993. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 November 1804

993. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 November 1804 ⁠* 

Tuesday. Nov. 27. 1804.

Dear Wynn

Returning last night from the neighbourhood of Ambleside, where we have been the guests of Charles Lloyd for the last fortnight, I found your letter & your three franks. The Church is beautifully situated, & would by a good artist be made a most picturesque scene. I wish I had seen it with my own eyes – it would certainly have supplied a good subject for description which, connected with the feeling of the story, might have made that very ornamental which is now very bad.

Dapples pamphlet has pretty accurately answered my expectations. [1]  it is respectable, but unimpressive, not general enough in its scope of thought to be of permanent value; not close or poignant enough upon its particular subject to produce any immediate effect. it should have been more logical & pithy, to convince; – more diffuse & ornamented, – to persuade. Still it is a respectable pamphlet.

I looked into Herberts book [2]  for a few minutes at Hallums, [3]  & formed a more favourable opinion than you express who has read it thro.

Madoc is now beyond the reach of accident. the whole poem is printed & I daily expect the first proof of the notes, which would have been far more amusing had I had my books about me & access to sundry others. The exordium runs thus

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 on their ruins raised triumphantly
The Cross of Christ. Come listen to my lay!

This was written in consequence of Lord Carysforts [4]  advice. the plan of the lines is good, & they have cost me more time than the execution will give you cause to suspect. Uniformly the worst parts of the poem have cost me the most labour.

I have been reading Lady Wortleys Letters [5]  with great delight. they are a valuable acquisition to English literature – as much superior to M. Sevigne’s [6]  as an Englishman is better than a Frenchman. the last series in particular are full of every kind of merit. Richardsons Correspondence [7]  I should think worse than any thing of any celebrity that ever was published, if the life prefixed did not happen to be quite as bad. The few letters of Klopstocks Wife must be excepted from this censure. They are very interesting & very affecting. indeed the notice of her death coming as it does after that sweet letter in which she dwells upon her hopes of happiness from that child whose birth destroyed her – came upon me like an electric shock. [8]  – The costume prints are excellent. Is it possible that half a century can have so totally altered the appearance of the people of England! Greeks & Romans are not more unlike us than our Grandfathers were.

I have met a very odd homo by name Worgan [9]  whom if you have not seen you will for he is going to Acton this Xmas. he does wonders upon the piano-forte. oddly enough he played & sung the Old Mans Comforts [10]  in a large company, & after praising the music they fell to praising the poetry, which nobody knew to be mine. he himself fancied it was Bowless – so I set him right.

Longman told me he had purchased Wilkes’s [11]  letters & asked if I could recommend him a fit editor. I named Rough [William] – on account of his wife. [12]  & have heard nothing of the matter since. [13]  How is Elmsleys Mother? I hope in less peril than he imagined, as you have never mentioned her.

Good news. the bargain about our house is broken off, [14]  & I shall be Lord of Greta Hall as long as it suits me.

Are you a liker of conundrums? I manufactured a brace while dressing myself the other morning tolerably bad. Why is Sir Cloudesly Shovel like Werter? – because he was felo-de-sea. [15]  Why might you say of the Rock Shores of Schaffhausen [16]  that they resemble a chamber pot? – because you might say to the river, is it not You Rhine?

God bless you –



* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Lincolns Inn/ London. Audley End/ Saffron Walden
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: FREE/ NOV 30/ 1804; [partial] NO/ 30/ 804
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 288–290 [with slight omissions]. BACK

[1] Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s pamphlet, A Letter to the Right Hon. William Pitt on his Political Experiments (1804) which had been sent to Southey by Wynn. BACK

[2] William Herbert (1772–1851; DNB), Antiquities of the Inns of Court and Chancery; Containing Historical and Descriptive Sketches Relative to their Original Foundation, Customs, Ceremonies, Buildings, Government, &c., &c., with a Concise History of the English Law (1804). BACK

[3] Henry Hallam (1777–1859; DNB): historian and reviewer. BACK

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

[5] The letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762; DNB), were pubished by James Dallaway (1763–1834; DNB), in The Works of the Right Hon. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu ... Published, by Permission, from her Genuine Papers, 5 vols (1803). BACK

[6] Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné (1626–1696), Lettres de Madame la Marquise de Sevigne a Madame la Comtesse de Grignan sa fille (1756). BACK

[7] Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s edition of The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson was published in 6 volumes in 1804. BACK

[8] Margaretha (Meta) Moller (1727–1758) married the German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803) in 1754; her correspondence with Richardson ended with her untimely death aged thirty-one. Her last letter is full of hopes concerning her as-yet unborn first child; it ends with her determination not only to mother but also to nurse it herself. BACK

[9] Richard Worgan (1759–after 1812): almoner, musician, resident of a cottage at Storr’s Hall, Windermere, who composed A Set of Sonnets (1810), and hymns, one of which, ‘Windermere’, was included in the collection published by George Worgan (b. 1802), Gems of Sacred Melody (1841). BACK

[10] Southey’s 1799 poem ‘The Old Man’s Comforts and how he procured them’ (‘You are old, Father William the young man cried’). For the text see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), V, pp. 270–271. BACK

[11] John Wilkes (1727–1797; DNB): radical journalist, politician and pornographer, whose exclusion from his seat in parliament had led to riots in 1768. Southey would attack Wilkes in his Vision of Judgement (1821). BACK

[12] Sir William Rough had married, in 1802, Harriet (1778–c.1820), the illegitimate daughter of a Mrs Arnold (dates unknown) and John Wilkes. Southey’s advice was intended to allow Rough to suppress anything in Wilkes’s letters likely to cause his wife shame. Rough did so, undertaking the edition without payment despite persistent financial problems. BACK

[13] In 1804 Longman published Letters from the Year 1774 to the Year 1796 of J. Wilkes, Esq. to his Daughter ... With a Collection of his Miscellaneous Poems, ed. Sir William Rough, 4 vols. BACK

[14] Southey’s landlord, William Jackson, had been negotiating the sale of his house to Mr White (names and dates unknown) of Keswick. BACK

[15] The eponymous hero of the novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers) (1774/1787) who killed himself; Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Cloudesley Shovell (1650–1707; DNB), was full of the sea because he drowned in a notorious naval disaster off the Scilly Isles. BACK

[16] A city on the river Rhine in northern Switzerland. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Greta Hall/ Greeta Hall (mentioned 1 time)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)