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

2602. Robert Southey to John Murray, 21 May 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick. 21. May. 1815.

My dear Sir

I am always thankful for a hint – but you will see that I have had in mind both the points which you mention. That of interested appointments is a delicate subject, & can only be touched lightly. – The article should on no account be postponed beyond this number, – it would lose half its force & fitness if the conclusion did not bear upon the present state of things. – in three months hence the news of the day may be xx {so} stimulating that people will think only of what Ld. Wellington is doing, not of what he has done. We write now to their hopes & their expectations. – I send more copy tomorrow with the proofs. [1] 

You have the proposed exordium of the history, which I do not wish to alter. – tho I may perhaps discover something to correct or amend in the proof. I am doubtful about the title of the History, – that is how to designate the War, – for sooner or later every war which is remembered for its consequences must be known by some specific name. Thus we have the War of the Succession – in Spain, [2]  & the War of the Intrusion would be the fittest name for this, if it were not objectionable for its strangeness at first. In the advertisement we may call it the Late War, – & so leave it for father consideration –  [3] 

You shall have the whole of the article this week. The Egyptian story had “great capabilities” to borrow Lancelot Browns phrase, [4]  & so has the second part of that story if we had a text for it. [5] 

Let me have Lord Blaneys book [6]  in your next parcel, – & your last number. Will you have Charlemagne for your next? If so I shall need the translation, – the original Longman has given me. It is a bad poem, tho not without some merit of construction. [7]  I shall do justice to what merit it has, but there is nothing in Prince Luciens philosophy, or in his present conduct, [8]  which will induce me in the slightest degree to palliate it faults.

Believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK 298
Postmark: E /24 MY 24/ 1815
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1815 June/ Southey R. Esq
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Unpublished.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; this issue of the Quarterly was published on 20 June 1815. Southey went on to review a further series of books relating to Wellington and the battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815) in the Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. BACK

[2] The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), fought among several European powers, including Britain, over the possibility that France and Spain would be united under one ruler from the House of Bourbon. BACK

[3] The dilemma over nomenclature was finally resolved, and Southey’s book was entitled the History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). In 1816 it was widely advertised that Southey was at work on the ‘History of the Late War in Spain and Portugal’. BACK

[4] The landscape gardener and architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (bap. 1716, d. 1783; DNB), whose nickname derived from his propensity to refer to the ‘capabilities’ of the environments he was asked to improve. BACK

[5] 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

[6] The army officer Andrew Thomas Blaney, 11th Baron Blaney (1770–1834; DNB). He was captured by enemy forces in 1810 and described both his experiences and those of the Spanish people under French occupation in Narrative of a Forced Journey through Spain and France as a Prisoner of War in the Years 1810 to 1814 (1814). Southey obtained a copy, no. 306 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[7] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), brother of Napoleon and author of Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814). Southey had been asked to translate it into English and had refused. The task had fallen to Samuel Butler (1774–1839; DNB) and Francis Hodgson (1781–1852; DNB), whose version was published by Longman in 1815. Southey did not review Bonaparte’s poem but did insert a swipe at it in his review of accounts of Wellington and Waterloo, Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526: ‘The publication of Charlemagne, so ostentatiously announced, was fatal to his literary character … his poem … proved him to be a sorry Homer’ (489). BACK

[8] Despite a long estrangement between Lucien Bonaparte and his brother, Napoleon, Lucien supported Napoleon during the Hundred Days and played an important role in the Chamber of Peers. BACK

About this Page

Published @ RC

August 2013