181. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [10 October 1796]

181. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [10 October 1796] ⁠* 

The Duke of Northumberland [1]  is a man of remarkable arrogance. & his pride & his folly are equally manifest by what you mentiond of his placing his pedigree among the tombs of his ancestors. he found himself very awkwardly situated at Lisbon thro this aristocratic spirit. the English merchants there associate with the first nobles of the country. but the Duke thought fit to draw a line of distinction between them, & always invite the tiers etat by themselves. they were of course offended & he found himself without society.

as for the MSS at Wynnstay you are my authority. I think you mentioned it in a letter from Elton. if I have only dreamt this the dream must have made a strange impression, for it is a circumstance which I have frequently mentioned, & laid some stress upon. at any rate Geoffrey of M. [2]  xx xxxx wrote in Latin & Meirion there is wrong & I corrected his errors. the similarity of the Hebrew & Welsh is indeed very striking. the only tolerable thing of mine in the last magazine, is a short but compleat refutation of the fashionable philosophy of Helvetius. [3]  a parcel of blockheads there have been talking nonsense pro & con, & in my opinion what I have advanced fully decides the question.

the verdant copy puzzled you. know then that for the accommodation of such of my friends as are curious or are troubled with weak eyes, I <can> get the books died to any shade of green: to me infinitely more agreable than the dazzling reflection from white paper. my little volume of poems [4]  are just begun & you shall have them in six weeks. the Triumph of Woman the B Bay Eclogues & a Hymn to the Penates form the chief features. I must send you a little piece which is not to be inserted, tho among the happiest that I have written. you will like to see it inserted here & omitted in the Volume.

To a College Cat. [5] 


Toll on — toll on — old Bell! I’ll neither pray
Nor sleep away the hour. the fire burns bright,
And — bless the maker of this great-armd chair!
This is the throne of comfort! I will sit
And study most devoutly: — not my Euclid [6] 
For God forbid that I should discompose
That spider’s excellent geometry!
I’ll study thee Puss: — not to make a picture —
I hate your canvass cats & dogs & fools
Themes that pollute the pencil! let me see
The patriots actions start again to life
And I will bless the artist who awakes
The throb of emulation. thou shalt give
A better lesson Puss. come — look at me!
Lift up thine emerald eyes! aye — purr away!
For I am praising thee I tell thee Puss,
And Cats as well as Kings love flattery.
For three whole days I heard an old fur gown
Bepraisd, that made a Duke a Chancellor: [7] 
Trust me, tho I can sing most pleasantly
Upon thy well streakd coat, to that said Fur
I was not guilty of a single rhyme.
Twas an old turn-coat fur, that would sit easy
And wrap round any man — so it were tied
With a blue ribband.
what a magic lies
In beauty! thou on this forbidden ground
Mayest range & when the Fellow looks at thee
Straight he forgets the statute. swell thy tail —
And stretch thy claws most democratic beast!
I like thine independance. treat thee well —
Thou art as playful as young Innocence!
But use thee roughly God has given thee claws
And thou hast sense to use them. oh that Man
Would copy this thy widsom — spaniel fool.
He crouches down & licks his tyrants hand
And courts oppression. wiser animal
I gaze on thee — familiar not enslaved —
And thinking how Affections gentle hand
Leads by a hair the large limbd elephant,
With mingled pity & contempt behold
His drivers goad the patient biped beast.


In return for your story I will send you a very good one. A Sportsman & a Poet were walking together when they heard a pack of hounds in full cry. hark — cried the Sportsman — what delightful music! — I cant hear it, replied his companion for those damned dogs. — farewell. I will bring the Guerras Civils &c [8]  to town with me.

yrs sincerely




* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ No 5 Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: A.O.C./ 11/ 96
Endorsement: Oct. 11/ 1796
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 115–116 [in part; ‘To a College Cat’ not reproduced]. BACK

[1] Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742–1817; DNB), a soldier and politician. BACK

[2] The historian, and Bishop of St Asaph, Geoffrey of Monmouth (d. 1154/1155; DNB), whose works included The Historia Regum Britanniae; see Southey to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine, 6 September 1796 (Letter 175). BACK

[3] Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715–1771), French materialist philosopher and encyclopaedist; see Southey to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine, 2 September 1796 (Letter 172). BACK

[4] Southey’s Poems (1797). BACK

[5] Published in Southey’s Annual Anthology (1799). BACK

[6] Euclid of Alexandria (dates uncertain; between 325 and 250 BC), mathematician, whose work includes the Elements. BACK

[7] William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738–1809; Prime Minister 1783 and 1807–1809; DNB) was installed as Chancellor of the University of Oxford on 1 July 1793. BACK

[8] Gines Perez de Hita (1544?–1619?), Guerras Civiles de Granada (1595–1604). BACK

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