2951. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 22 March 1817

2951. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 22 March 1817⁠* 

My dear Wynn

The matter has been carried against me by direct perjury. [1] Winterbottom I saw with Ridgeway & Symonds, [2]  – but never dreamt of him (a dissenting Minister) as a publisher, farther than as he was connected with Symonds in his own book about America. D. I. Eaton [3]  I never saw in my life, – if I had it is not possible that I should have forgotten so notorious a person. – It runs strongly in my head that I have seen an account of Winterbottoms death in the magazines; – & indeed it would surprize me less to find that some villain should be found to personate him, than that he should thus swear to what he knows to be false. However there is no remedy

I have great reason to complain of my Counsel, according to the newspapers report, – for humiliating me. I acknowledge no wickedness in Wat Tyler, & feel no shame for it, – for it was written in the sincerity of my heart. [4]  And if this were not expressed in one of those letters to Wm Smith, [5]  certainly I should feel it necessary to say that <it> in some other form equally public. – The wickedness is in the present publication. And the Chancellor [6]  ought to have seen if he chose to believe the story of the gift (which is absolutely false) that there was xxxx a condition on the receivers part to publish it; & that if any thing could call for relief in a Court of Equity, it was the publication of such a work after an interval of three & twenty <years> for the avowed purpose of insulting & injuring the author. – But the Chancellor has believed the statement of their Counsel, [7]  & chosen totally to disregard the statement to which I have sworn. R & Symonds never rejected the book. It was left with them by Lovell, & when I saw them they said “We will publish it”. My recollection is distinct. – But it is time to have done with the subject – I am only anxious now to see my second letter to Wm Smith in the papers, – because it will acquit me of the miserable folly imputed to me in Shadwells speech.

I have received a very kind letter from Wilberforce on the occasion. – There was an article in Tuesdays Courier by Coleridge upon the subject. - [8] 

God bless you


March. 1817.


* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ Hamilton Place/ London/ <Norton Priory/ Warrington>
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: FREE/ 22 MR 22/ 1817; [partial] FREE
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 65–67. BACK

[1] Southey’s claim for an injunction against the publishers of Wat Tyler was denied on 18–19 March 1817, on the grounds that he had not clearly established his copyright to the work. BACK

[2] James Ridgway (1755–1838) and Henry Symonds (1741–1816), radical publishers. Southey had visited them in Newgate Prison on 12 January 1795 to arrange publication of Wat Tyler; see Southey to Edith Fricker [c. 12 January 1795], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 123. Ridgway and Symonds shared their rooms in Newgate with their fellow radical, William Winterbotham. Ridgway and Symonds had been imprisoned for four years in 1793 for publishing Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man (1791–1792), but continued to publish works from Newgate, including Winterbotham’s An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the American United States (1795). BACK

[3] Daniel Isaac Eaton (1753–1814; DNB), radical publisher. Winterbotham claimed in his affidavit that when Southey had visited Newgate in January 1795 he had given the manuscript of Wat Tyler to Eaton and Winterbotham, and surrendered his copyright to them. BACK

[4] Southey was aggrieved at the case made by his lawyers, Sir Anthony Hart (c. 1754–1831; DNB) and Sir Lancelot Shadwell (1779–1850; DNB), as reported in e.g. Morning Post, 19 March 1817, ‘it was of the utmost importance that the dissemination of a work, professing such wicked and mischievous sentiments, both as it regarded the public welfare, and the character of the individual, who had long since disavowed the sentiments contained in it, should be immediately stopped’. BACK

[5] See Southey to the Editor of the Courier, [19 March 1817], Letter 2946. Southey was still unaware that Wynn had not sent this to the Courier as he had requested. It was subsequently reworked as part of A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817). BACK

[6] John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751–1838; DNB), Lord Chancellor, 1801–1806, 1807–1827. He had given the judgement in the Court of Chancery on Southey’s application for an injunction on 18–19 March 1817. As a court dealing with equity, the Court of Chancery could use its discretion and apply justice in accordance with natural law, rather than being bound by the precedents that governed common law. BACK

[7] Sir Samuel Romilly (1757–1818; DNB), barrister, legal reformer, Solicitor-General 1806–1807 and Whig MP for Horsham 1807–1808, Wareham 1808–1812, Arundel 1812–1818 and Westminster 1818. BACK

[8] Southey wrote to Wilberforce thanking him on 23 March 1817 (Letter 2953). Coleridge wrote in defence of Southey in the Courier on both 17 March and 18 March 1817. BACK

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