965. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 July 1804

965. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 July 1804 ⁠* 

Monday 16. July 1804

Dear Wynn

Yours & its inclosure have this evening arrived.

I shall be very glad to receive Ld Carysforts [1]  criticisms – & should be still more so if they could extend to the whole poem. You know me not to be pertinaceous in these matters. Two sheets are printed – so that correction comes too late so far – but if you & he think an exordium essential or advisable I will try at one, & have it printed, as in the second Joan of Arc on a leaf by itself. [2]  – It does not however appear to me that the reader ought to be fully apprized of every thing immediately. – this is badly expressed – what I mean is that as in a mountainous country it is enough if the perfect prospect opens as he advances. the history of Madocs family is told immediately on his landing – it forms the second enquiry.

In printing I make numberless corrections, chiefly compressions – or euphoniæ gratiâ, [3]  some you pointed out, & Sotheby [4]  some, who writes respectably, talks better, & criticises best of all. I am now writing the most important of the new parts, & except one the last, – Of the Great Serpent. [5]  when done you shall have it, & those previous parts which are necessary.

Scotts Sir Tristram [6]  has set me longing to read the folio Romance, [7]  & I verily believe if Heber were to tempt me by the sight of it I should set about resuscitating like Amadis [8]  – for the true & perfect love

That I do bear with all chivalry!

God bless you



* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Lincolns Inn/ London. C Wn Wms Wynn Esqr. M. P./ Lord Grenvilles Dropmore/ Bucks –
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: FREE/ JUL 19/ 1804 [twice]; JY/ 19/ 1804
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB), judge, diplomat, Whig politician and poet; the author of Dramatic and Narrative Poems (1810). BACK

[2] Madoc was published in 1805 with the exordium:

Come, listen to a tale of times of old!
Come, for ye know me! I am he who sung
The Maid of Arc; I am he who framed
Of Thalaba the wild & wonderous song.
Come, listen to my lay, & ye shall hear
How Madoc from the shores of Britain spread
The adventurous sail, explored the ocean ways,
And quelled Barbarian power, & overthrew
The bloody altars of idolatry,
And planted in its fanes triumphantly
The Cross of Christ. Come, listen to my lay.

See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), II, p. 8. Joan of Arc (1796) was published with the exordium:

War’s varied horrors, and the train of ills
That follow on Ambition’s blood-stain’d path
And fill the world with woe; of France preserv’d
By maiden hand, what time her chiefs subdued,
Or slept in death, or lingered life in chains,
I sing: nor wilt thou FREEDOM scorn the song.

See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), I, p. 9.


[3] Meaning ‘for the sake of euphony’. BACK

[4] William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), poet and translator of Virgil’s (70–19 BC) Georgics. For Southey’s comments on Sotheby’s descriptive verse about Wales; see Southey to Mary Barker, 3 March 1804, Letter 906. BACK

[5] The snake god features in Madoc, Part 2, books 6 and 7. BACK

[6] Walter Scott, Sir Tristram: A Metrical Romance by Thomas of Ercildoune (1804). BACK

[7] The twelfth-century Norman poet Béroul’s Le Roman de Tristan (c. 1150–1170) is the earliest extant full text of the romance, but Scott and Southey, were working from the version ascribed (probably erroneously) to Thomas Learmonth (Learmount, Learmont, or Learmounth, or Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas (c. 1220–1298) from Earlston, Scotland (then called ‘Erceldoune’). This version, in Old French, existing in fragments only, was composed c. 1150–1160. BACK

[8] Southey’s translation Amadis of Gaul had been published in 1803. BACK

People mentioned

Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 1 time)
Heber, Richard (1774–1833) (mentioned 1 time)