2907. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 January [1817]

2907. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 January [1817]⁠* 

My dear Wynn

If you were but in the administration, instead of out of it, there is but one question upon which there would be a shade of difference between us.

Just after your receiving your letter I cut out the inclosed extract from the Times. [1]  – In discharging men from the army & navy it is possible that much private good might be effected by a very easy arrangement; – in paying off a regiment for instance, allowing those men who would prefer remaining in the service to exchange with others in a retained regiment who desire their discharge – & so with ships. As for this newspaper story the Lord Mayors [2]  language is very reprehensible, – like the rest of his conduct, – but I am afraid there is some cause for it. It is inserted in the Times for the sake of doing mischief. Walter [3]  the proprietor of that newspaper believes that neither the Ministry nor the Opposition can stand & that Hunt [4] is about to be Lord of the Ascendant – he has therefore dismissed Stoddart [5]  who was for many years the Editor, & the paper is becoming Jacobinical as fast as possible, in order to swim with the stream. The man is probably weak as well as unprincipled. This turmoil may easily be allayed if Ministers have courage to act as they ought, – & on this your party would go with them. But I doubt their courage & I doubt their wisdom, – & if things are suffered to go on, a bold push will certainly be made for revolution.

I have a letter from poor Peacock, – full of gratitude to you. The liberty which you procured for him of attending public worship was soon taken away again, he says, – but he lives in hopes of being looked after again. The letter seems perfectly sane.

Edward writes to me that his company dissolves on Tuesday week. His letter is perfectly in character – & he asks if I can get him “a situation to travel with a gentleman on the continent, or a messengers place, – or indeed any thing, even a berth in the Excise or Customs.” – The first thing is to consider what is fit for him; – which it is not easy to discover; – & then there is the greater difficulty of obtaining it.

You will receive my second vol. of Brazil [6]  in two or three weeks – a book necessarily xxx unlike other histories in many respects. Some parts will interest you much. I am busy upon the third volume, fully purposing (if I have health as well as life) to bring it out in twelvemonths from this time, & thus compleat a work of extraordinary labour, – the value of which will not be appreciated by many readers in this country. I could get more money by one months employment for the Q Review, than this volume will produce me: – but on the other hand this is for myself & for posterity.

Have you read Mariners Tonga Islands? [7]  I had the manuscript here, – a singularly curious book.

I have very much interested with the letters of Sydenham [8]  who died lately (I believe he married poor Bunburys widow) – written from Spain during the war. They are among the xxxx papers which his brother [9]  has sent me, thro my brother Harry, who got acquainted with him in attending M Wellesley at Ramsgate. I have also many papers of M Wellesley, Ld Wellington & Sir C Stuart, [10]  all greatly to the credit of the writers. This history of mine ought to be a good one, the subject being so fine, & my materials so copious & of such authenticity. I shall bring up about half a volume to the press in April.

The Morte Arthur [11]  will be published soon – I have collated a good many notes & am now busy upon the preface.

I look with more anxiety than usual for the meeting of Parliament. Put a stop to the incendiary journals, & all other evils will cure themselves; – but if you let them go on unchecked, in no long time it must inevitably come either to mob-law, or bayonet-law. I have heard no hint as to the intentions of Ministers, – but I know they are frightened, – the less likely therefore are they to act as they should do.

God bless you

yrs most affectionately


27 Jany.


* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ Llangedwin/ Oswestry/ <St James Square/ London>
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: 12 o’Clock/ JA 31/ 1817 Nn; OSWESTRY/ PENNY POST; TO XXXX ONLY; Too Late for/ Morning Post
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 54–56. BACK

[1] This clipping from The Times has not survived. It was possibly the Address sent to the Prince Regent by the Lord Mayor, Councillors and Aldermen of the City of London, which appeared in The Times, 9 December 1816. The Address criticised the government’s opposition to parliamentary reform and its failure to reduce national expenditure. BACK

[2] Sir Matthew Wood (1768–1843; DNB), druggist and Lord Mayor of London 1815–1817, MP for the City of London 1817–1843. Wood was a radical and a consistent opponent of the government. BACK

[3] John Walter II (1776–1847; DNB), variously owner, manager and editor of The Times 1803–1847 and the director of its policy, though he delegated the editorship after 1814. BACK

[4] Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773–1835; DNB), radical politician. BACK

[5] John Stoddart (1773–1856; DNB), writer, lawyer and editor of The Times 1814–1816. Stoddart was an extreme Tory and refused the proprietor, John Walter’s, attempts to moderate his articles, leading to his dismissal at the end of 1816. His successor, Thomas Barnes (1785–1841; DNB), editor of The Times 1817–1841, had written for radical papers including the Examiner. Barnes shifted The Times’s support to the Whigs in 1819. BACK

[6] The second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[7] William Mariner (1791–1853) lived in the Tonga islands from 1806 to 1810 after the local people attacked his ship and killed his crewmates. His narrative was published by Murray in 1817, having been prepared for the press by the meteorologist John Martin (1789–1869; DNB), An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, with an Original Grammar and Vocabulary of their Language (1817). Southey reviewed the book in Quarterly Review, 17 (April 1817), 1–39. BACK

[8] Thomas Sydenham (1780–1816), soldier who served in India and then Spain 1811–1812, before ending his career as Minister Plenipotentiary at Lisbon 1814–1816. He was a close friend of Marquess Wellesley, with whom he served in India. He did not, however, marry the widow of Southey’s school friend Charles John Bunbury. BACK

[9] Benjamin Sydenham (1777–1828), also a soldier in India and friend of Marquess Wellesley. He was Commissioner of the Board of Excise 1809–1819. BACK

[10] Sir Charles Stuart (1779–1845; DNB), British diplomat. He served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal and Brazil 1810–1814. BACK

[11] The Byrth, Lyf, and Actes of Kyng Arthur was published in two volumes by Longman in 1817. BACK