3723. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 1 September 1821

3723. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 1 September 1821⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Learning from you that Αναξ ανδρων  [1]  is still in the land of the living, I have done what uncertainty upon that point, has long withheld me from doing, – written to him. Poor fellow were we ever to meet again (& yet I hope we shall) – the first feeling would bring tears into our eyes, – an hour or two of delightful reminiscences would follow, & perhaps when the old stock of sympathy was exhausted we should be at a loss for other topics, & perceive how widely we have grown asunder.

I do not remember Dickins. [2]  Wintle [3]  I should have guessed to be as little susceptible of change as the Saracens Head. [4]  But I should have thought the Bridegroom DOyly [5]  as little to be aged, a Badger you know is always grey – & he was an old fellow at school. – Barns claimed acquaintance with me at Oxford last year, [6]  & I certainly should not have known him, tho when he named himself I recognized something of his features.

Did you ever see a sword of Cromwells [7]  age with <having> the back of the blade hollow, & the hilt loaded with quicksilver, so as to give weight to the blow? [8]  – I forget where I have seen an allusion to such a weapon [9]  – either in Fuller, I think, or in Jeremy Taylor. [10]  A clumsy contrivance, & more likely to make the owner of the sword wield it awkwardly, than to give him any advantage. – The mention of J Taylor reminds me of some gross misprints in Reginald Hebers edition, [11]  which I wish I had marked at the time that he might have given orders to cancel the leaves. A careful Corrector of the press is hardly now to be found in any printing office. The octavo edition of Burkes works, which I possess [12]  is made in many places utterly unintelligible by its extreme inaccuracy.

Have you seen the most laborious work that ever proceeded from Wales? Major Prices Retrospect of Mahommedan History [13]  – from Oriental authorities in four quarto volumes, printed in Brecknock? From the last volume I learn, what I could have forewarned him of (had I known him) before he sent the first to the Press, – that there are not many persons like myself, who will purchase such a work.

I am going to Lowther in the course of this month, & wish you were to be there. You shall have a portion of O Newman [14]  in two or three days

God bless you


1 Sept. 1821


* MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 268–270. BACK

[1] ‘King of men’; i.e. Edward Combe. BACK

[2] Henry John Dickens (c. 1771–1830), Captain of Westminster School in 1787. He had probably left the school before Southey arrived in 1788. In later life Dickens was a barrister. BACK

[3] Robert Wintle (d. 1848), an old Westminster schoolfellow of Wynn and Southey. He was Rector of Culham 1797–1848. BACK

[4] A common crest in heraldry and a popular inn sign. BACK

[5] Thomas D’Oyly married Elizabeth Simons (dates unknown), daughter of Nicholas Simons (1754–1839), Rector of St Margaret’s, Canterbury 1807–1822, Rector of Ickham 1822–1839, on 4 January 1820, Morning Chronicle, 6 January 1820. BACK

[6] When Southey received his honorary Doctorate of Civil Law on 14 June 1820. BACK

[7] Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB). BACK

[8] Southey had been led to this train of thought by an unusual old sword he had seen at Netherhall, home of his friend Humphrey Senhouse. BACK

[9] Henry More (1614–1687; DNB), ‘Preface’, to ‘A Platonick Song of the Soul’ in Philosophicall Poems (1647), no. 1998 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey noted the passage in Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), II, p. 6. BACK

[10] The works of Thomas Fuller (1608–1661; DNB) or Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667; DNB); like More they were seventeenth-century clergymen. BACK

[11] Reginald Heber, The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, D. D. (1822), no. 2782 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[12] The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke (1815–1827), no. 492 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library; an edition of the writings of Edmund Burke (1729–1797; DNB), conservative political theorist, philosopher and politician. BACK

[13] David Price (1762–1835; DNB), Chronological Retrospect, or, Memoirs of the Principal Events of Mohammedan History (1811–1821), no. 2350 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[14] Southey’s unfinished epic, ‘Oliver Newman’, set in New England. A fragment was published posthumously in Oliver Newman: a New-England Tale (Unfinished): with Other Poetical Remains by the Late Robert Southey (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Lowther estate (mentioned 1 time)