1372. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 October [1807]

1372. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 October [1807] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I know not whether you have heard that Duppa is a candidate for the situation at the Museum which is vacated by the death of poor Horace Bedford. Rickman does his best for him with the Grand Parleur: [1]  and I hope Wordsworth will be able to be xxx of some use thro his brother, [2]  who is one of the examining Chaplains at Lambeth. There remains the Chancellor. Now as politics at present stand you can have no interest with the Lord Chancellor, but it is not impossible that some how or other – you may have some with the Lady Chancellor, who I am told exercises over her husband in these matters the same sort of thorough supremacy, that he does in his political capacity over all common laws of justice & morality. [3]  If you can give Duppa a lift in this business I hope you will, – & it may be some inducement to you to know what I believe I may venture to say, that Elmsley will take nearly as much interest in his success as I shall.

Poor Bedford! – the truth is that he has no opinions upon any subject whatsoever. Instead of being a canvass capable of retaining what images are laid on it, his mind is like the whited wall on which the figures of the optical-Raree-show-man pass along, & leave it as it just as blank as before. Poor fellow, he is no infidel, tho he in some idle hour of self-importance, he may have thought proper to settle his head in his neck handkerchief, & aver proclaim himself xxx such. He has neither read nor thought upon the subject of religion: – & now when he begins to feel about it, all will be set to rights, – & faith will strike as deep roots as it can in an intellect which is as unstable as water & as untenacious as sand. – I am glad that before you told me this I had written to him & pointed out to him the uses of calamity in a way which seems to have produced some impression.

If you remain so far thro the winter in Wales I shall certainly be able to see you on my way to London: where I shall go as soon as my reviewing is over, that is in six weeks or two months. My own family is likely to be increased about the same time as yours, [4]  so that you see it will soon be time for me to enquire what the tax-makers <will be> xx pleased to allow me for my children, – tho if that wretched book of Malthus’s [5]  continue in fashion I may expect to be taxed for having them.

What is it you are doing about the criminal laws? There are few things in this world which would give me so much pleasure as that you should be the means of introducing some reform into that branch of jurisprudence, & of saving some of those lives which are now so unnecessarily xxxxx sacrificed, – to use the mildest term. Could any thing be more shocking to the common-sense feelings of the people than to see a man & his wife for coining suffer the same punishment as Patch xx at the same time! [6] 

God speed to you in your Welsh studies. I thought to have done something that way, but have too much to learn in other things, & too little time for it. If Herbert lives, & those bright eyes of his do not play false in the promise of intellect which they give, I shall make him a Keltic scholar in the easiest & best way, by sending him into Wales & into the Highlands to acquire both dialects orally, & then into Ireland if any thing Christian can be xxx xxx ventured among the wild Paddies. To give him much learning may not perhaps be the best way of enabling him to make a fortune, – but it will enable him to be very happy without one, – which is a much better thing.

God bless you.


Thursday 15 Oct.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esq. M. P./ Welsh-Pool
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D (undated letters). ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 459–460.
Dating note: year date from context. BACK

[1] Charles Abbot, Speaker of the House of Commons. BACK

[2] Christopher Wordsworth was chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace. BACK

[3] John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751–1838; DNB), Lord Chancellor for over twenty years from May 1807. Eldon’s wife, Lady Eldon, was born Elizabeth Surtees in 1754 and died in 1831. BACK

[4] Emma, Southey’s third daughter, was born on 9 February 1808. Wynn’s second child was born by March 1808; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [March 1808], Letter 1437. BACK

[5] In the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 292–301, Southey attacked Thomas Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society; with Remarks on the Speculations of W. Godwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers (1803). BACK

[6] Richard Patch (1770?–1806) was hanged, on 8 April 1806, for the murder at Rotherhithe of his employer Isaac Blight. Benjamin and Sarah Herring, who had been convicted of coining, were executed alongside him. BACK