3342. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 10 August 1819

3342. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 10 August 1819⁠* 

10 Aug. 1819.

My dear Wynn

I shall most likely proceed in earnest with this poem [1]  when I return. – It will have the same kind of interest for the New Englanders that the first part of Madoc [2]  has for you. Did you ever meet with Cotton Mathers Magnalia [3] ? – one of the oddest of all books. If you have, it is one of those works which you would not readily lay down, & you will need no notes to explain the allusions in this fourth book to Marthas Vineyard, [4]  & Eliot the translator of the Bible into the language of the Five Nations, [5]  & Roger Williams, [6]  – who was the most interesting man that your country ever produced as far as I am acquainted with its history, – worth ten William Penns. [7]  – As fast as I proceed with the poem, you shall have it. This book is to conclude with Olivers purchasing the Squaw & her children; – the next lands them at Boston, & in a scene with the Governor Leverett, [8]  lays open Olivers situation & plans. I have a good conception of Goffes [9]  character, & some scenes of strong passion will arise out of it.

Fak Fazakerley [10]  drank tea with me last week. I had met him some years ago at Holland House. We had some talk about the times, & he agreed with me in the fitness of making transportation the punishment of sedition. If this be not done, things will come to such a state, that the people will be willing more to surrender more of our liberties than can wholesomely be spared, – for security & order will always be preferred by them to all other considerations.

I am in daily expectation of a summons from Rickman, & shall set off the next morning after it arrives, to catch the mail at Penrith. [11] 

God bless you


Your brother & Lady Harriet [12]  surprized me by a visit. – If Murray be the publisher of D Juan, [13]  as he is supposed to be, I shall think the profit he may make will not recompense him for the loss of credit. The Dedication it seems comprized Lord Castlereagh. [14] He <he> were & I were brought together Heaven knows why as the two Roberts, & the fear of an action is guessed to have been the reason why it was suppressed.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ Llangedwin/ near/ Oswestry
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey’s unfinished epic, set in New England. The completed sections were published after Southey’s death in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. BACK

[2] ‘Madoc in Wales’, Madoc (1805). BACK

[3] Cotton Mather (1663–1728), Magnalia Christi Americana, or the Ecclesiastical History of New England from 1620 to 1698 (1702), no. 1904 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[4] Martha’s Vineyard is an island off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It was originally inhabited by the Wampanoag people, who accepted Christianity and did not take part in King Philip’s War of 1675–1676, the background to ‘Oliver Newman’. This process was greatly helped by the fact that early converts among the Wampanoag survived the plague that swept through Martha’s Vineyard in 1646. The places, events and people from New England Southey refers to in this letter are mentioned in ‘Oliver Newman’, Book 4, lines 698–731. BACK

[5] John Eliot (c. 1604–1690) translated the Bible into the language of the Massachusett people in 1663. The Five Nations were the confederation of tribes in upper New York State, often called the Iroquois League: the Mohawk; Oneida; Onondaga; Cayuga; and Seneca. They speak Iroquoian languages, rather than Massachusett, which was an Algonquian language. BACK

[6] Roger Williams (c. 1603–1683) was a Londoner, not a Welshman. He founded Providence Plantation in 1636 as a religiously tolerant community, advocated peaceful relations with native peoples and was an abolitionist. BACK

[7] William Penn (1644–1718; DNB), Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania. BACK

[8] John Leverett (1616–1679), Governor of Massachusetts 1673–1679. BACK

[9] William Goffe (c. 1605– c. 1679; DNB), English Parliamentarian and regicide, who fled to New England in 1660. BACK

[10] John Nicholas Fazakerley (1787–1852), Whig MP for various seats between 1812 and 1841. He was the representative of an old Lancashire landowning family and spent much time travelling in 1808–1812, including a visit to Spain. BACK

[11] Southey’s tour of Scotland with Rickman and Telford lasted from 17 August until 1 October 1819. For his record of events, see Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819, ed. Charles Harold Herford (1929). BACK

[12] Sir Watkin Williams Wynn had married Lady Henrietta Antonia Clive (1786–1835), daughter of Edward Clive, 1st Earl of Powis (1754–1839; DNB) on 4 February 1817. BACK

[13] The first two cantos of Byron’s Don Juan (1819–1824) were published anonymously on 15 July 1819. Murray was the publisher, though his firm’s name did not appear on the book’s title page. The ‘Dedication’, which attacked Southey and others, was suppressed. It soon became very well known, though it was not published until 1833. BACK

[14] Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh (1769–1822; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1812–1822. The phrase ‘the two Roberts’ was not used in the ‘Dedication’, but Castlereagh received some excoriating criticism in stanzas 11–14. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Holland House (mentioned 1 time)