1203. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 19 July 1806

1203. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 19 July 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

The Cid grows under my hands, & instead of the few sheets abstracted for you, will make two little volumes, which if the pleasure of the work do not greatly deceive me, will be as curious & as interesting as any thing of the kind could be. [1]  I take the original Chronicle, [2]  divide it into books & subdivide into sections at discretion, omit what is not connected with the subject, supply from other sources what x is there omitted, referring at the end of every section to the authorities chapter & verse, & noticing every thing which ought to be noticed even with scrupulous fidelity in the notes, which will be xxxxxx of all kinds, except that nothing has yet tempted me to a joke in them. – not for any want of a propensity on my part, tho you so do not you take it for a symptom of amendment. For the language I have as in Amadis [3]  just followed the original. – I shall sell one edition, get some credit by it, & give a great deal of pleasure to the few persons who have a taste for such things, & whom I shall venture to estimate at 750 buyers.

The Scotch seem to think that Ld Melvilles character is cleared by his acquittal. [4]  We on this side the border are of a very different opinion, & I hear it loudly lamented that the House of Lords should have taken the thing up as a party matter, in contempt & defiance of the plain matter of fact. I have been asked if I have any interest in getting a prisoner exchanged. Whether this can be done or no I know not, – but if there be any kind of silent <silent> exchange going on, as I hear there is, I should be very glad if you could get Lieut. Edward Barker [5]  home, who has been about two years there, having been shipwrecked in his frigate on the coast. I mention this because if it can be done at all it can be done with a word.

You ask me upon what terms I am with John Southeys heir. [6]  He & my mother were not on good terms, & in consequence of this I never had any intercourse with him from 1791 – till four years ago. Then, hearing that he had made enquiries concerning xxxx my youngest brother, I called upon him – & this led to an interchange of dining visits about once in a month or six weeks as long as I was at Bristol. He is below the level of his Peers in society as to information, neither speaking nor writing grammatically, but in every respect a better man to deal with than his brother, whose humour amounted to insanity, in the strict – but not the legal sense of the term. I am on as good terms with him as I can be, – that is, there can be no correspondence between us – except when any family event occurs – & if I were to travel near him I should turn aside to inn at his house. The best circumstance is that his sister will now live with him, who lived with my father during the whole of my childhood, & who indeed is the only one of his family for whom I have any thing like a real family feeling. She I believe loves me well.

I have not seen, nor am I likely to see the new Giraldus. [7] 

Ennerdale Lake [8]  is to be sold, with above 300 acres on its shores. If you know any person who wants to buy a Lake here is a fine opportunity for it will Had John Southeys property devolved to me I would have bought it, built there, & taken root in the valley for life. The land is in bad order & the situation at present will go for nothing – but it is a beautiful place.

If it were you, instead of your Uncle, who were at the head of the Board of Controul, [9]  I would without delay address a memorial to you upon the moral political & religious necessity of converting our Hindoo subjects, & the fitness of a church establishment in Hindostan. – I am in high favour, they tell me, with the Bp. of Llandaff – more probably than I should be with any other Bishop. [10]  Ld G  [11]  was right about the holy days – yet the Bishops might have urged that as some were still to be retained <allowed> it would be more decorous to retain the church festivals & abolish the birth days.

Brougham comes into Parliament I hear next election. [12]  xxx He will be a strong man in the house. I hope his Negro-politics will not be adopted – those of the Crisis of the Sugar Colonies seem to me the sounder. [13]  To acknowledge the Emperor Jean Jacques [14]  would put him in good humour, – to open a trade with him would tempt his people to agricultural & commercial pursuits, & it is only in this way that they can be prevented from becoming a nation of pirates – such as is rising now in the South Sea Islands, where every petty King has a Botany Bay convict for his prime minister! – I have schemes of colonial ambition as extensive as Bonapartes on the continent – with this difference that in mine the means would be good & the end better.

God bless you


Saturday July 19 1806.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Whitehall/ London/ Private
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 425–427. BACK

[1] Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid, published in 1808. BACK

[2] Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid (1808) was based on translations from the Crónica particular del Cid (published 1593), with additions from the Crónica de España of Alphonso the Wise (1541) and Romancero e Historia del Cid (1632). BACK

[3] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[4] Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742–1811; DNB), Secretary of State for War 1794–1801 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1804. From 1802–1805 Melville’s use of public funds when Treasurer of the Admiralty (1782–1800), was investigated by a Royal Commission. Melville, it was found, had allowed the diversion of government funds to his personal accounts. On 9 April 1805 Melville was censured in the House of Commons for allowing the misuse of public funds. He resigned and impeachment proceedings were commenced against him, but he was cleared of nearly all the charges in June 1806. BACK

[5] Lieutenant Edward Barker (d. 1810) was taken prisoner by the French, when his ship, HMS Hussar (a 38-gun fifth-rate frigate launched in 1799) was abandoned after striking the Saints Rocks near Brest on 8 February 1804. British officers taken prisoner in the Napoleonic wars were often exchanged for French captives and so returned to their home countries, where they remained on parole. Barker may have been a cousin of Mary Barker, hence Southey’s efforts to mobilise assistance for him. BACK

[6] Southey’s uncle Thomas Southey, brother of his father, Robert, and John Southey. BACK

[7] Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Baronet (1758–1838; DNB), Giraldus de Barri, Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales AD 1188 (1806). BACK

[8] Ennerdale Water is approximately 20 miles southwest of Keswick. BACK

[9] Wynn’s uncle, Thomas Grenville (1755–1846; DNB), was the President of the Board of Control in 1806. BACK

[10] Southey had dined with the Bishop of Llandaff the previous month, for an account of which see Southey to John May, 18 June 1806, Letter 1191. BACK

[11] On 5 July Grenville spoke in the House of Lords defending the bill to contract the number of holidays taken by the Custom House. The bishops feared that contraction of religious ‘holydays’ would lessen the observance of religion; holidays were also granted on royal birthdays. BACK

[12] Brougham was not given a parliamentary seat, though in August 1806 he was appointed secretary of a diplomatic mission to Portugal. BACK

[13] Brougham’s An Inquiry into the Colonial Policy of the European Powers (1803) defended the colonial system but attacked the slave trade. Southey’s preferred pamphlet was Stephen James (1758–1832), The Crisis of the Sugar Colonies; or, an enquiry into the objects and probable effects of the French expedition to the West Indies (1802). BACK

[14] Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1758–1806) was a leader of the revolution in the French colony of St Domingo, and the first ruler of independent Haiti. He crowned himself Emperor of Haiti in 1805. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)