316. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [11 May 1798]

316. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [11 May 1798] ⁠* 


My dear Wynn

I should not wish Lewis to print either Lord William or Jasper, because they have not appeared with my name, & this previous publication would perhaps check lessen the sale of the volume in which I should hereafter print them. [1]  if you think this an insufficient reason act as tho it were so – & let him have them. at any rate he may have Rudiger & Donica, if he likes them. but alter a word he must not. [2]  they are I know hastily written & uncorrected – but you must be well aware that it is not adviseable to have any helping hand in a literary work however trifling.

I had thought of writing to George Strachey & sending him a book but as soon as I heard of his resolution to depart. [3]  you have revived the thought & I will this day write to Bristol to send off a copy. the passage from the Lutrin [4]  would have been well inserted – but I had no knowledge of it. when I read the Lutrin I had not that x acquaintance with French antiquities which would have led me to remark the passage. as for un tres mauvais poem – I quoted the phrase of Millin, because it was his condemnation for I had never read the Canons poem. [5]  this is a reason for it – but it was so written in the half-translating half-extract way, which you know a man in haste often falls into.

Will you assist me in raising a small sum for the family of the Midshipman who fell in the Mars. [6]  he was an extraordinary man, & one to whom my brother was much attached. Out of his pay he contr sent his wife & children 13 guineas a year, & all his hope was to be made Masters mate that he might make it 20 & then he said they should all be happy. there are three children – all young. he thought his family would be a protection for him – but he was prest into the service. he had served in America, & was one of those men who volunteered once to carry dispatches in a boat thro the French fleet. his understanding was strong tho wholly uncultivated. he read with difficulty & comprehended what he read slowly – but when once he had comprehended it, it was fixed for ever in his memory. I had almost forgotten the more striking features of his life. he had seduced the woman whom he aft afterwards married & as he told Tom, he could not bear his own reflections till he had married her. they were very happy, & he never spoke of her but with the warmest affection. th what remains had better perhaps not be mentioned. he was a Delegate in the first mutiny, & it was <is> said in the ship, that when a paper was brought there which was the death warrant of the officers he tore it to pieces. in the second he had nothing to do – & it is evident that his conduct must have unexceptionable or he would not afterwards have been a Midshipman. [7]  his name was Bligh. & from what I have said of the sum he wished to afford his wife, you will see that ten or fifteen pounds will be a considerable relief to her

I shall see you on Saturday the 19th.

God bless you.

yrs truly

Robert Southey


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5. Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London/ [in another hand] Mr Wynn
Stamped: BATH
Postmarks: [partial] B/ MA/ 98; FREE/ MA/ 12/ 98
Endorsement: May 11/ 1798
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. 54–56. BACK

[1] Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775–1818; DNB) had enquired if Southey would be willing to contribute his two gothic ballads to an anthology. Although both ‘Lord William’ and ‘Jasper’ had already appeared, unsigned, in the Morning Post, 16 March and 3 May 1798, Southey wished to reserve them for his next collection, which appeared in 1799. However, ‘Lord William’ was eventually included in Lewis’s Tales of Wonder, 2 vols (London, 1801), I, pp. 179–186. BACK

[2] They had already been published in Southey’s Poems (1797). Both were included in Lewis’s Tales of Wonder (London, 1801), I, pp. 194–200, 204–213. BACK

[3] Strachey was planning to go to India. His departure was the subject of Southey’s ‘Sonnet. To A Friend’, published in Morning Post, 28 December 1798. BACK

[4] Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux (1636–1711), Le Lutrin (1667), a mock-heroic poem. BACK

[5] In the preface to Joan of Arc, 2 vols (Bristol, 1798), I, p. 19, Southey had condemned ‘The Modern Amazon’, a very bad poem on the French heroine by a ‘regular Canon of St. Euverte’. The information was derived from Aubin-Louis Millin (1759–1818), National Antiquities; or a Collection of Monuments &c. in the Kingdom of France (1790–1799). BACK

[6] James Blythe (1766/7–1798), the subject of Southey’s ‘A War-Poem. On the Late Mr. Blythe, A Midshipman On Board The Mars’, Morning Post, 22 June 1798. Later reprinted as ‘The Victory’. BACK

[7] During the first naval mutiny at Spithead, 16–23 April 1797, James Blythe was one of two sailors elected by his shipmates to represent them (Times, 22 April 1797). He was promoted to Midshipman on 20 June 1797 by Alexander Hood. BACK

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