with public affairs. One of our politicians (Mr Canning I believe) called Buonaparte once the Child of Jacobinism, [4]  but whether Jacobinism, or the Devil himself bred him, it is this country that has nurst him up to his present fortunes. If After the murder of the Duc d’Enghien, [5]  & Palm, [6]  – avowed, open, notorious as they were, we ought to have made the war personal against a wretch who was under the Ban of humanity. Had this been our constant language he would long since have been destroyed by the French themselves, – nor do I think that Austria would ever have connected itself with {by} marriage with a man so branded. [7]  But it is impossible to make the statesmen of this country feel where their strength lies. It will be no merit of theirs if peace is not made, morally certain as every man who sees an inch beyond his nose must be, that it will last no longer than serves this villains purpose. He will get back his officers, & men from x xxxxxx who are now prisoners upon the continent, – he will build fleets, – he will train sailors, he will bring sailors from America, & send ships there & we shall have to renew the contest at his time, & with every advantage on his side.

I spoilt my poem in deference to Rickmans judgement & Crokers advice by cutting out all which related to Buonaparte, & which gave strength, purport & coherence to the whole. Perhaps I may discharge my conscience by putting these rejected parts together & letting them off in the Courier, before it becomes a libellous offence to call murder & tyranny by their proper names.

You will see that I have announced a series of Inscriptions recording the atchievements of xx our army in the peninsula. [8]  Tho this is not exactly ex offico, yet I should not have thought of it had it not seemed a fit official undertaking. This stile of composition is that to which I am more inclined than to any other. My local knowledge will turn to good account in many of these epigrammata.

I had a letter a day or two ago from Kinder (my quondam BAyres journalist [9] ) who is at this time forming a commercial establishment at St Andero. The Spanish troops, he says, had behaved so ill that Lord W had ordered them all within their own frontier. From the specimens which he had seen he thought they combined a blacker assemblage of diabolical qualities than any set of men whom he every before had had an opportunity of observing. – Now Kinder is a cool, clear-headed man, disposed to see things in their best colours, – & moreover has been in Brazil & B Ayres. The truth seems to be that tho there never was much law in Spain, there has been none during the last six years, & the ruffian-like propensities of the brute multitude have had their full swing. Kinder had been to the scene of action & dined frequently at head quarters. He finds Biscay more beautiful than he expected, – but has seen nothing to equal the vale of Keswick. – I shall make use of him to get books from Madrid. – My friend Abella is one of the deputies for Aragon to the new Cortes. [10] 

The S Sea Missionaries have done something at last besides making better books than their Jesuit forerunners. [11]  They have converted the King of Otaheite, his letters are in my last Evangelical Magazine, & very curious they are. [12]  If he should prove conqueror in the civil war which is desolating the island, this conversion may very probably lead to its compleat civilization. Human sacrifice would of course be abolished, & schools established. His Majesty himself writes a remarkably good hand.

Give my love to my Aunt, – & to the Duke & the Marquis & the Earl. I think of them very often & wish we were nearer each other. If my Aunt is a dutiful Aunt, she will provide with Mr Davis [13]  for your church this next summer, pack up your portmanteau, order the carriage {horse}, put the three Bears [14]  in, & then lead you to the carriage, & drive off for Keswick.

Tell me how to direct to Noble. [15]  I think I could get from him some useful information respecting the affairs at Porto.

Remember me to Mrs Heathcote [16]  & Miss Bigg [17]  if they are with you still. You may tell them that I am perfect in the jugglers song. [18] 

God bless you



* Address: To/The Reverend Herbert Hill/Streatham./Surry.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: [partial] o’Clock/DE/ 1813; E/ 31 DE 31/ 1813
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), IV, pp. 53-56 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s first official poem as Poet Laureate was extremely controversial and much altered prior to publication. Five stanzas were considered by Croker and Rickman to be inflammatory. Southey bowed to pressure and deleted them from the version published as Carmen Triumphale in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. He incorporated the deleted stanzas into an ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’, published in the Courier, 3 February 1814. BACK

[2] William Barlow (1759–1839), a neighbour of Herbert Hill’s in Streatham. Southey had recently completed a privately commissioned defence of the conduct of William’s brother Sir George Hilaro Barlow (1763–1846; DNB), Governor of Madras 1807–1813. This was published anonymously as An Exposure of the Misrepresentations and Calumnies in Mr Marsh’s Review of Sir George Barlow’s Administration at Madras. By the Relatives of Sir George Barlow (1813). BACK

[3] Captain George Ulric Barlow (1791–1824) of the 52nd and 69th Regiments of Foot. The London Gazette Extraordinary, 25 November 1813, listed Captain Barlow as ‘severely’ wounded in the conflict in Spain. BACK

[4] William Pitt (1759–1806; Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806; DNB), had called Napoleon ‘the Child and Champion of … Jacobinism’ in a speech in the House of Commons on 17 February 1800. BACK

[5] Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duc d’Enghien (1772–1804). A relative of the Bourbons, he took a prominent part in campaigns by French émigrés against the Revolutionary government. In March 1804 he was kidnapped from his home in Germany and convicted by a French military tribunal of involvement in a recent royalist plot, even though the French government knew he was innocent of the charges. He was shot on 21 March 1804. BACK

[6] The German bookseller Johann Philipp Palm (1768–1806), executed without trial for publishing an attack on Bonaparte. BACK

[7] Napoleon had married Princess Marie Louise of Austria (1791–1847) on 11 March 1810. BACK

[8] ‘Inscriptions Triumphal and Sepulchral, recording the acts of the British army in the Peninsula’, although advertised as ‘nearly ready for publication’ (e.g. in European Magazine, 65 (January 1814), 77), the promised volume did not appear and only 18 of the proposed 30 inscriptions were written. BACK

[9] The merchant Thomas Kinder (c.1781–1846). Southey had borrowed Kinder’s unpublished journal of events in Buenos Aires in 1808–1810 that led to the independence of the states of the Rio de la Plata. (In 1813 Southey had a copy made of the journal, no. 3162 in the sale catalogue of his library. The copy was published as, Malyn Newitt (ed.), War, Revolution and Society in the Rio de la Plata 1808–1810. Thomas Kinder’s Narrative of a Journey to Madeira, Montevideo and Buenos Ayres (2010).) For Southey’s account of the revolution in Buenos Aires, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 395–421. BACK

[10] A new Cortes had been elected in Spain in October 1813 under the provisions of the liberal Constitution of 1812. BACK

[11] For Southey’s account of some of these ‘books’ see Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61. BACK

[12] Pomare II (c. 1774–1821), King of Tahiti 1782–1821 had accepted support from the missionaries of the London Missionary Society in order to aid his struggle to retain the throne. He was formally baptized only in 1819; Evangelical Magazine, 21 (December 1813), 473-477 (esp. 476-477). BACK

[13] Reynold Davies (c. 1750–1820), Curate of Streatham, and therefore able to deputise for Herbert Hill. BACK

[14] The Hill children. BACK

[15] Unidentified. BACK

[16] Catherine Hill’s sister Elizabeth Bigg-Wither (1773–1855), widow of Revd William Heathcote (1772–1802). BACK

[17] Alethea Bigg (1777–1847). BACK

[18] Southey had seen a troupe of Indian jugglers when he visited London in the autumn of 1813. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013