1063. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [late April–early May 1805]

1063. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [late April–early May 1805] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

Your account of Maurice [1]  & of Davies Giddy [2]  is very amusing. the former is I think the very worst writer living except General Vallancey. [3]  his seven octavos of Indian Antiquities, & his two quartos of the ancient Hist. of Hindostan have neither head nor tail – you never discover any other design in the author than that of making himself pass for an orthodox clergyman, – in fact his whole aim has been to get preferment by proving the truth of the Trinity by its likeness to the Trimourtee [4]  – which likeness if proved would be a better argument against than for the dogma, – & when Mr Maurice gets drunk, as he often does, he curses the Bishops for having done so little for him. after he says, & have written no xxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx – here am I who do’nt believe a word of the matter, & have gone thro thick & thin to bolster up their xxxxxx <nonsense> – & yet this is all they have done for me! – Did I never tell you how he & a certain Mr Underwood [5]  were one morning at two o clock taken up by the watch in Great Russel Street [6]  – because they were quarrelling about the situation of the land of Uz. [7] 

lethargize was altered to lethargy as the better English by advice of Coleridge & on authority of Shakespere, [8]  – I being easily persuaded for the sake of avoiding the Z. In my conscience I do not believe there is one single coinage in the whole poem. Deicide [9]  certainly exists as applied to the Jews somewhere – even if it did not, it was legitimately formed that my mind might have been allowed. – beautifullest is perhaps another word which may be blamed. [10]  – it is used both by Spenser & Sidney. [11]  I am grown into better humour with the poem since it is fairly published. yet if Thalaba [12]  had not been written since the whole plan was formed & the whole character & colouring given – I should think from Madoc that I had grown old before my time. it is in so sober a tone of thought & feeling – its brighter parts like an evening sunshine.

Ld Holland, has thro my Uncle, offered me the use of his library, which would be highly useful – if I were were near enough to find it so.

The West Indian news – as you may suppose – keeps me in a perpetual state of uneasy expectation. [13]  Cochrane [14]  will probably blockade the French, & then the Toulon Fleet will blockade – or surprize him – but at all counts the seat of the maritime war will lie there – & Tom will be more in the way of the bullets than I wish him. Bonaparte has done wonders in the resurrection of the French navy – but in aiming at the West Indies instead of Egypt he has fallen into the old road of politics & the old error, – happily for England.

The MSS chronicle you offered to get bound for me – for it cannot now be used without injury, the lettering should be Chronica del Rey D. Fernando por Fernam Lopes. [15] 

I never saw the ghost book of which you speak. did I tell you that I have found the needle mentioned in the Spanish Laws, fifty years before Gioia is said to have discovered it at Naples? [16] 

God bless you.



* Address: C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales MS 4813D (undated letters). ALS; 3p.
Dating note: From internal evidence which refers to Southey’s use of Lord Holland’s library, also stated in letter 1065 (dated [1 May 1805]). BACK

[1] Thomas Maurice (1754–1824; DNB) was an assistant keeper of manuscripts at the British Museum. He produced two large works on Indian religion: Indian Antiquities (1793–1800) and The History of Hindustan (1795–1798). A Church of England cleric, he gained the living of Cudham, Kent, in 1804. BACK

[2] Davies Giddy (later Gilbert) (1767–1839; DNB), a Cornishman and friend of Humphry Davy, who succeeded Davy as President of the Royal Society. Giddy published on engineering and on the history and literature of Cornwall. He was MP for Helston in Cornwall from 1804 to 1806, and for Bodmin from 1806 to 1832. BACK

[3] General Charles Vallancey (1731–1812; DNB), military surveyor and author of much-derided works on the history and antiquities of Ireland including a Vindication of the Antient Kingdom of Ireland (1786) and the Antient History of Ireland Proved From the Sanscrit Books (1797). BACK

[4] The trimourtee of Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva was thought to be a Brahminic equivalent to the Trinity. BACK

[5] Untraced. BACK

[6] By the British Museum, London. BACK

[7] The exact location of this biblical country, mentioned in the Book of Job, has been disputed, with eastern Arabia, southwestern Jordan and Dhofar, among other places, all suggested. BACK

[8] King Lear, Act 1, scene 4, line 222: ‘his discernings /Are lethargy’d’, (folio text), or ‘Are lethargy’ (quarto text). In Madoc (1805) Southey writes ‘to lethargy/ The Briton blood’, Part 1, Book 1, lines 108–109. BACK

[9] In Madoc the Hoamen ‘worshipped the mighty Deicide’, Part 2, Book 7, line 233. BACK

[10] ‘My only and my beautifullest girl!’, Madoc (1805), Part 2, Book 20, line 93. BACK

[11] ‘Helpe to addorne my beautifullest bride’, Edmund Spenser (1552–1599; DNB), ‘Epithalamium’, line 105; ‘Her most excellent Maiestie [or Lady of May]’: ‘the beautifullest Lady these woods haue euer receiued’, Philip Sidney (1554–1586; DNB), The Countesse of Pembroke’s Arcadia (London, 1598), p. 572. BACK

[12] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[13] In March 1805 the French Mediterranean Fleet, under Vice-Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve (1763–1806), sailed from Toulon for the West Indies, where Thomas Southey’s ship, the Amelia was stationed. BACK

[14] Admiral Sir Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane (1758–1832) was made commander of the Leeward Island station in 1805. BACK

[15] Fernao Lopes (c. 1385–after 1459), Cronica del Rei Dom Fernando o Noveno Rei de Portugal, no. 3829 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] Flavio Gioja or Gioia (c. 1300), of Italy, was credited with inventing the mariner’s compass by suspending the needle over a design on which the cardinal points were indicated, though modern scholarship doubts Flavio’s existence. Southey found an earlier reference in a work attributed to Alfonso X (1221–1284, King of Castile, León and Galicia from 1252–1284), the Siete Partidas (Seven-Part Code) or Libro de las Leyes, a comprehensive legal code, compiled during his reign. No. 3610 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Las Siete Partidas del Sabio Rey Don Alonso el Nono (1789). See Southey to John Rickman, 22 March 1805, Letter 1049. BACK