700. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 30 July 1802

700. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 30 July 1802 ⁠* 

This story of the Dog is so exceedingly painful that I have not Englished it. Captain Gaspar de Villagra [1]  was a wretched poet – his whole work is minute narrative in the baldest language without one glimpse of imagination. but this shocking story he could not fail to relate pathetically. here the fault of his general manner became a beauty – just as the rusty weathercock must be sometimes with the wind & the standing watch tells true once in the twelve hours.

Bedford tells me that Lambe is going Consul to Lisbon. [2]  I wonder that with this in view he should return himself for Rye. [3] 

My brother is gone to Taunton to his Uncle. this delays our projected walk & therefore I think Mahomet had better come to the Mountain. [4]  there are some few things within a walk, & others within a mornings drive that you have not yet seen in this neighbourhood. in particular there a row of elms whose trunks form the finest proof of Wartons opinion upon the origin of Gothic architecture [5]  – & the boiling well – of which one a little is described in Thalaba [6]  – & only little for the place would not admit more.

The sum for Mrs James [7]  is already made up by the 18 pounds which Elmsley received of your brother Henry. [8]  what else you have collected will form a seasonable present sum – till her annuity becomes due. it is distressing to see the poor woman. at first she bore up wonderfully well – but now appears daily to feel it more & more.

I am heartily glad you are again M.P. [9]  it is such an admirable excuse for a short

letter –

God bless you –

R S.

Friday 30 July. 1802.


* Address: [deletion and readdress in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham <Worcester>
Stamped: WREXHAM/ 202
Postmark: [partial] 122/ BRISTOL/ JUL 30
Endorsement: July 30/ 1802
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá (1555-1620) served as a captain in the 1598 expedition that first colonised New Mexico. His epic Historia de la Nueva México (1610), Canto 19, lines 221-244, described how he was forced to kill his dog for food. However, he then found he was unable to eat the animal. BACK

[2] Thomas Davis Lamb was offered but rejected the post of Consul, and with it the salary of between £2000-2500 p.a. BACK

[3] On 6 July 1802, Lamb had been elected as an MP for Rye, a town whose political life his family dominated. BACK

[4] A phrase first used by Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans (1561-1626; DNB), in ‘On Boldness’, Essays (1625). Southey noted the idea in Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 20, and intended to use it in the epic on Muhammad (570-632), Prophet of Islam, that he planned to write with Coleridge. BACK

[5] Thomas Warton (1728-1790; DNB) whose influential essay on gothic architecture was first published in his Observations on the Fairy Queen of Spenser, 2nd edn, 2 vols (London, 1762), II, pp. 184-198. It is not clear what point Southey was making. In so far as Warton ascribed an origin to Gothic architecture, he looked to the influence of Arabic styles. BACK

[6] The Boiling-Well, a spring near Stoke’s Croft, Bristol; described in Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 11, lines 361-373. BACK

[7] 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. See Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 21 June 1802], Letter 683. BACK

[8] Wynn’s youngest brother, Henry Watkin Williams Wynn (1783-1856). BACK

[9] Wynn had been re-elected as an MP for Montgomeryshire on 13 July 1802. BACK

Places mentioned

Stokes Croft (mentioned 1 time)