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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1571. Robert Southey to Walter Scott, 27 January 1809 ⁠* 

Keswick. Friday 27 Jany. 1809

Dear Scott

Dobrizhoffer arrived this day. [1]  Our Carlisle carrier arrives only once a week, & the snow has now delayed him beyond his usual time, while I was waiting impatiently, not chusing to thank you, till I could at the same time say the book was safe. I will lose no time in reading & extracting from it, will do nothing else till it is done, & as soon as it is done will send it back. It will be the work of from ten days to a fortnight. I thank you very heartily, & hope to show you early in the summer that the books have not been sent in vain, but will have brought forth good fruit in their season. I thank you also for your friendly invitation, & should you be in Edinburgh towards the beginning of April, & that chamber in the wall be at that time unoccupied, – I am then going to Durham, & will very chearfully make for Edinburgh first. Mrs Southey who begs to be kindly remembered to Mrs Scott, with many thanks, – will be at that time, by Gods blessing, occupying a double bed when I am out of it. [2]  Meantime I shall be much obliged for the French Gumilla, [3]  & for that volume of Ramusio which relates to America (I believe it is the third –) [4]  the readiest direction will be to me at Keswick ‘to be forwarded by the Keswick carrier’.

This fresh Gazette [5]  is not of a nature to raise our spirits, & it is the more distressing because every new trial proves more & more the superiority of our men, & makes us groan for a fair field where we might once meet the enemy on equal terms. Moore [6]  must have been a very able man, or he could not have obtained such a reputation, having so often been unfortunate. I fear the worst consequence will be that this army, coming home dispirited & exhausted as it needs must be, will be full of complaints of the Spaniards, & contribute still more to indispose the nation towards the only allies on whom any well founded reliance can ever be placed, – allies from whom every thing is to be expected – except the one thing which we did expect, – that they should at once be able to resist such armies as the French in the field. We have done far too much unless we had done more, – & more ought to have been done. It is in Spain that we may fight our own battle as effectually as on our ground – & with this mighty difference that victory there would be decisive, but defeat would not. Had there been, as there should have been, a reinforcement of 20,000 men at Coruña, – what a blow might they have struck – a blow which would have been felt at Madrid, – & ha might have given an immediate turn to the war. – It seems to me that our ships have been our bane in this business, – that had there been no embarkation to look to, we should have kept the mountains, – or fallen back upon the strong frontier of Portugal, where there is a double line of fortified towns, the Spanish & Portugueze. All will yet be well if England acts with vigour, – but alas where are we to look for vigour? – not in the ministry, – & still less in the opposition, who never open their mouths but to show that wretchedly as the ministry have managed the business, they would have be ten times worse. Still I do not abate one jot of heart or hope. The Spaniards are slow, but they are persevering, – they must be beaten with soldiers, or then there will be no beating them out of it.

Coleridge has nearly completely compleated the arrangements about his paper, & as soon as every thing is formally settled, will begin. [7]  He did not foresee how much there was to arrange. He talks of beginning in March, I shall advise him rather to fix a few weeks later, for as he prints with a stamp for the convenience of circulating by the Post, it is of consequence to ascertain what number must be printed.

I have written a long article upon the Indian Missions for Murrays rival review, – a subject upon which I differ totis viribus [8]  from Sidney Smith. [9]  He seems to me to have treated it equally without feeling & without philosophy.

yrs very truly

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Walter Scott Esqre Advocate/ Edinburgh
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: Mr Southey/ 27 January 1809
MS: National Library of Scotland, MS 3878
Previously published: Wilfred Partington, Sir Walter’s Post-Bag (London, 1932), 45 [in part]; Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 499–500. BACK

[1] Southey had Scott borrow, from the Advocates Library in Edinburgh, a copy of Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717–1791), Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri, Bellicosaque Paraquariæ, (1784). Southey eventually owned a copy of this work, listed as no. 843 in the sale catalogue of his library. It was translated by Sara Coleridge (with Southey’s encouragement), as An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay (1822). BACK

[2] Bertha Southey was born 27 March 1809. BACK

[3] José Gumilla (1686–1750), Histoire Naturelle, Civile et Geographique de L’Orenoque (1758), a French version of the original Historia Natural, Civil, & Geografica de las Naciones situadas en las Riveras del Rio Orinoco (1731). BACK

[4] Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), Navigationi et Viaggi (1550–1559). Southey owned an early edition (3 vols, 1588, 1583 and 1556), no. 2382 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] News of the Battle of Coruña, of 16 January, fought when a Napoleonic army attacked the retreating British as they embarked for Britain. BACK

[6] 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 on 16 January 1809. BACK

[7] The first edition of Coleridge’s new periodical, The Friend, was published on 1 June 1809. BACK

[8] The Latin translates as ‘with all one’s might’. BACK

[9] When Sydney Smith (1771–1845; DNB), one of the founders of and leading contributors to the Edinburgh Review reviewed the activities of British missionaries in India negatively, Southey opposed his views in the Quarterly Review. Smith’s review of ‘Ingram on Methodism’ appeared in the Edinburgh Review, 11 (January 1808), 341–362, and he reviewed ‘Indian Missions’ in the Edinburgh Review, 12 (April 1808), 151–181. Southey reviewed the Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (published from 1794); [John Scott-Waring (1747–1819; DNB)], Vindication of the Hindoos from the Aspersions of the Reverend Claudius Buchanan, M.A. With a Refutation of the Arguments Exhibited in his Memoir, on the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India, and the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, by their Conversion to Christianity… By a Bengal Officer (1808); Thomas Twining (1776–1861; DNB), A Letter to the Chairman of the East India Company, on the Danger of Interfering in the Religious Opinions of the Natives of India; and on the Views of the British and Foreign Bible Society, as Directed to India (1807), in the Quarterly Review, 1 (February 1809), 193–226. In his turn, Smith responded again in ‘Styles on Methodists and Missions’, in the Edinburgh Review, 14 (April 1809), 40–50. BACK

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August 2013