1207. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 August 1806

1207. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 August 1806 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Heaven knows how long it is since I have seen your hand-writing. I will wish you speedily removed to some situation where you may be paid better for doing less, if it be only that you have may <have> leisure for now & then writing an unofficial letter.

Barker I hope may have made way for his own release – he being the very man who jumped into the river & saved the boy – as you may have seen in the newspapers. The French have made so much of this in their way of telling it that they ought to have set him free. [1] 

Tom has been talking to me about poor Lord Proby. [2]  It is very probable that if the cold-water system had been in use on board the ship he might have been saved – this I hope his father will never know – but it will show you the fitness of making any discovery of this kind as speedily known as possible. [3]  Between one & two hundred men were carried off by the fever from the Amelia in that visitation. A Captain on the same station came on board & asked Tom if they had not used the cold water bath stating with what success he had adopted it. Some time afterwards Tom had been dining on board another ship & on his return was told that two men were taken with the fever – & the Doctors mate was on shore – (the Doctor had died before Lord P.) He filled xx a tub & dipt them both in – then by way of a sudorific gave a glass of very weak grog – which was about as bad a thing as he could have given. However both men recovered; – & the system was acted upon from that time, so that they lost only seven men. Tom himself was desperately ill – & they dipt him every half hour for twelve hours, dosing at the same time with calomel. [4] 

Lord P. was troubled about the Danäe [5]  in his illness – he said he had behaved very ill there & hoped God would forgive him. No man seems ever to have more completely changed him perceived & amended his own errors – he was almost become too mild a commander. To his first lieutenant whose who had greatly misconducted himself, he behaved like a father – & once when two of his officers were taken prisoners – he sent them immediately a hundred pounds each. Every body on board his ship loved him & God knows this is not very often the case on board a ship.

I am out of spirits at seeing Tom look so old: – For <In> fourteen years he has been only nine months on shore. He & I & Harry xxx have never been together till now in the whole of that time, & till now he has never seen Harry but for one day these ten years.

God bless you.


If you see Elmsley ask him from for the life of Dona Luisa Carvajal [6]  – & send it me – I must fit it into a shape for the Athenæum. [7] 

Tuesday Aug. 5. 1806.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./Whitehall/ London/ Private
Postmark: FREE/ AUG 8/ 1806
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] On 8 May 1804, the brig, Vincejo, under Captain John Wesley Wright (1769–1805; DNB), returning from a mission to transport French counter revolutionaries, ran aground on the coast of Brittany. The crew, including Lieutenant Edward Barker (dates unknown), were taken prisoner by the French. Wright died in prison (either by murder or suicide) in 1805; in 1806, according to the newspapers, ‘Mr. Barker, a Lieutenant in the English Navy, and prisoner at Verdun, lodged in apartments overlooking the Meuse, where he had been for some time ill of a tertian ague. While he was suffering under a violent fit a few days ago, he perceived a child of eight or ten years old, who, carried by the current from the bathing place to the deep part of the river, was on the point of being drowned. Mr. B. forgetting his own critical situation, rushed out, jumped into the river with his clothes on, and was lucky enough to save the child, and restore him to his parents. After this affecting incident, the disorder of the stranger increased, but the strength of his constitution and his youth enabled him to overcome it’. The Bury and Norwich Post: Or, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, and Cambridge Advertiser, Wednesday, July 16, 1806. Barker was a relative of Mary Barker, hence Southey’s efforts to mobilise assistance for him. BACK

[2] William Allen Proby, Lord Proby (1779–1804), eldest son of John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB), was the previous captain of Thomas Southey’s ship HMS Amelia and died of yellow fever in 1804. Wynn had previously asked Southey if his brother could recover any of Proby’s papers for his family and friends. For the request, see Southey to Thomas Southey, 7 December 1805, Letter 1130. BACK

[3] This contemporary treatment was publicised by Robert Jackson (bap. 1750–1827; DNB), military surgeon and medical writer, who published several works on cures for fever, including An Exposition of the Practice of Affusing Cold Water on the Surface of the Body, as a Remedy for the Cure of Fever (1808). BACK

[4] The common name for mercury chloride, which was taken for various ailments. BACK

[5] Proby was captain of HMS Danae from 1798, until 1800, when a mutiny took place on board the ship and it was captured by the French navy. BACK

[6] Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza (1568–1614), was a Spanish missionary who devoted herself to the cause of the Catholic faith in England during the reign of James VI and I (1566–1625, King of Scotland, England, and Ireland 1603–1625; DNB). An account of her life was written by Luis Muñoz (d.1646) as La Vida Y Virtues de la Venerable Virgin Dona Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza in 1632, and was summarised by Southey in the third edition of his Letters from Spain and Portugal (1808). BACK

[7] The Athenaeum, A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information was edited by John Aikin and published by Longman between 1807–1809. Southey’s article ‘The Life of Dona Luisa de Carvajal’ was published in 1 (1807), 270–277, 391–399 and 495–500. BACK

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