1380. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 November 1807

1380. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 November 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Both Longman & I have been served unhandsomely about the D Quixote. Cadell & Davies authorised them to treat with me concerning it, & meantime they struck a bargain with a Mr Balfour, [1]  – of whose fitness for any thing literary you may form some opinion by referring to his version of Yriartes Dancing Bear in the Annual Review. [2]  The Longmen are hurt at this; – they in consequence refused to take any share in the work, – & offered to print my edition notwithstanding this other is certain of a sale from Smirkes designs. But immediate profit was my object, & that would not be answered by their plan, – so the business has ended.

I am about to edit Mort Arthur, [3]  – this will be work after my own heart. Can you lend me your brothers copy to correct the press by, – you will see the necessity there is for having it printed – xx verbatim & literatim & that I must have a copy before me for this purpose. – Were there an Academy of the Round Table I believe myself worthy of a seat there as <in> point of knowledge. – but my Round Table library is very poor. The ballads, the English Geoffrey of Monmouth, Scotts Sir Tristram, & the two long poems of Luigi Alemani are all that I possess. [4]  But Heber has <many of> the French Romances, if not all, & those which he may not have are in the list which Mr Goldsmith [5]  sent me of his collection. – Certain Welsh queries I shall propound to Turner & Owen, if he poor fellow can think of anything besides Joanna Southcott; – & perhaps your studies in your father tongue (as we must call it) – may bring something to light.

My Pisgah [6]  view extends over a tolerably wide field of annotation – So much for Brazil & the Braganzas! [7]  – If the Prince ever designed to go I should guess his proclamation to be a feint & that Sir Sidney was gone to take him over. But such a scheme is too great to be executed or even intended by such a miserable poor wretch as the Prince D Joam, – & so Sir Sidney is probably gone to bring away his fleet [8] 

The villainous business of Copenhagen [9]  has cost us more men by storms than we should have lost if the Danish fleet had come out, joined the French, & given us battle. And in those seas & this time of the year that might have been foreseen.

I begin to demur about going to London. It is a hideous long journey, – I hate being from home, –I should suffer from cold on the road, – I cannot spare the time, –& I cannot spare the money. – Besides we expect son or daughter to appear early in the year, & I should not chuse to be from absent

God bless you


Nov. 16. 1807.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 26–28. BACK

[1] The projected edition with plates by Robert Smirke (1752–1845) appeared as Don Quixote de la Mancha. Translated from the Spanish by Mary Smirke, Embellished with Engravings, 4 vols (London: Cadell and Davies, 1818). John Balfour (dates unknown), author of Fables on Subjects Connected with Literature; Imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas Yriarte (1804) was not the translator. BACK

[2] See Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [December 1795–]20 February [1796], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 145, for a translation (probably Southey’s own) of Iriarte’s ‘El Oso La Mona y El Cerdo’. A revised version appeared in Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797). Balfour’s version was published in Fables on Subjects Connected with Literature; Imitated from the Spanish of Don Tomas Yriarte (1804). BACK

[3] The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur ... With an Introduction and Notes by Robert Southey. (Printed from Caxton’s edition, 1485) was published in two volumes by Longmans in 1817. BACK

[4] The twelfth-century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100–c. 1155), Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136); Walter Scott, Sir Tristram: A Metrical Romance by Thomas of Ercildoune (1804); Luigi Alamanni (1495–1556), Avarchide (1570), Girono il Cortese (1761 [the edition owned by Southey]). BACK

[5] John Louis Goldsmid (1789–1835), banker and book collector. BACK

[6] According to the Bible, it was from the summit of Mount Pisgah in Jordan that Moses beheld the Promised Land. BACK

[7] The royal family of Portugal. BACK

[8] Southey is speculating as to whether the royal family of Portugal would take the court to Brazil to escape Napoleonic conquest of the mother country. This came to pass on 29 November 1807, when a British squadron under the command of Sir William Sidney Smith (1764–1840; DNB) escorted the Prince Regent, John VI (the Duke of Braganza) (1767–1826), and the Queen, his mother, across the Atlantic. BACK

[9] In summer 1807 the British, believing that France would gain possession of Denmark and its fleet, amassed ships and troops and on 2 September launched a pre-emptive attack on Copenhagen, causing the deaths of over two thousand townspeople. BACK

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