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

2633. Robert Southey to John Rickman, [c. 5 July 1815] ⁠* 

My dear R.

Give me a line to say how you are going on. This weather is very unfavourable for your recovery. – I shall count upon seeing you, Mrs R. & little Anne [1]  next year.

I could wish myself in London, to be three & forty hours nearer the news. Was there ever such a land battle in modern times! The wreck has been as complete as at the Nile. [2]  Murray propounds me sweet remuneration to bring it into his next number: which as I have a French history of Massenas [3]  Campaign before me it will be easy to do, the object of that book being to prove that the French beat us wherever they met us, & that Lord Wellington is no General, & moreover exceedingly afraid of them. [4]  The battle of Waterloo is a happy {good} answer to this. The name which Blucher [5]  has given it will do excellently in verse, the field – of Fair Alliance, but I do not like it in prose, – for we gave them such an English threshing that the name of the battle ought to be one which comes easily out of an English mouth. [6]  – If you can help me to any xxxxxxxx I shall know how to use it.

If Buonaparte comes here, [7]  which is very likely, I hope no magnanimity will prevent us from delivering up him up to Louis 18. [8]  Unless indeed we could collect evidence of the murder of Capt Wright, & bring him to trial & condemnation upon that offence. [9]  This would be the best finish.

I am sorry that La Fayette has opened his mouth in this miserable Assembly. [10]  As for the rest of them – Gallows take thy course! Among the candidates for this last exaltation there are Counts, Dukes Archdukes & Princes. They should all be hanged in their robes for the sake of the spectacle & the benefit of M. Jean Quetch. [11]  What a scene of vile flattery shall we have when the Bourbons are restored!

[signature cut off]


Notes

* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Endorsement: RS/ 10 July 1815
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 5 JY 5/ 1815
MS: Huntington Library, RS 254
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 119–120 [in part; dated 10 July 1815].
Dating note: dating from postmark; endorsement suggests 10 July, as does Life and Correspondence; Huntington Library catalogue suggests c. 2 July 1815 BACK

[1] Ann Rickman (b. 1808). BACK

[2] The comparison is between the allied victories at Waterloo (18 June 1815) and the Nile (1–2 August 1798). BACK

[3] Andre Massena (1758–1817), Marshal of France, who commanded the invasion of Portugal in 1810–1811. BACK

[4] Southey reviewed the following for Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526: Eustache-Auguste Carel (1788–1836), Précis Historique de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1808 à 1814 (1815) [the ‘French history’ mentioned in Southey’s letter]; Jean Sarrazin (1770–1848), Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1807 à 1814 (1814); General View of the Political State of France, and of the Government of Louis XVIII (1815); An Answer to the Calumniators of Louis XVIII (1815); Official Accounts of the Battle of Waterloo (1815); Lieutenant-General W. A. Scott (dates unknown), Battle of Waterloo (1815). For Southey’s account of Waterloo and its aftermath, Quarterly Review, 13 (1815), 507–526. BACK

[5] Gebhard von Blucher (1742–1819), Prussian commander, whose intervention at Waterloo was crucial. BACK

[6] For his later view that ‘the name of Waterloo was given to the battle by the Duke of Wellington in a spirit of the lowest & vilest jealousy’; see Southey to Tom Southey, 17 December 1815, Letter 2684. BACK

[7] Napoleon Bonaparte was to formally demand political asylum from the British on 15 July 1815. He was imprisoned and then sent to exile on St Helena, where he died in 1821. BACK

[8] Louis XVIII (1755–1824; King of France 1814–1824). BACK

[9] The British naval officer John Wesley Wright (1769–1805; DNB), captured on the French coast in 1804 and suspected of landing opponents of the Bonapartist regime, he was found with his throat cut in prison the following year, a reported suicide. Bonaparte was widely suspected to have ordered his murder, a story Southey made use of in the ninth stanza of his ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’ (1814). BACK

[10] Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (1757–1834). Hero of the American War of Independence and early supporter of the French Revolution. He left France in 1792 and was imprisoned by Prussia and then Austria 1792–1797. After his release he lived quietly in France, until he agreed to be elected to the Chamber of Representatives which Napoleon summoned in 1815. On 21 June 1815 he was a key figure in the Chamber in demanding Napoleon’s abdication. BACK

[11] A French equivalent of the British public executioner Jack (John) Ketch (d. 1686; DNB), whose name and reputation for brutality entered into popular mythology. BACK

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August 2013