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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1516. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [September/October 1808] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

What a vile business is this in Portugal! [1]  Sir A Wellesley fights with half his army, because transports are on sight with a General on board who is to take the command from him; we must have the second part of Sir Robert Calder [2]  for such victories & such consequences. We have always been the worst negocioators in the world since the curst Restoration of Charles 2d. & this is as pretty a specimen of a treaty as even our history can furnish. Oh that Sir John Moore had had the command, [3]  & that Keates [4]  had had the navy, or that excellent xxxx sailor & statesman who has been so many years Governor of Malta [5]  & was lost to the service!

Spain will deliver herself – but I pray to God that we may send them no Generals. As many volunteers as you please, – the more the better – as many men as you please, but no Generals!

I cannot but think that this country ought long since to have made a distinction between France & Bonaparte: that the war ought avowedly to be personal against him, & with the avowed determination of never making peace with him, because it is manifest to all Europe that no treaties or ties can bind him.

– As for this infamous affair in Portugal I would do as the Romans would have done, refuse to ratify the conditions, & send the General who made them, to the French government, with a halter round his neck. – I am going from home for six days to Netherhall, – the old seat of the Senhouses, which was remarkable in Camdens [6]  times for the Roman inscriptions collected there, & [MS illegible] into the wall. [7]  Rickman is coming here next month, – so I suppose my winters work will hardly begin before November.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr. M. P./ Goldxxx xxxx Llangedwin Llangedwin/ St Asaph Oswestry Oswestry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D (undated letters)
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s exasperation was caused by the Convention of Cintra, signed on 30 August, whereby the French army commanded by Jean-Andoche Junot (1771–1813) and defeated by Anglo-Portuguese forces under Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the 1st Duke of Wellington) (1769–1852; DNB) at Vimeiro on 21 August, was allowed to retreat intact, with its weapons, from Portugal. Wellesley, who did not sign the Convention, was thought not to have pressed for victory because credit for it would have been gained by the senior generals sent to supersede him, first Sir Harry Burrard (1755–1813; DNB), then Sir Hew Dalrymple (1750–1830; DNB). These veteran generals, just arrived in Iberia, were content to make peace. Public outcry led to an inquiry, after which Burrard and Dalrymple never again gained command. BACK

[2] Admiral Sir Robert Calder, 1st Baronet (1745–1818; DNB) served in the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolutionary War, and the Napoleonic Wars. Calder was reprimanded by a Court Martial for not pressing home the advantage his fleet had gained over the Franch and Spanish at the Battle of Finisterre (1805). BACK

[3] Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), Scottish General with a long and varied military career. He was also MP for Lanark Burghs 1784–1790. After the controversial Convention of Cintra (1808), Moore was given the command of the British troops in the Iberian peninsula. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Corunna. BACK

[4] Admiral Sir Richard Goodwin Keats (1757–1834; DNB), a naval officer respected for his endeavour at the Battle of Algeciras Bay in 1801. BACK

[5] Sir Alexander Ball, 1st Baronet (1757–1809; DNB), Admiral and first British governor of Malta. Ball employed Coleridge during the latter’s sojourn in Malta; Coleridge eulogised him in The Friend (1809). BACK

[6] The historian, William Camden (1551–1623; DNB). BACK

[7] Netherhall was built of stone originally dressed by the Romans for a fort, the remains of which were nearby. From 1570, the time of the antiquarian William Camden (1551–1623; DNB), author of Britannia (1607), the first topographical survey of Britain’s antiquities, the Senhouses kept a collection of Roman inscribed stones, some derived from the fort. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013