2391. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart, 14 March 1814 

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

2391. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart, 14 March 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. March 14. 1814.

My dear Sir

It is one of the Miseries of Human Life in times like these to be disappointed of one’s newspaper, – & for the last three or four weeks the Courier has fallen into such a course of irregularity that I think the cause cannot lie in the Post-Office. To day we have the paper which ought to have arrived on Sunday, – & indeed the right paper seldom arrives on the right day, – for one whole week we were sometimes one, sometimes two days behind hand, – I am sure you will excuse me for informing you of this misery.

I cannot but assent to all you say about the Bourbons. [1]  Most certainly it is a desirable event that they should be restored; & if I have any feelings which would allay the joy that such an event ought to excite, they would arise not so much from a remembrance of the early days of the Revolution, as from the history of the family, – for the policy of Louis 13, 14 & 15 [2]  was little less flagitious than that of Buonaparte, tho not upon so wide a scale. They have been bitter & treacherous enemies to England: – this however was natural, & the Government of France is always likely to be actuated by the same spirit.

At present I look at the contest with more apprehension than hope. The readiness of our ministry to make peace against the opinion both of the Prince & the people, must tend greatly to dishearten such of the allies as are hearty in the cause, which no doubt Russia & Prussia are, & the Germans also in general, – but I distrust some of their courts. And if peace be made, in the course of a year or two when he is {Buonaparte is} strong enough to break it I fear we should see him fighting on German ground in alliance with Austria. Wordsworth thinks that Austria is playing false, & wilfully exposing Blucher & the Russians to be cut up. [3]  If any thing were to be got by it I should think so too, – for the Austrian Government is capable of any baseness. Did I tell you that Hofer took shelter in a prison at Vienna, getting himself arrested under a false name, – & that he was actually turned out? [4]  Adair assured me that this is a fact! [5] 

The campaign in France puts Spain out of sight, – the affairs of that country would otherwise excite, & probably baffle, all our political sagacity. Will Ferdinand or the New Constitution go to the Wall – or is it possible that they can long hold together? [6]  Ferdinand was at first a mere stalking-horse, & after his arrest an excellent nom de guerre, but in the course of the war, the people may have been taught learnt to believe that they were fighting for him & his rights, – xx in that case any able minister will find little difficulty in sweeping away all the sweeping reforms of the Cortes, & the New Constitution will go to the family vault. A Spanish Officer [7]  told me that if the Duke del Infantado [8]  on his escape from Bayonne had had the spirit of a mouse (those were his words) he would have been King of Spain. The officer was in Romanas [9]  army & spoke his own feelings & those of his comrades. I know not which is most probable. – that he should be deposed, – or that he should be reestablished in all the despotic power of his forefathers: – but either is more likely than that the Constitution should be permanent. For the Cortes have done many things prematurely, many things unjustly: – on the one hand this facilitates to the Crown xx what must needs be its darling object, – that it rec the recovery of its uncontrolled authority, – on the other the same spirit which has produced these measures is ready to go farther, – perhaps & probably the whole length of Republicanism.

Why does the Courier attack Madam Staël so often? [10]  There is no person who abhors Buonaparte more heartily than she does, – or who would more zealously maintain the necessity of carrying on the war against him as long as he is at the head of the French Government. The picture which I heard her draw of France, when talking upon the subject to Mackintosh [11]  & Davy, would have figured as a leading article in the Courier or the Times. I am sorry to see her attacked. The Opposition flatter her, & tho she is fairly astonished at their political blunders in the ordinary course of human nature she will learn to think well of those who speak well of her.

Wordsworth is about to put his great poem (the Recluse) to the press, – which has been the great work of his life. [12]  Sooner or later it will no doubt place him in his proper rank among the English Poets, – & if I were to supply him with a motto for it, it should be Parturiunt montes, – without any fear that the remainder of the line could be added, – & in defiance of it. [13] 

Mrs S. & her sisters [14]  beg to be remembered to Mrs Stuart. [15]  Present my respects to her also & believe me

my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ Daniel Stuart Esqre/ Kilburne House/ near London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: 10o’Clock/ MR.18/ 1814 F.Nn
Endorsements: Southey 1814/ Irregularity of Courier/ Spain/ Wordsworths Recluse; Southey March/ 1814
MS: British Library, Add MS 34046
Previously published: Letters from the Lake Poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, to Daniel Stuart (London, 1889), pp. 416–420. BACK

[1] It was becoming increasingly likely that the Bourbon dynasty would be restored to power in France, especially once Napoleon rejected the terms of the Treaty of Chaumont of 1 March 1814, which offered France a ceasefire in return for accepting the country’s borders of 1791. BACK

[2] Louis XIII (1601–1643; King of France 1610–1643); Louis XIV (1638–1715; King of France 1643–1715); Louis XV (1710–1774; King of France 1715–1774). BACK

[3] Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher (1742–1819), Prussian Field Marshal and commander of the Army of Silesia, a joint Prussian and Russian force. Blucher was defeated by Napoleon at Champaubert (10 February 1814), Montmirail (11 February 1814) and Vauchamps (14 February 1814), but still managed to win a decisive victory at Laon (9–10 March 1814). Meanwhile, the Austrian Army of Bohemia was notably inactive. BACK

[4] The Tyrolean patriot Andreas Hofer (1767–1810), executed for his leadership of a failed rebellion against France’s ally, Bavaria. BACK

[5] The politician and diplomat Sir Robert Adair (1763–1855; DNB), who had been posted to Vienna from 1806–1809. BACK

[6] Ferdinand VII (1784–1833; King of Spain 1808, 1813–1833). He had been a prisoner in France since 1808, but his release was agreed in the Treaty of Valencay on 11 December 1813. He was finally liberated on 24 March 1814 and lost little time in abolishing the liberal Constitution of 1812, on 4 May 1814. BACK

[7] Probably a Colonel Stenor; see Southey to Mary Barker, [c. 9 November 1813], Letter 2325. BACK

[8] Pedro de Alcántara Álvarez de Toledo, 13th Duke of the Infantado (1768–1841). He had attended the conference of Spanish leaders called by Napoleon at Bayonne in March-April 1808 and had been the leader of those participants who rejected the idea of passing the throne to Napoleon’s elder brother, Joseph I (1768–1844; King of Spain 1808–1813). BACK

[9] The Spanish general Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761–1811). BACK

[10] Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766–1817), Swiss writer and hostess of a famous salon, whom Southey had met in London in 1813. BACK

[11] The writer and politician Sir James Mackintosh (1765–1832; DNB). BACK

[12] The Excursion (1814); it was the second part of Wordsworth’s long-projected, but never completed three-part ‘The Recluse’. BACK

[13] i.e. only the first part of the quotation from Horace, Ars Poetica, line 139: ‘Paturient montes, nascetus ridiculus mus’ (‘The mountains are in labour, and a ridiculous mouse is born’) applied to Wordsworth. BACK

[15] Mary Napier Schalch (dates unknown), whom Stuart had married in 1813. She was the daughter of Major Schalch of the Royal Artillery. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013