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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1526. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 30 October 1808 ⁠* 

Sunday Oct. 30. 1808.

My dear Tom

You must I think ere this have received a letter, the parcel, & another book of Kehama. [1]  I thought to have filled one more to day, but the weather was so tempting that it was not possible to keep indoors, & I lounged about the garden & grounds, & played with Herbert all the morning. Bedford probably keeps Kehama a few days, – it goes up in a treble cover – Herries to whom the middle one is directed, may not have an opportunity of delivering it to him immediately, – & on the other hand when Bedford has read his fill – he may not be able readily to return it to Herries, for the purpose of getting it refranked. If they reach you in right sequence they come right.

You enquire about my Uncle just as if you supposed that a man in England was likely to get any thing because he had good claim to it – I have not heard that the Dean of Hereford is dead, – & I am sure that my Uncle has no little {no} expectation of obtaining any thing. He has made up his mind to pass the remainder of his days at Staunton.

It is some satisfaction to me that I shall be able to leave upon record my opinion upon this infamous convention, [2]  – in the History of Portugal. [3]  There is a talk of an address from this county, – but Lord Lonsdale will do all he can to prevent a meeting, or oppose any thing that may be done at one. he & the ministry (all ministries alike) – never wish the people to come before the King with any thing except professions that they are ready to kiss his Majesty’s xx –––. this his Majesty is not yet tired of hearing, & would go on creating knights, & giving gracious replies to the end of the chapter. I rejoice to see the spirited manner in which the Common Council has resented his most improper answer to their petition. If any thing is done in Cumberland here it will originate with Wordsworth, – he & Coleridge will set the business in its true light in the country newspapers, – & frame the revolutions, to be brought forward by some weighty persons, – & Wordsworth will speak at the meeting, he being a freeholder. We are all to meet Curwen [4]  (by his special desire) at Calverts [5]  on Friday next; – & there I suppose the plan of operations will be settled. It was wished not to make this a party matter, & therefore Lord Lonsdale was applied to thro H. Senhouse, [6]  – but it seems he ‘views the Convention in a very different light!’ – God help poor England! well might W. forefeelingly call our Rulers

a venal band
Who are to judge of danger which they fear,
And honour which they do not understand. [7] 

Do you know any thing of Capt. Philip Beaver? – he has I believe the Acasta at this time in the W. Indies. – If you were in the way of falling in with him, I would have a copy of the Cid [8]  sent you, that you might give it to him as a mark of respect. – I have been reading, – indeed have bought – his African Memordana, – the Journal of the Colony which he attempted to found on the Island of Bulama, & from which only himself & one adventurer returned! [9]  But never did I read a book which gave me so high an idea of the infinite resources, activity & genius of any one man, as that plain, manly right English book has given me of its author.

I am in the 13th section of Kehama – 2345 lines – probably about half the poem. K has stormed the Swerga, Ladurlad & Kalyal are once more upon earth, & Arvalan will soon be laid neck & xx heels in Padalon, [10]  – I see my way before me, & shall soon begin to work with the encouraging prospect of getting to the end.

Herbert grows stout & continues short. What does Pappa call you Herby? (which is what he calls himself) – ‘Mine Dog.’ – & then laughs. And what does Mamma call you? – Bright eyes.’ – You would laugh to see the faces he makes when he says of his sisters name – not Edaw, but Edis. – Edaw he used to call her. He says every thing, – rides pocko, rides towel, rides foot, xx {makes me give him} three tosses, – & has no mercy upon either pocko, towel, foot or father. – Your niece wants sadly to know when you are coming home, & is surprized that you have not killed all the French yet. –

I verily believe Lord Chatham [11]  would have finished the war by this time. Twenty thousand men landed at St Andero four months ago would have exterminated all the French in Spain, & 100,000 Spaniards would have been beyond the Pyrenees, spreading fire sword & manifestoes, more formidable than either before them. – I am glad to see they are infesting the towns upon the coast from Catalonia. With Ld Cochranes [12]  help, they will find employment for a great many troops in defending their own shores. – But at home here all is delay, blunder, jobs & rascality, & so it will continue to be till things are thoroughly altered. No strength of mind, no rectitude of heart, no feeling of honour, no sense of shame, among our trading politicians. If it were not for the indignation which the people have discovered upon this cursed occasion, one should might be ashamed of ones country & tempted to wish oneself a Spaniard.

I shall make use of your stories of the hand [13]  – & of Junot, [14]  – & good use. Do not let any stories of this kind – or any thing which I can make use of escape you. you know how these things, even after the lapse of many years always turn to account at last.

God bless you. Ediths love

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Lieutenant Southey./ H. M. S. Dreadnought./ Plymouth Dock –
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 116–118 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey was sending his brother drafts of The Curse of Kehama (1810) in instalments. BACK

[2] 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, had been superseded in command by two veteran generals, just arrived in Iberia, who were content to make peace: Sir Harry Burrard (1755–1813; DNB) and Sir Hew Dalrymple (1750–1830; DNB). Public outcry led to an inquiry, after which Burrard and Dalrymple never again took command. BACK

[3] Southey’s never-completed history, of which his History of Brazil (1810–1819) was an offshoot. BACK

[4] John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB), Whig MP for Carlisle, Workington landowner. BACK

[5] William Calvert (1771–1829; DNB), who was at school with Wordsworth at Hawkshead, where he later became the schoolmaster. On the death of his father, Calvert became a man of independent means, inheriting, with other property, the estate of Bowness on the east shore of Bassenthwaite, near Keswick, where he lived with his family. BACK

[6] For this, see Southey to Humphrey Senhouse, 19 October [1808], Letter 1523. BACK

[7] The last lines of Wordsworth’s sonnet ‘November, 1803’, from his Poems in Two Volumes (1807). BACK

[8] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808). BACK

[9] Philip Beaver (1766–1813; DNB), naval officer, who in 1791 participated in a scheme for colonizing the island of Bulama, near Sierra Leone. The scheme failed and he returned in 1794, publishing his Bulama experiences in African Memoranda (1805). In 1806 he was appointed to the 40-gun frigate Acasta and in her went to the West Indies, where he remained until after the capture of Martinique in February 1809 (DNB). BACK

[10] The Curse of Kehama, Book 13. BACK

[11] William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708–1778; DNB), the minister whose policies were creditied with bringing victories during the Seven Years’ War. BACK

[12] Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, 1st Marquess of Maranhão (1775–1860; DNB). At this point in his remarkable career, Cochrane was a naval captain harassing, by a series of daring coastal raids, French troop movements into Spain. BACK

[13] Southey explained in his letter of 6 November 1808 to Walter Scott (Letter 1528), ‘In one of the Frenchmans knapsacks, among other articles of that property which they bargained to take away with them, was a delicate female hand with rings upon the fingers’. BACK

[14] Jean-Andoche Junot, 1st Duc d’Abrantès (1771–1813), the French general in command of the invasion of Portugal in 1807. Junot was made Governor of Portugal after taking Lisbon at the end of 1807. BACK

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August 2013