795. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 9 June [1803]

795. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 9 June [1803] ⁠* 

It has come into my head that France will go to war with Portugal – & if so perhaps we may send an army there, & if so – perhaps it might not be impossible that I could get a civil appointment, of which there were plenty of good berths for the last war. Now by what xx channel & what interest are these things to be obtained? for it is worth trying if the opportunity should offer. To go to Lisbon any how would help my history, [1]  & the flaws in my lifehold lease, but to have pay for going there, & rations, & baugh [2]  & forage into the bargain, would be what they call in Portugal a fat fortune. these appointments are places of emolument – not of honour or rank or advancement – & so the more procurable. My Uncle was made Chaplain to the last staff by the Duke of Northumberlands [3]  desire. I believe that my for my Uncles sake Lord Bute [4]  & the Duke of Bedford [5]  would willingly serve me in this way were he to request it. but I am quite ignorant how these things are got at. & have hurried the thought out of my head upon this paper just as it came in.

Methinks it is my turn now to call you lazy. if I did not see your name in the list of the minority, & your potential autograph upon my proofsheets. I should begin to be doubtful whether you were not translated to the other world.

Luckily I have found just in time for the Preface [6]  a positive assertion that Vasco Lobeira [7]  is the author of Amadis, & the the inventor of the story, in an old Chronicle [8]  written just 60 years after Lobeiras death by the Royal Chronicler of Portugal, a man uncommonly versed in the literature of his age, & whose authority cannot be questioned. I am proceeding triumphantly with the history, & have done considerably more than half a volume since you were here. if this war shuts me from Portugal & cuts off my supplies of books – it will almost break my heart. God send that Bonaparte [9]  may come in person with his Invaders. he had better come with a diving-bell instead of a helmet, in readiness – for if he do not feed the crabs in the channel –

& if he do not feed the crabs the Crows shall have him ashore.

God bless you.

R S.

June 9.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr. M.P./ Lincolns Inn/ London
Postmarks: FREE/ JUN 10 1803; BRISTOL/ JN 9 1803
Endorsements: June 9 1803; Mr Wynn
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 317-318. BACK

[1] Southey’s unfinished ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[2] A pudding made from milk and flour. BACK

[3] Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742-1817; DNB). He had spent some time in Lisbon in the 1790s. BACK

[4] John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute (1744-1814; DNB), Ambassador to Spain 1795-1796 and collector of books on Spain and Portugal, an interest which may have led him to know Herbert Hill. BACK

[5] John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (1766-1839; DNB). His first wife, Lady Georgiana Russell (c. 1768-1801), spent two years in Portugal for her health and was friendly with Herbert Hill. BACK

[6] Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul, 4 vols (London, 1803), I, ‘Preface’, pp. x-xi. BACK

[7] Vasco de Lobeira (d. 1403), medieval troubadour. He was not the originator of Amadis of Gaul, which dates to the early 14th century. BACK

[8] Gomes Eanes de Zurara (c. 1410-1474), in his ‘Chronica do Conde Dom Pedro de Menezes’ (1463), published in Jose Correia da Serra (1750-1823), Colleccao de Livros Ineditos da Historia Portugueza, 4 vols (Lisbon, 1790-1816), II,; no. 3785 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[9] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821, First Consul 1799-1804, Emperor of the French 1804-1814). BACK

People mentioned

Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)