1089. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 28 July [1805]

1089. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 28 July [1805] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

I was uneasy till your letter arrived – because Bunbury here had heard that your brother was dangerously ill with a white swelling, & I had attributed your silence to that cause. It is however clear that nothing is the matter, as you mention nothing; – probably the gout has been converted by some blunder into the worse disease. – I see alas by the non-contents of your letter that you have forgotten what I am reminded of by an empty exchequer. –

Last week I met Lord Somerville [1]  at dinner at Col. Peachy’s. I thought him an entertaining, but certainly not a pleasant man, – one whose Nature did does not seem to have designed for a gentleman, & whom the company of graziers & butchers has <certainly> not improved. He took no notice of the connection between us, if so it may be called. –

You are right about the necessity of Anglicizing my scene – & have set me right about it: for my ideas are so accustomed to run in narrative that I have everything to learn for the drama. I have a love of foreign costume, & had not thought that what was excellent in a poem would be faulty in a play. [2] 

Ellis’s book is coming to me to be reviewed, so also is Roscoe’s. [3]  I shall be very civil, & friendly because – civil of course I should be in any case, – but I am xxx must be less of the critic than I strict justice may require, because my footmarks are usually to be traced.

A periodical paper [4]  – . I am so very obliged to the world for totally forgetting the Flagellant, [5]  & for never discovering any of the circumstances therewith connected, that I feel no disposition whatever to trespass again with a similar undertaking, however dissimilar in xxx every thing but form. It seems to me that I do great things better than little ones – had to substitute long & short, for great & little, & the sentence cannot be construed into vanity. There are no thoughts afloat in my head which are adapted for such a vehicle. I will not affect any fear of losing reputation by such a trial, – but do not see that much reputation could be gained. nor should I much like to write one of those works which I think have an evil tendency; for the desultory reading which such essays encourage, leaves little or no impression upon the mind, & render it impatient of any continuous study, as made dishes indispose the palate for plain meats.

Besides – I must tell you what I am doing – tho I had firmly resolved to let you find it out. I am writing Letters from England by D. Manuel Alvarez Espriella, [6]  – in which will be introduced all I know & much of what I think respecting this country & these times. the character personified that of an able man, bigotted to his religion. & willing to discover such faults & such symptoms of declining power here as may soothe or gratify the natural inferiority which he cannot but feel. – Keep my secret close from every body but Elmsley. I have done about a fourth. the book will be very amusing & may very possibly pass awhile for a translation. It will certainly excite attention & curiosity, & I calculate upon greater profits than any thing has ever yet brought me in.

That story <saying> of Porsons [7]  has sterling merit. – You must not tell Lady Cunliffe [8]  that her receipt was never tried, – my complaint was, hei mihi [9] is I must say, in the lids not the eye, – & only in the eye xxx xxx when the inflammation extends.

The last report of Madoc [10]  was that a good many were sold. This phrase I believe implies less than a great many, but as half were gone six weeks before it is very well.

I have not yet got my Annual to see what of my articles are there, as they were written. there should be one upon the Society for the suppression of Vice with a few stings in the tail. [11]  My bill, if there be no error in the account, is longer much than I expected – £78.18 –. Which sets me clear with Longimanus, & leaves the profits of the Metrical Tales [12]  & Madoc to collect in h unanticipated. these with the Specimens [13]  (which had I been near London would have been sold by this time instead of loitering still in the first volume) & with the Spaniard, [14]  will by the Xmas of next year amount to as much as will enable me to remove if Toms money should not come to hand before, – or to pay it off if it should. I hope & believe that I am in a fair way of getting beforehand with the world.

God bless you


July 28. Sunday.


* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham. Welchpool/ Montgomeryshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298; WREXHAM/ 202
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 281–283.
Dating note: Misdated 28 July 1804 in Warter, Letters of Southey (1856); MS gives no year, but Curry, ‘Misdated letters and missing names’, notes correct date is 28 July [1805] (which corroborates Southey’s dating ‘Sunday’). BACK

[1] The Southeys’ distant relation by marriage John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765–1819; DNB). BACK

[2] Southey was contemplating writing a play, stimulated by an offer, sent via Wynn, from Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775–1818; DNB) to smooth its passage to the stage. He contemplated a Greek drama, a dramatisation of Madoc, and a play set in the reign of Mary I (1516–1558, Queen of England 1553–1558; DNB); see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 190–192, Southey to Peter Elmsley, 10 July 1805 (Letter 1081) and Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 12 July 1805 (Letter 1083). BACK

[3] Southey reviewed in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806): George Ellis, Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances (1805), 536–544; William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1805), 449–467. BACK

[4] Wynn had suggested to Southey that he set up his own periodical. BACK

[5] A schoolboy magazine devised by Southey and his friends, it was forced to cease publication after nine issues. Southey was expelled from Westminster School for his controversial attack on flogging as an invention of the devil in the fifth issue of The Flagellant (29 March 1792). BACK

[6] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella: Translated from the Spanish was published in 1807. BACK

[7] Unidentified. BACK

[8] Harriet, Lady Cunliffe, née Kinloch (d. 1830), Wynn’s future mother-in-law, wife of Sir Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet of Acton Hall, Wrexham (1755–1834). Wynn married their daughter Mary in 1806. BACK

[9] Meaning ‘Oh dear’. BACK

[10] Southey’s poem Madoc was published in March 1805. BACK

[11] Southey reviewed Part the First of An Address to the Public from the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Instituted, in London, 1802, Setting Forth, with a List of the Members, the Utility and Necessity of such an Institution, and its Claim to Public Support (1803), in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 225–231. BACK

[12] Southey’s republished his contributions to the Annual Anthology (1799–1800) under his own name in Metrical Tales and other Poems (1805). BACK

[13] Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[14] See note 6. BACK