988. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 7 November 1804]

988. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 7 November 1804] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

I fear Mr Gough is as much in a mistake about Iorwerth as about St Moncella. Hic jaciet Madicus would be a very odd epitaph for a man whose name was Edward, & I certainly can make out nothing like Edwardus or Etwardus in the inscription, either by shape or either number of letters. [1]  The tradition however is enough for the purposes of poetry, but the antiquarian illustration which would have looked so learned when cut in wood – must I am afraid be given up as untenable. Pennants drawing is cross-legged [2]  – but seems less accurate than yours from the mode in which the legs are crossed.

Purchas is a very favourite author with me – a man of exemplary industry, real learning & quaint heart. I have the single comprest volume which is the cream of his works – but my copy has no title so I know not how else to describe it. [3]  you ought to get the whole & bind it like your Hakluyt. [4]  Milton may very often be traced to him. the best accessible account of Mexico is Clavigeros translated some 15 years ago, [5]  where you will find a satisfactory account of their paintings – the best history that of Bernal Diaz – a most delightful book & it seems to have been very well compressed as far as I can judge by reviews. [6] 

Your politics remind me of a cat which has been let out of the bag as they say: Dapples pamphlet. [7]  he does not know that I have heard of it – but I should like to see it, & not to let him know it, in case, which is very likely I should not like the pamphlet itself. Will you give one to Rickman for me when the house is met, & the Grand Parleur  [8]  will frank it down.

It is not the least wonderful part of the new coalition that the Grenvilles & Fox  [9]  should have met, & yet each without altering or abating one jot of their former opinions – the times having changed, not the men. Thirteen years hence! who indeed can look on? – it will be a perilous period – not from any foreign fire – but from the intolerable weight of taxation.                                           God bless you

Yrs very affectionately


I have just heard that my brothers ship has sustained a very heavy loss in an unsuccessful attempt to cut out a sloop – & can get no particulars – as you may suppose it makes me very uneasy. [10] My youngest brother has left his ship (if he ever joined it) spent all the money given him for his equipment, at a brothel, run in debt in my name – & is once more vagabonding about God knows where. he is utterly irreclaimable & must be abandoned to his fate.

How is Elmsleys mother?


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Lincolns Inn/ London.
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] FREE/ NOV 7/ 1804
Endorsements: 38 19 4/ 67. 16 2
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 3p.
Dating note: Dated by a later editor as ‘25 Nov 1804’, but the postmark is correct. Internal evidence also suggests an earlier date in November, as Southey asks to be sent a copy of Grosvenor Bedford’s pamphlet and in his next letter of 27 November he had received it and comments on it. In this letter Southey had just heard about the events on HMS Galatea, which are first mentioned in a letter to Grosvenor Bedford of 2 November 1805. BACK

[1] Southey and Wynn are discussing the inscription on a tomb at Pennant Melangell church, Powys, where the funerary monument of St Melangell (St Moncella; c. 590), patron saint of hares and rabbits, is situated. Madoc’s brother Iorwerth ab Owain Gwynedd or Iorwerth Drwyndwn (1145–1174), was killed in a battle near the spot. In the churchyard is a stone with the figure of an armed man which once covered a grave: on the shield, bearing a lion rampant, is inscribed the legend ‘Hic Jacet Etwart’. See William Camden (1551–1623; DNB), Britannia: or, a Chronological Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; from the Earliest Antiquity, trans. Richard Gough (1735–1809; DNB), 3 vols (London, 1789), II, p. 535. BACK

[2] The stone and figure are described in Thomas Pennant (1726–1798), A Tour in Wales, 2 vols (London, 1784), II, p. 348. BACK

[3] No. 2179 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library reveals his edition of this compendium of travel narratives to have been Samuel Purchas (c. 1577–1626; DNB), His Pilgrimage, or Relations of the World (undated). The work was published in 1613; a second edition appeared in 1614 and a fourth, enlarged edition in 1626. BACK

[4] Richard Hakluyt (1552?–1615; DNB), The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation (1598–1600). BACK

[5] Francisco Javier Clavigero (1731–1787), Storia Antica del Messico (1780), was no. 659 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] The ‘compressed’ version in English recently published was Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492–1585), The True History of the Conquest of Mexico (1800), translated by Maurice Keatinge (d. 1835). BACK

[7] Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s pamphlet, A Letter to the Right Hon. William Pitt on his Political Experiments (1804). BACK

[8] Southey’s nickname for the Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Abbott, who had the power to frank mail. Rickman, his secretary, used this facility on Southey’s behalf. BACK

[9] In May 1804, Charles James Fox entered into a political coalition with William Wyndham, Baron Grenville. BACK

[10] Thomas Southey’s ship, HMS Galatea, a fifth-rate 32-gun frigate, had on 14 August 1804, made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission, 65 were killed or wounded, and Southey suspected that Tom was among the dead. BACK