1092. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 10 August 1805

1092. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 10 August 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

On my return last night I found both your letters. I found also letters from Tom telling me that his Spanish Prizes were taken two days too soon – ‘they are now by some extraordinary act given to indemnify the merchants who suffered when Spain laid the embargo – so much for my 2000£!’ – This at least is what the W. Indian agents say. Many officers have received part of their shares in advance – & cannot repay the money. This luckily is not Toms case. [1]  But I do not believe that Government xx x xxxxxxx xxxxx can have resolved to reimburse the merchants by robbing the sailors, tho there was a paragraph in the Courier stating that the xxxxx xxx frigates which were captured so villainously were to be so disposed of. The Courier is a rascally paper, but if I find there be really good grounds for supposing that Toms prize money is to be made away with in this unprecedented manner, I believe I can get the Courier to take the matter up, & will certainly make as much noise as possibly about the rascality of robbing the navy. [2] 

Turners book is rich in curious xx matter. [3]  It would have been better if twice as long. still better if as much as possible had been woven into the history in chronological order. The facts about chivalry are very important & decisive. – Of Leo X I have read nearly two volumes. [4]  That book will disappoint every body, because every body expects a splendid story – & the story is not splendid. The names of a whole thousand & one Latin versifiers with the list of their works are but little interesting except to bibliologists. – the French men in Italy are told somewhat perhaps too much at length for their place, yet too xxxxx xx xxx briefly if their own importance be considered, & after all they are not very interesting in themselves. The scene is not great enough for the drama. As for the book it is neither better nor worse than the Lorenzo. [5]  But Roscoe is so excellent a good man that I shall smooth it over, – lay all the fault upon the subject – & leave it to take its place upon the shelf – for others it will get by his reputation, & there it will stay by its own good-for-nothingness.

I am sorry to say that you have over rated the sale of Madoc. Nearly 300 only have been sold – the edition being only 500. Its non reviewal is matter of chance – as I have no friend in any review except our own great Annual. [6]  One of my friends expresses a wish to see young Roscius [7]  painted as Llwelyn [8]  with the coracle on his back: – it is xxx curious that I should have been thinking of chusing Llewelyn for my play, very much with a view to fitting him with the character. [9]  Emma, Rodri & David would be good characters. [10] 

If you should come with Elmsley as I hope we will talk about the periodical paper. [11]  – Two articles which I wrote for the Annual have been supprest – Dallas’s Aubrey [12]  & Malkins Hamet & Almahide. [13]  In this last I had reviewed the type & paper xx all in the book that deserves reviewing, the former was civil xxxx but not civil enough it seems – so they have supprest a tolerable classification of novel upon the Linnaean system.

God bless you


Saturday August 10. 1805.


* Address: To C W Williams Wynn Esqr. M. P. / Wynnstay/ Wrexham
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] In December 1804, the naval ship HMS Amelia, of which Thomas Southey was a lieutenant, had captured the Spanish brig Isabella and the ship Conception, both laden with wine and brandy, and the ship Commerce, laden with cotton. It was customary for naval officers to be allotted a share of the value of ships and cargo captured in armed conflict, but because these ships had been captured before war was officially declared, the prize money was being withheld. Southey took up his brother’s cause to have his share reinstated. BACK

[2] The paragraph in The Courier which Southey refers to has not been traced, but presumably it was his influence that caused The Courier to publish a paragraph supporting the sailors’ claim to the prize-money on Saturday 24 August 1805. This was followed by a longer defence of their position in The Courier on 31 August 1805 under the title ‘Indemnification to the Spanish Merchants’. BACK

[3] The fourth and final volume of Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons (1799–1805) was published in 1805. BACK

[4] William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1805). Southey’s review of this work appeared in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 449–467. BACK

[5] William Roscoe, The Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1796). BACK

[6] Southey worked for the Annual Review from 1802 to 1808. BACK

[7] ‘Roscius’ is a generic term for an actor, after the Roman actor, Quintus Roscius Gallus (c. 126–62 BC), but here Southey is referring specifically to William Henry West Betty (1791–1824; DNB). He was a child prodigy who made his London debut at Covent Garden in December 1804 and then proceeded on an extremely successful tour of Scotland and England in the summer of 1805. The excitement about him, which led to him being hailed as the ‘Young Roscius’, peaked during the 1804–1805 season, and then quickly faded. BACK

[8] Llewelyn ‘the Great’ (c. 1173–1240), Prince of Gwynedd and de facto ruler of Wales in his later years, is a character in Southey’s Madoc (1805). BACK

[9] None of these plans to write a play for the London theatres came to fruition. BACK

[10] Rhodri (d. 1195; DNB) was the son of Owain Gwynedd (1100–1170, Prince of Gwynedd 1137–1170; DNB) and brother of Dafydd (d. 1203; DNB). At Owain’s death, the territory of Gwynedd was divided between several of the brothers; Dafydd gradually brought it all under his rule. When the sons of Henry II (1133–1189; King of England 1154–1189; DNB) went to war against their father, Dafydd supported Henry, which was probably the reason for his marriage in 1174 to the English king’s illegitimate half-sister Emma of Anjou (b. c. 1138). Dafydd was imprisoned by Llewelyn in 1197 and then driven out by him in 1203, dying in the same year. BACK

[11] Wynn had suggested that Southey set up a new periodical, to which Southey responded on 28 July [1805], Letter 1089 of this edition. BACK

[12] There was a review, not written by Southey, of Robert Charles Dallas (1754–1824), Aubrey: a Novel (1804) in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 551–553. BACK

[13] Benjamin Heath Malkin (1769–1842; DNB), Almahide and Hamet (1804). BACK

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