480. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 January 1800

480. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 January 1800 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I have for sometime past been thinking seriously & anxiously upon the future. if you knew the nature of my own talents as well as I know them myself – if you had oftener seen them tried in conversational argument, you would I think be convinced that they are here <the work less> calculated for common law than for any other possible employment. is not the chancery line [1]  equally profitable? as for ambition it must be set out of the question – it is impossible I should ever feel it, my object is profit & not distinction. but in common law I am not equal to the coarse brow beating methods of practise, – & for the criminal part I could not take any share in xxx a case of life & death without forfi sacrificing my feelings & my peace of mind. why not chancery? I will labour with all possible diligence & with conscientious assiduity – & will not this procure me practice?

I am uneasy at time on unavoidably lost. now better – now worse – there is danger that hypochondriacal feelings may take root in me, & the sooner I adopt some efficacious remedy the better. it is better to go abroad for twelvemonths – than still to expect strength in England. the journey will be as useful as the climate from the perpetual excitement of novelty. I should certainly prefer going to France – but in this there would be difficulty & delay. Trieste is accessible – & the journey thro Germany safe. at Trieste I can judge of the security of Italy, & perhaps remove to Padua or Vicenza, the places recommended by Duppa.

Of late I have done nothing except some little to Thalaba. [2]  it is nearly three months since I have reviewed a book – & the newspaper writing I have given up for some time. [3]  I thought of xxxing going up to keep this term, – but the expense would be inconvenient, & it will be as well to make up my plans here, & not visit London till it lies in my way to Hamburgh. Immediately on my return I will take a house in London & settle to my profession.

Go where I will I shall take Edith with me. her health alone would be motive sufficient. – my eyes & ears are sufficiently open & quick – & I shall certainly pick up an hundred pounds worth of matter upon my way. – did I tell you that the copy right of my Joan of Arc – & the first volume of Poems, [4]  (excluding what had been given for the editions on sale – was sold a few months ago for £370. the previous profits had not been less than 250. I gained by both 138–12s. such is the proportion between authors & booksellers profits. This knowledge will however be useful to me in disposing of Thalaba, when it is finished & correct enough to sat[MS obscured] me.

If I go to Trieste it will be necessary to have the summer for travelling & to land at Hambro as near the beginning of June as possible. Italy may very likely be re-revolutionized – but the Adriatic will always be open – & a retreat to Sicily or Sardinia or Portugal. besides a French army is not so formidable in its conquests as a Russian one, & those Bears you know do not eat English-folk.

When will the Homer [5]  be finished?

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

Friday Jan 24. 1800


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5. Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmarks: JAN 25 1800; FREE/ JAN 25/ 1800; B/ JAN 25/ 1800
Endorsement: Can I be of any use/ Jan 24 1800
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. 88–90. BACK

[1] Civil law cases held before the Court of Chancery. BACK

[2] The Islamic romance Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[3] Southey’s most recent published review was of Gebir, Critical Review, 27 (September 1799), 29–39. He had stopped writing poems for the Morning Post in December 1799; see Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 15 December 1799, Letter 462. BACK

[4] Joan of Arc (1796) and (1798), Poems (1797), published by Joseph Cottle, who then sold the copyright to Longman and Rees. Southey was indebted for some of the financial details to Coleridge; see Coleridge to Southey, 24 December 1799, E.L. Griggs (ed.), The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (Oxford, 1956–1971), I, p. 551. BACK

[5] The magnificent 4 volume edition of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey published by Oxford University Press in 1801 and financed by three of Wynn’s uncles. It was known as the ‘Grenville Homer’. BACK

People mentioned

Duppa, Richard (c. 1768–1831) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)