1855. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 20 January 1811

1855. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 20 January 1811 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I have this moment finished the perusal of your narrative, – with feelings which it is unnecessary to describe. [1]  Published it must be, – because it is sinful to keep such actions in oblivion. Examples of true heroism & true generosity xxxxx are rare in these latter days, – & the nearer such things are to our own times the greater is their efficacy. – But I hesitate about its present publication, lest it should possibly prove injurious to Waltzer, [2]  or even to the rascally Judge. The Court of Vienna might very not improbably think proper to punish both, & Buonaparte (tho his liberation of La Fayette is the sole one act of his life which may be like a drop of water to his tongue hereafter) [3]  is of so devilish a nature, that if the Hanoverian [4]  were within his reach, he might shut him up in one of his Bastiles, xxxx upon the xxxx xxxx <conclusion> that x a man who had acted heroically once in his life from xx pure xxxx motives of goodness, – must in his heart be an enemy to him, & might possibly be a dangerous one. – This has so much weight with me that I will take no step say nothing about the narrative to Ballantyne, till I know whether <that> you think my apprehensions altogether groundless.

Thank you for procuring the books, [5]  – I hope Grosvenor had settled with you for them. I thank you also for what you have told me concerning Quentin Dicks [6]  business, – you have placed it in a clear point of light, & have perfectly convinced me agree with you. The parliamentary business of the year is very heavy, – but I have nearly got thro it. You will not agree with me about Sir J Moore. [7]  But if you get into power you will agree with me then about the war & the Spaniards – at least if you do <should> not, I wish the Spaniards well enough to xxxx pray that your may party may always remain out. Have you read Capt Pasleys book? [8]  – if not, pray send for it – I am very much of his xxxxxx faith.

Have you received Kehama? [9]  Scott has reviewed it for our next number. [10]  I do not know who reviewed my History, but I x am inclined to think it was Reginald Heber. [11]  – The Printer has spoilt my x allusion to Sidney Smith [12]  by dropping these words “in resentment for the flea-bites of his small wit.– it is because he elides the finger & thumb &c – write them into your copy, – for they make half the sting of the sentence. That article upon Methodism would have been better if I could have written freely concerning the remedies. This the temper of the Review prevented. I did hint at restoring the old order of Catechists [13]  in the church, who might supplant the Lay Preachers of the Methodists, & their Class Leaders. – I hinted too at raising the character of the Clerk, [14]  – which in connection with the parish schools might well be done. Gifford was afraid of this, – I did not venture to recommend xx other innovations, knowing that if I what I should write would not be inserted.

God bless you


Jany. 20. 1811. Keswick


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 209
Postmark: FREE/ 13 JA 13/1811
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey had asked Wynn for an account of two Welshmen and their attempt to rescue the French politician Marie-Paul-Joseph-Roch-Gilbert Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (1757–1834) from imprisonment at Olmutz. He was mistaken as to the would-be rescuers identity. The story that was published was of a Hanoverian and an American; see Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809, 2.2 (1811), 514–525. See also Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 27 August 1810, Letter 1803. BACK

[2] Waltzer, disguised as ‘W–’ in Southey’s account in the Edinburgh Annual Register, was the interpreter who befriended Lafayette’s two would-be rescuers after their scheme failed and they, too, were imprisoned at Olmutz. The ‘rascally Judge’ accepted a bribe to release them. BACK

[3] In 1797 the young French general Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) had negotiated the release of La Fayette and other prisoners from Olmutz. BACK

[4] Justus Erich Bollman (1769–1821), Hanoverian doctor, who later became a businessman in the United States and Britain. Southey refers to him as ‘Balman’. BACK

[5] See Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 4 December 1810, Letter 1834. BACK

[6] The Tory politician and socialite Quintin Dick (1777–1858; DNB) had purchased his seat in parliament in 1807, where he sat for Cashel, Ireland. In 1809 he had resigned after refusing to vote with the government. After his resignation it was suggested that undue pressure had been put on him by ministers. For Southey’s account see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 246–249. BACK

[7] The British commander, Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), who was killed in battle at Corunna on 16 January 1809. Southey was highly critical of Moore’s conduct, accusing him, for example, of forming ‘unjust and self-paralysing prejudices against the Spanish people’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 479. BACK

[8] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). For Southey’s review, Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–457. BACK

[9] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[10] Quarterly Review, 5 (February 1811), 40–61. For the pre-publication controversy surrounding the review, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 January 1811, Letter 1848. BACK

[11] Southey was correct, Heber was the reviewer of the first volume of the History of Brazil (1810); see, Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 454–474. For his annoyance with some of Heber’s comments, see Southey to Thomas Southey, 5 December 1810, Letter 1836. BACK

[12] Sydney Smith (1771–1845; DNB), one of the founders of and leading contributors to the Edinburgh Review. Southey is referring to his criticism of Smith in his review of Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. The missing words were to be inserted on p. 486. BACK

[13] In the Catholic Church, lay people who help instruct children in the basics of the Church’s teachings. BACK

[14] The Parish Clerk, who provided assistance to Anglican clergymen. The Clerk could be full or part-time and duties varied enormously from parish to parish. They might include reading lessons in church, organising the choir, serving at the altar and leading the responses, opening the church, ringing the bell and even digging graves if there was no sexton. BACK

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