3554. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 13 November 1820

3554. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 13 November 1820⁠* 

13 Nov. 1820

My dear Wynn

Cornelius Neale dedicated a tragedy called Mustapha to me, some five or six years ago. [1]  I afterwards breakfasted with him at the house of Josiah Conder, proprietor, editor, & at that time publisher of the Eclectic Review. Neales father [2]  kept the great china shop in St Pauls Church Yard, by the gateway of <leading to> Doctors Commons, – & he himself has married a daughter of John Mason Good. [3]  He is a little, mild, religious man, with a great deal of poetical feeling, which he knows how to express, – but not, I think, with much power of mind, – but free from all prevailing faults either of manner or morals in his writings

Murray has sent me the Sketch Book, the author of which I met in his room. [4]  It is a very pleasing, clever book. What the writer says concerning the Indians, is more creditable to his humanity than to his judgement. It is quite an ex parte view of the case. Philip of Pokanoket, [5]  with whom I shall make you better acquainted than Irving seems to be, had all the treachery of a true savage, as well as some of a savages virtues. His Indian name was Massasoit [6]  (not Kawnacom) & the historical grounds of my poem, are as Irving supposes, to be found in the main events of what is called Philips War.

I know not what to think of this termination of the Queens business, [7]  except that it is plain enough the reign of terror has begun, & where it is to end God knows. The Queens lawyers [8]  as well as her radical friends, have stuck at no means to serve her, & they have succeeded in deceiving some of the Lords, & in intimidating others, – which with the help of the thorough–paced Opps, & a few ricketty consciences has enabled them to obtain a most disgraceful triumph, – disgraceful as affecting the character of the nation. Never let us wonder again at the madness in the days of Titus Oates, or of Dr Sacheverel. [9]  The essential spirit of faction is the same in Whig & in Tory, <& in all times.> If Bergami [10]  were to come to England I should not wonder if they were to present him with the freedom of the city in a gold box. By the bye one of the Italian worthies at the Lord Mayors entertainment [11]  has a reputation which would have entitled him to stand for the office of Lord Horse in that xxxx <remarkable> city of which no vestige now remains, & no record will be transmitted to posterity. [12] 

The matter will not end here, even if the Q. should be desirous, as probably she will be, of taking her allowance & returning to her continental indulgencies. [13]  The example of bearding the Sovereign & defying the laws has been set, & the possibility of intimidating the legislature has been proved. The question of the liturgy [14]  will be xx xxxxx taken up; the ferment will continue; & things will go on from bad to worse, till the press has effected a thorough Revolution, or till Government has subdued the press. I fear that in another century our constitution will be held up as a warning for its defects, not as an object of admiration for other nations. And I am as sure as it is possible to feel concerning future events, that in the course of fifty years (perhaps in less than half that time) there will not be a free press in xxx xxxx Europe.

King Mob demands an illumination here to night, [15]  – according to the tallow-chandler, & great disturbances are threatened. In that case my windows may suffer. – there is however no appearance of any stir as yet (between 7 & 8 o clock) – & tallow chandlers are suspicious authorities in such thi matters.

There is a book advertised about New Britain, [16]  which from the advertisement I suppose to be an Utopian Romance founded upon the story of Madoc. Do you know any thing of it?

I have nearly finished another book of Oliver Newman, [17]  & shall take it up now in the hope of getting over one of those difficult passages in which I stick for a long time, – passages in which a reader discovers no difficulty, but a writer feels the greatest.

I wish you could have given me a better account of Mrs Wynn. – We are going on tolerably well. – Your godson is as fine a creature as you could desire to see, & begins to mispronounce mutilated words most delightfully. Charles Cuthbert he makes into Cha–Cupn.

God bless you.



* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ Llangedwin/ near/ Oswestry
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 217–220. BACK

[1] Cornelius Neale, Mustapha: a Tragedy (1814). BACK

[2] James Neale (c. 1740–1814), china and glass merchant and co-owner of Neale & Wilson, pottery manufacturers, of Church Works, Staffordshire. He was one of the founders of the London Missionary Society in 1795. BACK

[3] Cornelius Neale married, in 1816, Susanna Good (dates unknown), daughter of John Mason Good (1764–1827; DNB), physician, linguist and poet. BACK

[4] Washington Irving (1783–1859), The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1820), a collection of stories set in New England. Murray was the English publisher. BACK

[5] Metacomet (c. 1639– 1676), Sachem of the Wampanoag people. He used the name ‘Philip’ in his dealings with the New England settlers and was the native American leader in King Philip’s War of 1675–1676 with the settlers. This war formed the background to Southey’s unfinished epic poem, 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. This conflict was also dealt with in the story ‘Philip of Pokanoket’ in Irving’s The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., 2 vols (London, 1820), II, pp. 169–196. BACK

[6] Southey is incorrect here: Massasoit (c. 1581–1661) was Metacomet’s father. BACK

[7] Under extreme pressure from George IV, the Cabinet had reluctantly agreed to introduce a Bill of Pains and Penalties into the House of Lords to deprive the King’s wife, Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821; DNB), of the title of Queen and to dissolve her marriage to the King. On the Third Reading of the Bill on 10 November 1820, the government majority was only nine votes and it seemed very unlikely the Bill could pass the House of Commons. Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, therefore announced the Bill would be withdrawn. BACK

[8] Primarily Henry Brougham and Thomas Denman (1779–1854; DNB), Whig lawyer and MP for various seats 1818–1832, Lord Chief Justice 1832–1850. BACK

[9] Titus Oates (1649–1705; DNB), originator of the mythical ‘Popish Plot’ that convulsed England 1678–1681; and Henry Sacheverell (1674–1724; DNB), whose anti-Whig sermons led to riots and a political crisis in 1710–1711. BACK

[10] Bartolomeo Pergami (1783/4–1842), the member of Queen Caroline’s entourage in Italy who was accused of being her lover. BACK

[11] The Lord Mayoralty had just passed to the pro-Caroline John Thomas Thorp (1776–1835), haberdasher and MP for the City of London 1818–1820, from the anti-Caroline George Bridges (c. 1762–1840), wine merchant and MP for the City of London 1820–1826. The celebrations at the Guildhall on 9 November 1820 were attended by several of the Italian witnesses who had supported Queen Caroline, including Colonel Alessandro Olivieri (dates uknown) and Carlo Vassalli (dates unknown), the Queen’s Equerry, Morning Chronicle, 10 November 1820. BACK

[12] A reference to Southey’s long-standing series of jokes about a mythical character called ‘the Butler’, which he shared with Grosvenor Bedford and some of which became part of The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[13] Queen Caroline accepted an increased allowance of £50,000 per annum, but she showed no signs of going abroad. BACK

[14] The question of whether Queen Caroline’s name should be included in the Church of England’s liturgy as a member of the Royal Family for whom worshippers would be asked to pray. George IV had successfully excluded her name. BACK

[15] To celebrate Queen Caroline’s triumph, many radicals put candles in their windows. BACK

[16] The Courier, 25 October 1820, advertised New Britain, a Narrative of a Journey, to a Country so called by its Inhabitants, Discovered in Missouri. Together with a Brief Sketch of their History (1820). This was an anonymous novel, which described how the descendants of a group of sixteenth-century English colonists had been ‘discovered’ in Missouri. It was, therefore, only distantly related to the plot of Southey’s Madoc (1805). BACK

[17] The fifth book, ‘The Portrait’, of Southey’s unfinished epic poem, set in New England. BACK

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