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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 13 June 1808

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“June 13. 1808.
“Dear Coleridge,

“I have the last census of Spain here, and perhaps you may like to give the Courier a statement of the
population of the Northern Provinces, as taken in 1797, and published in 1801.

  Population. Males from the Age of 16 to 50.
Asturias 364,238 80,554
Galicia 1,142,630 225,454
These Provinces are what we call Biscay.    
Alava 67,523 15,367
Guipuzcoa 104,491 23,343
Vizcaya 111,436 25,801

These are the provinces which have asked assistance; but there is probably a French force at Ferrol, which may, for awhile, keep part of Galicia in awe. The people are a hardy race, and most of them good shots, because there are no game laws, plenty of game, and wolves in the country. Probably every man has his gun. One hardly dares indulge a hope; but if Europe is to be redeemed in our days, you know it has always been my opinion that the work of deliverance would begin in Spain. And now that its unhappy government has committed suicide, the Spaniards have got rid of their worst enemy.

“This account of Lisbon, which has just reached me, may also fitly appear in the Courier, for the edification of Roscoe and such politicians;—‘Every private family has a certain number of French officers and soldiers quartered upon them, who behave with their accustomed insolence and brutality. The ladies of one family very naturally, upon the intrusion of these unwelcome guests, retired to their own apartments, where they proposed remaining; but these civilised Frenchmen required their presence, and
Ætat. 34. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 149
would admit of no excuse. Il faut que les dames viennent was the only reply which they made; and of course the women were compelled to be subject to their ribaldry and impertinence. Whole families of the middling class are seen begging at the corners of the streets; and women, who had till now borne an unblemished reputation, prostitute themselves publicly to gain wherewithal to buy bread. The soldiers and the flower of the peasantry are sent to recruit the French armies in distant parts. Nothing can exceed the misery and the despondency of the people.

“Were I minister, I would send half the regular army without delay to Spain; the distance is nothing,—a week would be but an average passage; and these seas are not like the German Ocean, where so many brave men have been sacrificed in useless expeditions during stormy seasons.

“Of public affairs enough! We have had a bilious fever in the house, which was epidemic among the children of the place. Herbert has suffered severely from it; I thought we should lose him. The disease has reduced him very much, and left him in a state of great debility. Keswick is scarcely ever without some kind of infectious fever, generally among the children. When these things get into a dirty house, they hardly ever get out of it; and I attribute this more to the want of cleanliness than to the climate. But ague is beginning to re-appear, which had scarcely been heard of during the last generation;—this is the case over the whole kingdom, I believe. What put a stop to it then, or what brought it back now, is beyond the reach of our present knowledge.
You love the science of physic; and Nature, who seems to have meant you for half a dozen different things when she made you, meant you for a physician among the rest. I will tell you, therefore, two odd peculiarities of my constitution; the slightest dose of laudanum acts upon me as an aperient;—if I am at any time exposed to the sun bareheaded for two minutes, I infallibly take cold. This probably shows how soon I should be subject to a stroke of the sun, and indicates the same over-susceptibility which the nitrous oxide did, a smaller dose affecting me than any other person who ever breathed it.

“I have read that play of Calderon’s since my return: its story is precisely as you stated it, and in the story the wonder lies. Are we not apt to do with these things as naturalists do with insects?—put them in a microscope, and exclaim how beautiful!—how wonderful!—how grand!—when all the beauty and all the grandeur are owing to the magnifying medium? A shaping mind receives the story of the play and makes it terrific;—in Calderon it is extravagant. The machinery is certainly most extraordinary; and most extraordinary must the state of public opinion be, where such machinery could be received with the complacency of perfect faith,—as undoubtedly this was, and would be still in Spain.

“At last I have got all my books about me, and right rich I am in them—above 4000 volumes. With your Germans, &c., there is probably no other house in the country which contains such a collection of foreign literature. My Cid will be published in about six weeks. Brazil is not yet gone to press,—
Ætat. 34. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 151
the price of paper has deterred me; and yet there is little likelihood of any reduction, indeed no possibility, till the North is again open to us.

“This is the moment for uniting Spain and Portugal; and the greater facility of doing this in a commonwealth than in a monarchy would be reason enough for preferring that form of government were there no other. Portugal loses something in importance and in feeling by being incorporated in the Spanish monarchy; it would preserve its old dignity by uniting in a federal republic,—a form which the circumstances of Spain more especially require, and its provincial difference of laws and dialects. Each province should have its own cortes, and the general congress meet at Madrid,—otherwise, that city would soon waste away. No nation has ever had a fairer opportunity for reforming its government and modelling it anew. But I dare say this wretched cabinet will be meddling too much in this, and too little in the desperate struggle which must be made;—that we shall send tardy and inefficient aid—enough to draw on a heavier French force, and not enough to resist the additional force which it will occasion.

“The crown, like the Ahrimanes of the earth, will sacrifice any thing rather than see the downfal of royalty.

“That best of all good women, Mrs. Wilson, has borne the winter better than any former one since we have known her.

“I am thinking about a poem upon Pelajo, the restorer of Spain. Do you wish to serve me? Puff
Espriella, in the Courier, as the best guide to the lakes. All well. God bless you!

R. S.”