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

2627. Robert Southey to John Murray, 30 June 1815 ⁠* 

30 June 1815. Keswick.

My dear Sir

Among the Books which you last sent me is a French account of Massenas Campaign in Portugal, [1]  a master-piece of impudence. I think this may serve for our text, [2]  & introduce naturally & strikingly enough to xxx narrative, which we may take up from the battle of Vittoria. [3]  – There is a grievous scarcity of materials from that time, – except Col Jones’s account [4]  of the siege of S Sebastian [5]  & the little that is to be found in Broughtons Letters, [6]  not a book has reached me which relates to Ld Wellingtons army after the retreat from Burgos. [7]  The Military Chronicle [8]  which began so well became about that time a mere catchpenny republication, without a particle of original matter, – & for all the subsequent battles I have as yet literally nothing but the gazette accounts, – except some private correspondence the writer of which unfortunately was wounded at the storming of the Camp before Bayonne. [9]  You sent me the Military Panorama to the end of 1813: if that has been continued there may perhaps be something there. [10]  – I shall stand in need here of all that historical & local knowledge can do for me, & in these points I am well provided. Send me Pinckneys Travels, [11]  – from which perhaps something may be gleaned. The latter part is indeed a splendid subject, xx & we do not yet know what the conclusion may be; – for if Paris should resist the Prussians will not be restrained a second time. The more likely termination seems to be that Macdonald, [12]  acting as if he has acknowledged Buonaparte for the purpose of more effectually serving the Bourbons, will take advantage of the situation in which he is placed; – proclaim them at the head of the National Guard [13]  & open the gates to Ld Wellington. But it is very idle thus to offer conjectures upon what may probably be known in London before this letter arrives there. – Of course it must be the concluding article to allow as much time as possible for collecting details.

It was for space that I was straitened in the last paper, & not for time. [14] 

The Egyptian story had the great advantage of picturesque accompaniments, & my canvass allowed room for them. [15]  There ought to be a second paper, taking up the subject after Buonapartes flight, & finishing with the close of our Expedition. [16]  I have not sent back the books documents, – because if you like this thought as well as I do, this use may be made of them; & the whole might very well be recast into a regular historical form, & make one little volume, – as a history entire in itself of the most memorable expedition of modern times. [17] 

I have no wish to write the life of Buonaparte. In the Egyptian Expedition & in the War of the Peninsula [18]  I shall have fully detailed two important acts of his life. And there will be a general view of the whole if I ever write compose “the Age of George 3d” [19]  – which it is certainly my intention xxx to do, if it please God to grant me sufficient length of life. My other historical works [20]  will be works of detail, – this will be a specimen of general & philosophical history. The materials are magnificent, & I have full confidence in my own architectural skill.

Salt [21]  I think must stand over till a paper upon E. Africa be compleated which is now publishing in the Investigador Portuguez, & the continuation or conclusion of which was provokingly postponed in the last number. [22]  I shall have however another article for your next, – the Egypt if you like it, or Gregoires Sects. [23]  – And for the one after I shall have something to say upon our good friend Dr Bell, & his Ludus Literarius. [24]  The subject of modern systems of Education is by no means a barren one.

When you send to me do not forget the two last numbers, – nor the second edition of the Missionary, – on which I believe Bowles will expect a letter from me, as he told me to expect the book. [25]  Would you like to afford it four or five pages? You may remember that I asked this question upon its first appearance; when (stupidly enough) I had no suspicion of the author. I have all the Spanish books which are necessary for a full knowledge of Chilese history &c.

Penroses Journal has amused me & delighted my children. [26]  Mr Eagle dreamt over that book for the last twenty years of his life, & spent a great deal of time in making drawings for it. [27]  I wish the portrait of the author had been prefixed, for the countenance was very striking. How any person can believe that the story has even a foundation of truth is to me wonderful. It is however a very amusing fiction, & likely to prove a popular one, if it be printed in a cheap form for boys, like Robinson Crusoe. [28] 

Believe me my dear Sir

Yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ John Murray Esqr/ Albemarle Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 3 JY 3/ 1815
Watermark: J DICKINSON & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: 1815 June 30 Keswick/ Southey – Robt
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 42551
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Andre Massena (1758–1817), commander of the invasion of Portugal in 1810. BACK

[2] Eustache-Auguste Carel (1788–1836), Précis Historique de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1808 à 1814 (1815); one of a series of books on Wellington’s campaigns reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. For examples of his swipes at Carel, see Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 461, 463, 472, 475. BACK

[3] The allied defeat of the French at Vittoria, 21 June 1813. It paved the way for eventual victory in the Peninsular war. BACK

[4] John Thomas Jones (1783–1843; DNB), Journal of Sieges Carried on by the Allies in Spain in 1810, 1811, and 1812 (1814). This was highly critical of the tactics and mechanics of sieges conducted by the British and their allies in the Peninsular campaign, in which Jones had served. BACK

[5] Allied forces successfully besieged San Sebastian, 7 July-8 September 1813. BACK

[6] The military surgeon Samuel Daniel Broughton (1787–1837; DNB), Letters from Portugal, Spain and France, Written During the Campaigns of 1812, 1813, and 1814 (1815). Broughton had witnessed the campaign in the Peninsula and been present at Waterloo. BACK

[7] The siege of Burgos, 19 September-21 October 1812, saw an allied army fail to capture the castle from a French garrison. BACK

[8] The Royal Military Chronicle, or, The British Officer’s Monthly Register, Chronicle, and Military Mentor (1811–1817). BACK

[9] Possibly a reference to Captain William Lewis Herries (d. 1857), Deputy-Assistant Quarter-Master-General, who was reported as ‘severely wounded’ at the Battle of Bayonne, 14 April 1814. He had lost a leg and been made prisoner, but survived and continued in the army until 1854, rising to be a Commissioner of the Board of Audit. He was the brother of John Charles Herries and Southey may have obtained his letters through this source. BACK

[10] The Military Panorama (1812–1817), nos. 1847–1848 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[11] Ninian Pinkney (1776–1825), Travels through the South of France, and the Interior of the Provinces of Provence and Languedoc, 1807–8 (1809). A second edition appeared in 1814. BACK

[12] Marshal Jacques MacDonald (1765–1840) was one of Napoleon’s Marshals who remained loyal to the Bourbons in 1815. BACK

[13] The National Guard in Paris was a part-time militia, originally set up in 1791, and mainly consisting of fairly wealthy citizens. In 1814–1815 it had shown liberal sympathies and some hostility to the Bourbon regime. BACK

[14] Southey’s earlier article on Wellington had appeared in Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 215–275. BACK

[15] Southey’s review of 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

[16] Although Napoleon left Egypt in August 1799, the French Army there did not capitulate to a British force until August 1801. BACK

[17] Southey wrote neither a ‘second paper’ nor expanded his materials into a book. BACK

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

[19] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB). For Southey’s proposals; see Southey to John Murray, 31 March 1813, Letter 2238. The project never came to fruition. BACK

[20] Primarily Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819) and his unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[21] Sir Henry Salt (1780–1827; DNB), A Voyage to Abyssinia (1814). Southey did not review it for the Quarterly. BACK

[22] The first two parts of ‘Descripção do estado em que ficavaõ os negocios de Mozambique em 1789’ appeared in O Investigador Portuguez, 12 (1815), 184–195, 375–384. No further instalments seem to have appeared. BACK

[23] Henri Gregoire (1750–1831), Histoire des Sectes Religieuses (1810), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 28 (October 1822), 1–46. BACK

[24] Andrew Bell, Elements of Tuition, Part III: Ludus Literarius, the Classical and Grammar School (1815), a Madras system (i.e. one in which advanced students were used to instruct more junior pupils) for teaching the classical languages, originally formulated by Bell in 1808. Southey did not write the projected article for the Quarterly. BACK

[25] William Lisle Bowles’ anonymously published The Missionary; A Poem (1813), set in the Andes. A second edition appeared in 1815. Southey did not review it for the Quarterly. BACK

[26] The Journal of Llewellin Penrose, a Seaman, a fiction (but possibly with some autobiographical basis) now attributed to the American painter William Williams (c. 1710-c. 1790). BACK

[27] The merchant, classical scholar and amateur artist Thomas Eagles (bap. 1746, d. 1812; DNB) had known William Williams, and possibly planned to publish the Journal. In the event, his son, John Eagles (1783–1855; DNB), edited the 4 volume edition published in 1815. BACK

[28] Daniel Defoe (1659/1661–1731; DNB), Robinson Crusoe (1719). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013