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

2555. Robert Southey to John Murray, 15 February 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick. 15 Feby. 1815.

My dear Sir

Let then Wellington  [1]  come first, then Egypt, [2]  & then South Africa: [3]  – all good subjects, – the first the most taking, – the second the finest. I have found very unexpectedly in Larreys book some interesting facts regarding Spain. [4] 

The Memoirs which M. Wellesley published of the Mahratta war would give me a clearer comprehension of this part of his brothers achievements than I can collect from the work before me. [5]  Hamiltons Aegyptiaca [6]  I shall much like to see: I dined in company with him when last in town, & heard him converse just enough to prove that he was a man of very superior ability & attainments. The Egyptian story is exactly one of those subjects which xxx being whole & entire in themselves, & comprisable within short limits, offer every thing that can be desired xx for historical composition. I have at hand, (besides some earlier & minor accounts of the country) Pococke, [7]  Maillet, [8]  Bruce [9]  & Browne [10]  {& Antes}. [11]  I should be glad of Volney, [12]  Savary, [13]  Sonnini, [14]  & above all of Olivier, [15]  if that portion of his work which relates to Egypt is published, – for the first portion (which is all I have seen) shows him to have been a diligent & accurate observer. – And of any English accounts of our Expedition besides Sir R Wilson. [16]  I think there is one called a Non-Military Journal. [17] 

The xxx avowal of Buonaparte will be very curious. The massacre was a devilish act: the poisoning seems to show that he had lost his usual collectedness at the time. For it is perfectly clear from M. Miots second account, that the army were quite willing to have left their sick & wounded behind them, & were as compleatly devoid of all feeling as their commander. Nay, had he calld a council of war, or even put it to the vote thro the ranks whether he should put these poor wretches out of the way, or encumber the army with them, – they would have voted with scarcely a dissentient voice for the former first alternative. The only right course under his circumstance his Satanical pride would not allow him to take. It would have been to have placed the sick & wounded under Sir S Smiths protection, [18]  – warning him at the same time that they had the plague. [19] 

As I would fain dispatch these subjects before I take up South Africa, it is needless to ask for books respecting that part of the world at present. I possess some important ones Portugueze & Dutch.

believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 18 FE 18/ 1815
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1815 Feby 15/ Southey R
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey reviewed George Elliott (dates unknown), The Life of the Most Noble Arthur Duke of Wellington, from the Period of his first Achievements in India, down to his Invasion of France, and the Peace of Paris in 1814 (1814), Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 215–275. He went on to review a further series of books relating to Wellington in the Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. BACK

[2] Jacques François Miot (1779–1858), Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Expéditions en Egypte et en Syrie (1814), Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 1–55. BACK

[3] Southey had proposed reviewing John Campbell (1766–1840; DNB), Travels in South Africa, Undertaken at the Request of the Missionary Society (1815); see Southey to John Murray, 10 February 1815, Letter 2551. This did not happen. The appraisal in Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 309–340, was by John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB). BACK

[4] Dominique Jean Larrey (1766–1842), Mémoires de Chirugie Militaire et Campagnes (1812–1817); Southey later acquired an edition of 1822, no. 1607 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] Richard Wellesley’s Notes Relative to the Late Transactions in the Mahratta Empire (1804) provided some evidence about his and Lord Wellington’s role in the Second Anglo-Maratha War of 1803–1805, including Wellington’s victory at Assaye on 23 September 1803. BACK

[6] William Richard Hamilton (1777–1859; DNB), Ægyptiaca, or Some Account of the Antient and Modern State of Egypt (1809); no. 1170 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Probably Richard Pococke (1704–1765; DNB), Description of the East (1743–1745). BACK

[8] Benoît de Maillet (1656–1738), Description de l’Egypte (1735); no. 1784 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] James Bruce, of Kinnaird (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, in 1768–73 (1790); no. 377 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[10] William George Browne (1768–1813; DNB), Travels in Africa, Egypt, and Syria, from the Year 1792 to 1798 (1799). BACK

[11] John Antes (1740–1811), Observations On the Manners and Customs of the Egyptians, the Overflowing of the Nile and Its Effects (1800); no. 167 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[12] Constantin François de Chassebœuf, Comte de Volney (1757–1820), Travels through Syria and Egypt, 1783–5 (1805); no. 2958 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Possibly, as well, Les Ruines, ou Mediations sur les Revolutions des Empires (1791); Southey owned an English translation of 1792, no. 2957 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[13] Claude Etienne Savary (1750–1788), Letters on Egypt (1787); no. 2504 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[14] Charles Sigisbert Sonnini (1751–1812), Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt (1799); no. 2570 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[15] Guillaume Antoine Olivier (1756–1814), Travels in the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Persia (1801); no. 2115 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] Robert Thomas Wilson (1777–1849; DNB), History of the British Expedition to Egypt (1802). BACK

[17] Charles William Doyle (1770–1842; DNB), Non-Military Journal, or Observations Made in Egypt (1803); no. 2109 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[18] Sir William Sidney Smith (1764–1840; DNB), British naval officer, who commanded the combined Anglo-Turkish force which defeated the French assault on Acre, March-May 1799, thus causing Napoleon’s retreat through Jaffa. BACK

[19] Jacques François Miot (1779–1858), whose Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Expéditions en Egypte et en Syrie had appeared in two editions, 1804 and 1814. The latter included the anecdote that when Bonaparte retreated from Jaffa on 27 May 1799, he ordered French troops who had been struck down by the plague be poisoned; Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire des Expéditions en Egypte et en Syrie (Paris, 1814), p. 206. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013