2631. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 2 July 1815

2631. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 2 July 1815 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

You have done what was due to those who fell upon that field of Fair Alliance, [1]  – as we may well call it in verse. Follow it up by proposing that a medal be given to every man who has survived, – Al. Davison did this to the sailors who were in the battle of the Nile, [2]  & my brother knew instances wherein men dying in the W. Indies made it their last request that this medal should be conveyed to their families. – Give it the Prussians too, & these medals will do good service for England x upon the continent.

Here is a French book before me written to prove that the French always beat us in Portugal, & that Ld Wellington is no General! [3]  I take it for my text in the next Quarterly, & Murray gives me 100£ for a second paper upon the Life of Wellington. [4]  Help me to any private information respecting this greatest of all victories. Nothing better will ever be said of it than what Lord Grenville said. [5] 

I wish La Fayette & Lanjuinais had taken no part in this rebellion. [6]  As for all the rest – Gallows take thy due!

My plan for a monument should be a statue of Wellington upon the cannon, & the names upon the pedestal, a good place would be in the Park before the Horse Guards. The eagles under the horses feet. [7] 

I fear Buonaparte will run for America. [8]  If Louis 18 [9]  should catch him it would be a case for the Lawyers; – for as he was Sovereign of Elba he cannot be considered as a rebel. I should however in Louis place settle that point very summarily, & put him to death for exciting others to rebel. Luciens conduct has surprizd me much: [10]  – a sorry Homer, & a not less pityful Timoleon. [11]  Have you read his poem? The flight of Carlomans widow is well conceived, – every thing else is almost as wretched as the gross Popery which pervades the whole. [12] 

God bless you my dear Wynn.

Yrs very affectionately


Keswick. 2 July. 1815


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Whitehall/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 5 JY 5/ 1811
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 417–418. BACK

[1] The House of Commons approved an address on 29 June 1815 for a monument to commemorate the victory at Waterloo (18 June 1815), and the British troops who fell there. Wynn spoke in the debate and requested that the monument should not be in a church, that the names of all the British soldiers who fell at Waterloo should be recorded on the monument and that a medal should be given to all British troops who fought in the battle. BACK

[2] The government contractor Alexander Davison (1750–1829; DNB). A close friend and financial advisor of Horatio Nelson (1758–1805; DNB), after the battle of the Nile (1798), Davison acted as prize agent for the entire fleet. In addition, he paid c. £2000 for a commemorative medal for all who had participated in the victory. BACK

[3] Eustache-Auguste Carel (1788–1836), Précis Historique de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1808 à 1814 (1815). BACK

[4] Southey had reviewed George Elliott (dates unknown), The Life of the Most Noble Arthur Duke of Wellington, from the Period of his first Achievements in India, down to his Invasion of France, and the Peace of Paris in 1814 (1814), Quarterly Review, 13 (April 1815), 215–275. He went on to review Carel and other books relating to Wellington and the Waterloo campaign in the Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. BACK

[5] Lord Grenville had spoken at length in the House of Lords on 28 June 1815 in praise of the recent victory at Waterloo, which he declared to be ‘not only never surpassed in the history of Britain, but one which had never been overmatched by any exploit recorded in the history of the world’. BACK

[6] Two French politicians whom Southey admired. Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (1757–1834) was a hero of the American War of Independence and early supporter of the French Revolution. He left France in 1792 and was imprisoned by Prussia and then Austria 1792–1797. After his release he lived quietly in France, until he agreed to be elected to the Chamber of Representatives which Napoleon summoned in 1815. On 21 June 1815 he was a key figure in the Chamber in demanding Napoleon’s abdication. Jean Denis, Comte Lanjuinais (1753–1827), was a well-known lawyer and orientalist, who had maintained a liberal and independent attitude throughout the various French regimes since 1789. He was President of the Chamber of Representatives 4 June-13 July 1815. BACK

[7] Southey’s suggestions were not taken up by the government. BACK

[8] Southey was wrong. Napoleon Bonaparte was formally to demand political asylum from the British on 15 July 1815. He was imprisoned and then sent to exile on St Helena, where he died in 1821. BACK

[9] Louis XVIII (1755–1824; King of France 1814–1824). BACK

[10] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840) had supported his brother, Napoleon, in 1815, despite a long estrangement between the siblings. He played an important role in the Chamber of Peers and urged Napoleon to fight on after Waterloo. BACK

[11] Southey compares Lucien Bonaparte to Homer because of his attempt at epic poetry (see footnote 12); and to the Greek statesman Timoleon (c. 411–337 BC), because the latter had maintained democracy at Syracuse, as Lucien had conspicuously failed to do in France, despite his reputation for Republicanism. BACK

[12] Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Delivree (1814), an epic poem. In 1813 Southey had refused a commission to translate it into English. Carloman I (751–771; King of the Franks 768–771) was Charlemagne’s (742–814; King of the Franks 768–1814, Holy Roman Emperor 800–814) co-ruler and brother. After Carloman’s death, his widow Gerburga, fled to Italy, precipitating an invasion of the peninsula by Charlemagne. Lucien Bonaparte’s poem was dedicated to Pius VII (1742–1823; Pope 1800–1823). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)