302. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 4 April [1798]

302. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 4 April [1798] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I should have thought you would have liked the Merida inscription. [1]  it was designed for my Letters [2]  but on consideration the point appears more applicable to our own country, & as one martyr is as good <as> another, Senõra Eulalia must give place to old Latimer & Ridley. [3]  Its appearance in the Oracle [4]  makes me let out what I intended not to have told you till Xmas. I then thought to have taken you into a house of my own, & shown you the chairs & tables into which I had transmuted bad verses. Immediately before I left town I agreed to furnish the Morning Post with occasional verses, without a signature. [5]  my end in view was to settle in a house as soon as possible, which this, with the Review, [6]  would enable me at Xmas to do. I told no person whatever but Edith; I signed the inscription because I meant to insert it in my Letters. of all the rest Lord William [7]  is the only piece that bears the mark of the beast. I did not tell you — because you would not like it now — & it would have amused you at Xmas.

Lord Williams is certainly a good story — & will, when corrected make the best of my ballads. I am glad you like it. There is one other which if you have not seen I will send you. it is ludicrous — in the Alonzo [8]  metre — called the ring [9]  — a true story — & like the Humourous Lieutenant. [10]  It is not good for much & yet one or two stanzas may amuse you.

I write this from Bath — where I was summoned in consequence of my mothers state of health. she is very ill — & I hope to remove her to Lisbon speedily — the climate would I am certain restore her — tho I fear nothing else can.

You call me lazy for not writing. is it not the same with you? do you feel the same inclination for filling a folio sheet now, as when in 90 & 91 we wrote to each other so fully & so frequently? the inclination is gone from me. I have nothing to communicate — no new feelings — no new opinions. we move no longer in the same circles, & no longer see things in the same point of view. I never now write a long letter. to those who think with me, it is useless to express what they also feel; & as for reasoning with those who differ from me, I have never seen any good result from argument. I write not in the best of spirits. my mothers state of health depresses me — the more so as I have to make her chearful. Edith is likewise very unwell — indeed so declining as to make me somewhat apprehensive for the future. A few months will determine all these uncertainties — & perhaps change my views in life — or rather destroy them. this is the first time that I have expressed the feelings that often will rise. take no notice of them when you write.

God bless you. if nothing intervene I shall see you in May — I wish indeed that months were over. few men have ever more subdued their feelings than myself — & yet have I more left than are consistent with happiness.

once more God bless you

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey

Wednesday. April 4th .


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5 Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: B/ APR/ 6 98
Endorsement: April 4 1798
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 329–331. BACK

[1] ‘Inscription. For a Monument at Merida’ appeared in the Morning Post, 30 March 1798; it was signed ‘Robert Southey’. The Spanish city of Merida was the site of the martyrdom of St Eulalia, c. AD 3rd century. BACK

[2] Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797). BACK

[3] Southey’s inscription ‘For a Monument at Oxford, opposite Balliol gate-way’ commemorated the site of execution of the Marian martyrs Hugh Latimer (c.1485–1555; DNB) and Nicholas Ridley (c.1502–1555; DNB). The poem was first published in the Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1799), p. 69. BACK

[4] Copies of the London newspaper The Oracle from the relevant period have not survived. The ‘Merida inscription’ was also published under Southey’s name in the Express and Evening Chronicle, 29 March 1798, a day before it appeared in the Morning Post. BACK

[5] Southey contributed to the Morning Post between 16 January 1798 and 20 December 1799; September and December 1801; and September and December 1803. BACK

[6] Southey had been reviewing for the London periodical the Critical Review since December 1797. BACK

[7] Southey was wrong; the poem appeared without a signature in the Morning Post, 16 March 1798. BACK

[8] Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775–1818; DNB), ‘Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogine’, The Monk, 3 vols (London, 1797), III, pp. 63–66. BACK

[9] Southey’s ‘The Ring’ had been published in the Morning Post, 22 February 1798, under the signature ‘Walter’. It was later renamed ‘King Charlemain’. BACK

[10] John Fletcher (1579–1625; DNB), The Humourous Lieutenant (c. 1619), a tragicomedy attributed at this time to Fletcher and Francis Beaumont (1584/5–1616; DNB). In ‘The Ring’, a magic ring makes Charlemagne fall in love with an Archbishop. In The Humorous Lieutenant a love potion makes the title character fall in love with Antigonus, King of Syria. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 2 times)
Southey, Margaret (1752–1802) (mentioned 2 times)