375. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 January 1799

375. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 January 1799 ⁠* 

Monday. 27 Jany 99

My dear Wynn

I have sent you the Letters. [1]  a second edition is perhaps hardly worth sending – but it is rid of some of the faults of the first. Stracheys Joan of Arc [2]  is in the parcel, and a copy which I shall be obliged to you to send to John May: No 4. Bedford Square.

I shall be in London on Thursday week next. that it is if I am well enough. for in addition to the complaints that sticks to me I have a troublesome cough. this timely taken, will probably be removed, but should it not I shall be afraid of any way increasing it. I am driven again to my nightly dose of ether, sorely against my will, for it is very unpleasant to accustom myself to such a stimulus. it is a nervous affection that I have, the consequence of sedentary habits, & more obstinate than I expected. I have good advice but not good tidings respecting it, for I am told that without great & daily exercise there is danger of its troubling thro life.

The Days of Queen Mary [3]  still pleases me better than any other play that has yet occurred. my only doubt is whether or not the pub an audience would sympathize with the feelings predominant in the story. the plot of Massingers Picture was well for his days – but we have outgrown it, & laugh at the magic portrait. [4]  is it not almost so with the spirit of martyrdom? Where the distress of any play hinges upon what I have thought a prejudice or folly, it has but <half> interested me, & I fear that the majority of any audience would feel the same at distress produced by the avowal of any sentiment.

I am surprized you did not understand a pack-a-back. it is any thing carried on the shoulders – a nursery & school boy word in this part of the world. your other alteration are almost all adopted. I expect to have a decent Eclogue upon witchcraft [5]  & another upon murder [6]  in the room of two of those that you saw, [7]  for the sake of diversifying their character.

I do not understand the pro & con of the Union enough. [8]  I have an opinion. do you think it can be effected? one can never believe the newspaper Irish accounts. is it possible that the coalition can have taken place between the Orange Men & United Irishmen? [9] 

God bless you

yrs affectionately

R. Southey.


* Address: To/ C W W Wynn Esqr/ 5. Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmarks: FREE/ JA/ 29/ 99; B/ JA/ 29/ 99
Endorsements: Jany. 27 99; Mr. Wynn
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 65–66. BACK

[1] The second edition of Southey’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal, published in 1799. BACK

[2] A gift copy of Southey’s Joan of Arc, probably the second edition of 1798. BACK

[3] Southey’s proposed tragedy, set during the reign of Mary I (1516–1558; reigned 1553–1558; DNB); see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 190–192. BACK

[4] In Philip Massinger (1583–1640; DNB), The Picture (1630), an insecure husband commissions a magical portrait of his wife that will remain clear as long as she is faithful, turn yellow if she is tempted to stray and darken if she succumbs to temptation. BACK

[5] ‘The Witch’, published in Southey’s Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. 216–225. BACK

[6] ‘The Grandmother’s Tale’, published in Southey’s Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. 194–201. BACK

[7] ‘The Wedding’ and ‘The Last of the Family’, published in Southey’s Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), pp. 119–126 and Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1799), pp. 165–171. BACK

[8] Following the rising by the United Irishmen in 1798, changes in the government of Ireland were being urgently discussed. The Prime Minister, William Pitt (1759–1806; Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806; DNB), favoured the abolition of the Irish Parliament and a formal Union between Ireland and Great Britain. BACK

[9] The United Irishmen (founded 1791), the organisation behind the 1798 rising for an independent, democratic Ireland, naturally opposed plans for a Union between Ireland and Great Britain. However, so did the Orange Order (founded 1795), which was devoted to upholding Protestant supremacy in Ireland and had a great deal of support among Protestants in Ulster. BACK

People mentioned

Strachey, George (1776–1849) (mentioned 1 time)
May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)