980. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 October [1804]

980. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 October [1804] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

The wet & the cold remind me of Welsh stockings, & they remind me of you, – We have been leading gay lives since your departure, visiting at the Island [1]  &c, have had a subscription ball – & a riot at the theatre, not to mention that an a Paddy there on another night chose to quarrel with me, but as it went no farther than words & looks, & I could look fiercest & talk best being if I came off very well & like Mr Mellish [2]  only pretty wellish.

Duppa is here – I delivered your message to him & he I believe has sent it to Edridge, to whom however I shall have an opportunity of delivering it myself. We have talked over the matter above the arms & concluded that the best way of introducing the sheets will be in a vignette group of all Welsh things, – the harp – the crwth [3]  &c, & to inscribe round its rim as on Iorwerths – Rodericus filius Ceni Regis. [4]  – When you write describe me the bearings heraldically that the artist may understand them.

The Printer goes on excellently – 38 sheets are done – & I on my part see now an end of my labour. [5]  three weeks will bring me to the notes. of the preface so much is written as relates to the execution of the poem – I have related how slowly it was written, & at what distant intervals corrected or continued, for the purpose of thereby accounting for its main defects. Send me – if you can – the legend round Iorwerths shield – or it will be too late to have it cut – indeed as it is, I fear the printing must stop for it. – Tell me too whether M.P. simply be to should be affixed to your name, or any larger formula as Kt of the Shire &c – for I am inconveniently ignorant of these things. I have beblotted more paper than you could imagine in endeavouring to shape what I would say in fitting terms, & can find nothing better than thus – To CWWW &c this poem which he will peruse with a family as well as a national interest is &c – inscribed by his friend & school fellow ––. & this is not well. family is completely colloquialized into an adjective – but to say schoolfellow nakedly thus appears inaccurate. the word indeed may be spared perhaps – as it occurs in the preface – And now I think of it it may be well to send you what I design to say of the poem in general. All that is there said is very true – but as what is true may not always be prudent if you advise me to suppress it – so be it – Yet I am myself inclined to let it pass. Return it to me for there is no other copy. An historical introduction to the poem is to precede it, as brief as it may be, & I think of addin partnering it with an acknowledgement of the specific faults of the poem – if it be tried by epic laws, to which I shall protest it is not amenable. One dreams much about prefaces before they come to be written, & then the shortest always seems the best. At times I have dreamt of reviewing my own previous poems in this, but it is quite unnecessary – & therefore quite improper. & even if it were not so I have had no time for any supererogation of labour.

If all Lord G.s letters in this intercepted correspondence be like the one which I saw in the Herald, they will do him so much better honour in the general opinion that he will have no reason to regret the rascally example we set the French of publishing private letters. [6]  – If you do not preserve your Cobbetts  [7]  – I wish you would send them down to me – for I see no paper but a weekly one.

William Spencers poem is come down to me for trial & xxx at the next jail delivery. [8]  What an excellent book is Barrows China! [9]  God bless you. Duppa will leave me next week – Harry in a fortnight – our Island neighbour with whom we are now on most neighbourly terms about the same time – I shall then be left to myself for the winter, & to say the truth I look with as much pleasure to its total quiet as ever any body did to the winter gaieties of London. I will write again soon. little Edith grows well & becomes a delightful play thing. We have a hare in the house, by right of Dapper [10]  as one of the towns peoples pack – & I have bought a jack ass, who is shortly to be made a Kt of the most ancient order of the thistle, & thenceforth to be Sir John for ever. thus have you all the news of the house on the hill at Keswick.

Yrs affectionately


Friday. October 5.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Derwent Isle, Derwentwater, where Colonel Peachy lived. BACK

[2] Perhaps Joseph Charles Mellish (1769–1823); DNB), translator of Schiller. BACK

[3] The Welsh name of a stringed instrument, called in English ‘the crowd’. BACK

[4] Southey is arranging the elements of the image to be drawn and engraved for the title page of Madoc, honouring Wynn, the poem’s dedicatee, by displaying his family’s heraldic devices on a shield. Wynn claimed descent from Rhodri (1135?–1195), brother of Madoc and of Iorwerth ab Owain Gwynedd or Iorwerth Drwyndwn (1145–1174) and son of Owain Gwynedd (c. 1100–1170; DNB). The Latin inscription, which translates as ‘Rhodri son of the Welsh king’, explains this relationship. BACK

[5] Southey was correcting proofs of Madoc (1805) even while still revising the sections of the manuscript not yet sent to the printer. BACK

[6] During 1804 the French published correspondence that fell into their possession when they captured an East India Company ship, the Admiral Aplin. The correspondence included letters written in 1803 by William Wyndham, Baron Grenville, who had come into government in May 1804. Published in both languages, the English title of the work was Intercepted Letters. Intercepted on Board the Admiral Aplin, Captured by the French and Inserted by the French Government in the Moniteur. This propaganda publication followed the British publication of Copies of Original Letters from the Army of General Bonaparte in Egypt: Intercepted by the Fleet under the Command of Admiral Lord Nelson, with an English Translation (1798–1800). BACK

[7] The Weekly Political Register compiled and published by William Cobbett from 1802–1835. BACK

[8] Southey reviewed William Robert Spencer (1770–1834; DNB), Year of Sorrow: A Poem Written in the Spring of 1803 (1804) in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 574. BACK

[9] John Barrow (1764–1848; DNB), Travels in China: Containing Descriptions, Observations and Comparisons Made and Collected in the Course of a Short Residence at the Imperial Palace of Yuen-min-yuen, and on a Subsequent Journey from Pekin to Canton (1804). Southey reviewed the book in the Annual Review for 1804, 3 (1805), 69–83. BACK

[10] Southey’s dog. BACK