884. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 12 January [1804]

884. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 12 January [1804] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

My thanks to Lady Cunliffe. [1]  I shall try her prescription.

I have been writing an account of Methodism for the Annual Review, [2]  which (pardon my modesty) is I think excellently done. Indeed it almost tempted me to extend the thing to a pamphlet & publish it under some nom de guerre with a dedication to the Archbishop of Canterbury, & if A Aikin should object to it as too pamphleteering for his work I have desired him to return it for that purpose. the danger is of far greater extent than you are aware. they are literally & precisely speaking, an Ecclesiastical Corresponding Society – a set of United Methodists. they have a system of confession more fatal in its moral consequences than the Popish, & they have increased above 38,000 in the last ten years. I speak on the authority of one of their own writers. My aim has been to blow the trumpet & to turn alarmist, but if I ever enlarge upon the subject I should enter into the state of the Church Establishment also, & use the probe & the lancet with friendly severity.

Wm Taylor has reviewed Thalaba in the Critical [3]  which I wish to see. the poor book will now have had its full counterpoise of praise.

Tomorrow I go for a day or two to Sir Wilfred Lawsons [4]  – induced by the fame of his library of which he is Heb Heberishly liberal, but unlike Heber, he knows nothing about their contents.

You ask me when you are to see me in London. Dios es qui sabe! or in plain English God knows – for I have neither wish prospect or intention of that kind. here I must of necessity stay for some months till Edith can travel [5]  – nor have we any need for removal to any place. If the printing Madoc should require my presence I shall prefer Edinburgh to London – but that will not take place for many months. [6]  I live cheaply here – I delight in the country (certainly my study commands the finest view in England) & society is to me like claret – a luxury which I enjoy when it falls in my way, but which I never want. as yet the climate has agreed quite marvellously with me. if a house to suit me were to offer, almost I <think I> should send for my books & look forward to a free hold resting place in Crossthwaite Church Yard. [7] 

God bless you


Jany. 12.

More reviewing arrived when I had only the Essay on Population [8]  – & Lord Strangfords translations [9]  to have finished!

Will you look out for me in London; or commission Heber who will think it no trouble – the collection of Saxon Laws by Wilkins, [10]  & likewise the Leges Wallicæ. [11]  I want both for Madoc, & for occasional elucidation of the Gothic codes. Rickman has taught me to draw corollaries from what I read & will find me a worthy scholar. What is the price of Du Canges Glossary? [12]  I am grievously & miserably in want of it. nothing in the world frets me so much as that good & books should be so damned dear that they who really know how to use them cannot afford to buy them. Our great private libraries put me in mind of an Eunuchs harem.

If you have read Barrows excellent travels you will believe the existence of the Unicorn. [13]  I have received most unsuspicious & positive proof of it which I should like to communicate to Barrow. General Peché [14]  who has neither seen nor heard of this book was answering some questions respecting Cochin [15]  which I was putting to him (being employed upon the siege of the place), he told me when he was there in 1780 the Dutch Governor General showed him an animal, like a deer & of the common deer colour, with one straight horn in the middle of its forehead. The Dutch Governor must have received it as a present from Africa. I was delighted with this.

If any thing could tempt me to sell myself to the Devil – it would be that I might have an invisible Boswell [16]  to put down all that I hear or say & think which would be useful to remember.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Harriet, Lady Cunliffe, née Kinloch (d. 1830), Wynn’s future mother-in-law, wife of Sir Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet of Acton Hall, Wrexham (1755–1834). Wynn married their daughter Mary (d. 1838) in 1806. BACK

[2] Southey reviewed William Myles (1756–1828), A Chronological History of the People Called Methodists ... With an Appendix, Containing Two Lists of the Itinerant Preachers ... With the Last Will and Testament of the Rev. J. Wesley (1803) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 201–213. BACK

[3] Taylor reviewed Southey’s poem Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) in the Critical Review, 2nd series, 39 (December 1803), 369–379. BACK

[4] Wilfrid Lawson, 10th Baronet of Isell, Cumberland (c. 1764–1806). BACK

[5] Southey’s daughter, Edith May Southey, was born on 30 April 1804. BACK

[6] Southey’s poem Madoc, which he had written in 1797–1799 and was revising for publication (in 1805). It was printed in Edinburgh by James Ballantyne. BACK

[7] . Southey’s body was indeed buried there. BACK

[8] Southey reviewed 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) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 292–301. BACK

[9] Southey reviewed Percy Clinton Sydney, 6th Viscount Strangford (1780–1855; DNB), Poems from the Portuguese of Luis de Camoens (1803) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 569–577. BACK

[10] David Wilkins (1685–1745; DNB), The Laws of William the Conqueror . . . in the Norman Language, in Robert Kelham (1717–1808; DNB), A Dictionary of the Norman or Old French Language (1779). BACK

[11] William Wotton (1666–1727; DNB), Cyfreithjeu Hywel Dda ac Eraill, seu Leges Wallicæ Ecclesiasticæ et Civiles Hoeli Boni et Aliorum Walliæ Principum (1730). BACK

[12] Charles Du Fresne, Seigneur Du Cange (1610–1688), Glossarium Ad Scriptores Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis (1733–1736) was listed in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library as no. 953. BACK

[13] The unicorn features in John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), An Account of Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa, in the Years 1797 and 1798, 2 vols (London, 1801), I, pp. 302–317. A copy of this work, pages uncut, was listed in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[14] John Peche (dates unknown), who had served in the East India Company’s army and was gazetted as Colonel in 1796 and Major-General in 1798. BACK

[15] The town of Cochin, now Kochi, Kerala, India. It was colonised first by the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century, then, in 1663, by the Dutch. In 1780 it was the subject of dispute between Hyder Ali (c. 1722–1822), ruler of the southern Indian kingdom of Mysore, and the British East India Company; the latter took possession in 1814. BACK

[16] James Boswell (1778–1822; DNB), friend and biographer of Samuel Johnson (1709–1784; DNB). BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Crosthwaite Church (mentioned 1 time)