683. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 21 June 1802]

683. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 21 June 1802] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

In reply to your first letter – the statement of Mrs James’s circumstances is this. her four sons were drowned during the Easter week in our channel. from one of these she received 30 £ a year, of which his death deprives her & she has nothing. the subscription is set on foot to purchase her an annuity to that amount. 160 guineas have been raised here – I collected twelve in London – you mention eight more. She is 62 & it is expected from the nature of the case that 14 per cent may be procured. [1] 

I have begun to transcribe the Cid [2]  for you, & that you may have it in a portable form, in the size of Thalaba. [3]  besides I thought, as it will be so long before it can be printed you would like to have the manuscript as a preservable volume & in this shape what with notes & margin it will reach a hundred pages.

Miss Anna Sewards criticism I had not heard of till from you. [4]  I suspect she resents upon me some remarks made by Coleridge on her sonnets. [5]  howbeit her vituperative poems was qualified with abundant praise. [6]  this sugar & gall is a queer mixture – so damned sweet – & so damned bitter. what this <may be> I am not over anxious to see. the publication [7]  itself prevented Tobin from collecting a third Anthology [8]  for which I might else have manufactured sundry Ballads – but that threatened to strip the newspapers – & mine it was not worth while that I should write unless certain “remuneration” as the Don in the play calls it, [9]  came from the Morning Post. [10]  New-River [11]  water is not to be had gratis – & shall not Helicon [12]  be marketed? – These good people little think that the Jacobine Poet does nothing but collate chronicles, read Seraphic History, & hunt the search in the dunghills of monastic biography.

You shall receive the diabolana in my next. [13]  I find a wide difference between the quiet of our situation here & the eternal interruptions in London from some of my thousand & one acquaintance. & yet there are some half-dozen whom I wish & want to be within reach. I have begun the tenth Kings reign [14]  – which by the by will be nearly as long in my book as the other nine – for it is where the glorious period of Portugal begins. Now & then I do a little to Madoc [15]  – or to Kehama [16]  – it is but little, but when I get to some interesting point I shall gallop over the ground. Amadis [17]  takes me two hours daily which would be drudgery if I did not like the book so well. you cannot conceive how vile the English version is, [18]  all the little traits of manners are dropt – the language every where vulgarized, & forge indecencies of thought & feeling as well as language introduced for which no hint is given in the Spanish. I wish you would bring the French copy [19]  of the first book with you on the next circuit. it would gratify me to see how much of this is Frenchmans work.

From Corry I have a sort of half information which makes me more anxious for the whole. Rickman has written a letter to me which has now been lying at Corrys a fortnight for his approbation. x he was to read frank & dispatch it. there it lies still – & by an after letter from R. I only learn that it allows me a free choice to continue with him or not about further connection with him. yet it seems R think I shall not have any further connection – because I had talked to him of fixing near London in case it was broken off, & he says he is glad pleased to think I shall settle in that neighbourhood. this puzzles me if the free choice be mine – who does not chuse a sinecure?

Where is Elmsley? I suppose in Scotland. do you know his direction?

God bless you –

yrs R S.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Lincolns Inn/ London
Postmark: [illegible]
Endorsement: June 21 1802
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Mrs James (first name and dates unknown) had lost her four sons in a shipwreck earlier in 1802. Southey and his friends were attempting to raise money to invest in an annuity for her. BACK

[2] Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (c. 1040-1099), Castilian aristocrat and military commander, whose exploits were the subject of numerous poems and tales. Southey’s English translation and compilation of three of these was published in 1808 as The Chronicle of the Cid. BACK

[3] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) had been published in octavo. BACK

[4] Anna Seward’s critique of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) appeared in The Poetical Register, and Repository for Fugitive Poetry, for 1801 (London, 1802), pp. 475-486. BACK

[5] Southey was mistaken: Seward’s defence of the sonnet, The Poetical Register, and Repository for Fugitive Poetry, for 1801 (London, 1802), pp. 484-485, was a reply to an anonymous (not a Coleridgean) review of Thomas Le Mesurier (c. 1757-1822), Poems Chiefly Sonnets (1799), Monthly Review, 36 (October 1801), 147. BACK

[6] Seward’s earlier, widely-published attack on Joan of Arc, ‘Philippic on a Modern Epic’ (1797). BACK

[7] The Poetical Register, and Repository for Fugitive Poetry, for 1801 (1802) was a very similar publication to the Annual Anthology, combining poetry submitted by aspiring authors with work by more established figures. Its appearance demonstrated there was no longer enough space in the market for a further volume of the Annual Anthology. BACK

[8] A projected but unrealised third volume of the Annual Anthology. BACK

[9] Don Adriano de Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 3, scene 1, line 131. BACK

[10] Southey had given up writing regularly – and for payment – for the Morning Post in late 1799. Although he did contribute three poems in 1801, this was not on a scale likely to generate enough contributions for a third Annual Anthology. BACK

[11] A channel constructed in 1613 to bring fresh springwater from Hertfordshire to the city of London. BACK

[12] In Greek mythology, the fountain of the Muses was at the foot of Mount Helicon. BACK

[13] ‘A True Ballad of a Pope’, Morning Post, 4 February 1803. BACK

[14] João I (1357-1433; reigned 1385-1433), tenth king of Portugal. BACK

[15] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[16] The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. Southey had begun to draft Book 2 on 4 June 1802. BACK

[17] Southey’s translation Amadis of Gaul (1803). BACK

[18] Anthony Munday (c. 1560-1633; DNB), The Ancient, Famous and Honourable History of Amadis de Gaule (1589-1619). BACK

[19] Nicholas de Herberay des Essarts (d. c. 1557), had translated the first eight books of Amadis of Gaul into French 1540-1548, and English readers tended to encounter the story first in this translation. BACK

People mentioned

Rickman, John (1771–1840) (mentioned 3 times)
Corry, Isaac (1753–1813) (mentioned 2 times)
Elmsley, Peter (1774–1825) (mentioned 1 time)
Seward, Anna (1742–1809) (mentioned 1 time)