2976. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 13 April 1817

2976. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 13 April 1817⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I would take reproof from you as a dog does blows from his master; – which same dog if he were struck by a stranger would make his teeth meet in the calf of his leg. The first proof of my Letter [1]  arrived this evening. I shall not return it till the conclusion arrives, & till I hear whether Turner & my brother object to any expression which it contains, – the proofs would have <been> sent to you also if there had been time. The strongest passage in it stands thus. After quoting a sentence from the Register about looking backward at evening for the sun because there it had been seen & worshipped at its uprise “I on the contrary altered my position as the world went round. For so doing Mr W S. is said to have insulted me with the appellation of Renegado, & if it be indeed true that the foul aspersion past his lips, I brand him for it on the forehead with the name of Slanderer. Salve the mark as you will sir, it is uneffaceable. You must bear it with you to your Grave, & the remembrance of it will outlast your Epitaph.” [2] Wordsworth repeated this passage to a brother of Lockhart the Member, [3]  who replied that he knew Wm Smith well & that a duel must be the consequence. – The thought had not entered into my head otherwise than as a vindictive feeling; – but then I took care to xxxx <write> in a subsequent part as follows “Such Mr WS. are the opinions of the man whom you have traduced. Had you read his works you could not have mistaken them. X & I am willing to believe that if you had done this & found your opinions for yourself instead of taking those of wretches (Hunt & Hazlitt to wit) who are libellers by trade, & live by sedition & slander you would neither have been so far forgetful of your parliamentary character, nor of the decencies which are <is> due from man to man & in such a place & in such a manner to have attacked one who had given you no provocation. How Sir did you expect that the affair would end? Did you take the step in full knowledge that the man whom you were injuring knew his duty towards God & man too well to violate upon any provocation the laws of both? or did you suppose that he would demand what the world is pleased to call satisfaction? & xxxx xxxxx Perhaps Sir you would have waived your privilege, aimed at the life of him whose reputation you had attempted to stain & exposed your own in a quarrel wherein you knew yourself to be wilfully & wantonly the aggressor. I shall not put you to the trial. Your estates & your distillery would remain for your family, & the bells of Norwich would ring as merrily for <at> your successors election as they had done at yours. My place in the world would not be so easily filled, even if I were actuated by no higher ends xxx considerations. [4] 

I cannot tell what you may think of this, – but there are no other passages concerning which I feel any doubt of your acquiescence in their fitness.

Do you not see that the charge of my speaking acrimoniously against persons for thinking as I once thought is ridiculously false? Against whom are the strong expressions used, to which you refer in the Q R and the Registers. Against the rank Buonapartists, when I with whom I had never any more resemblance than I have with the worshippers of the Devil in Africa; and against those who, without actually favouring him as Whitbread [5]  did, nevertheless thought it hopeless to make our stand against him on that ground where we had every possible advantage? And for the Jacobin writers of the day, – in what have I ever resembled them? Did I ever address myself to the base and malignant feelings of the rabble? & season falsehood & sedition with slander & impiety? – It is perfectly <true> that I thought the party who uniformly predicted our failure in Spain to be ignorant,* [6]  & pusillanimous, & presumptuous, – surely surely their own words which are given in the Register prove them to have been so. Can you have forgotten in 1809–10 how those persons who thought with me that there was reasonable ground for hope & perseverance were insulted as idiots, & laughed xxx to scorn. For my own part I never doubted of success, & proud I am that the reasons upon which my confidence was founded were recorded at the time. Had you been in power you would have thought otherwise <than as you did> because you would have known more of the state of Europe. Arms were sent from this country to Prussia as early as the autumn of 1811. – Believe me the terms in which I have spoken of the peace-party are milk & water compared to what I have seen among the papers with which I have been intrusted. But enough of this. -

If you saw me now you would not think otherwise of my temper under affliction [7]  than you did in the summer. I have never in the slightest degree yielded to grief, – but my spirits have not recovered nor do I think they ever will recover their elasticity. The world is no longer the same to me, – you cannot conceive the change in my occupations & enjoyments, – no person who had not seen what my way of life was can conceive how they were linked with his life. But be assured that I look habitually for comfort where it is to be found.

God bless you. I shall be in town on the 24th, at my brother’s, and leave it on the 1st of May.

Yrs most affectionately


Keswick 13 April 1817.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ Norton/ near/ Warrington
Endorsement: 19 April
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 259–261 [in part]. BACK

[1] A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817). BACK

[2] A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (London, 1817), p. 28. Southey’s quotation was from his own words in Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808, 1.1 (1810), 23. BACK

[3] James Lockhart (1763–1852), retired banker and mathematician, who lived near Windermere; his younger brother was John Ingram Lockhart (1766–1835), MP for Oxford 1807–1818, 1820–1830. BACK

[4] A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (London, 1817), pp. 42–43. In the published version the whole passage following ‘How Sir did you expect ..’ was omitted. BACK

[5] Southey regularly denounced the radical MP, Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB), for his opposition to the war in Spain, e.g. Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 303 and Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 295–296. BACK

[6] * The paper in the QR is directed against the E Review, whose words are quoted to justify the epithets. [Southey’s note.] [Editor’s note: Possibly a reference to Southey’s article, ‘Parliamentary Reform’, Quarterly Review 16 (October 1816), 241, where Southey quoted the Edinburgh Review 14 (April 1809), 262 on the unreasonableness of Spanish dislike of the French occupying forces in 1808–1813.] BACK

[7] A reference to the death of Southey’s son, Herbert, on 17 April 1816. BACK

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