2109. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 6 [June] 1812

2109. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 6 [June] 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 6.  [1]  1812.

My dear Wynn,

Thank you for your early application [2]  thro Croker, – I should else have thought the thing had been lost for want of applying in time. – Lord Lonsdale has just sent me a note of Lord Hertfords saying it was disposed of before his application arrived. – All that can now be done is to find out some good in the disappointment, – & it is some good to feel xxxxxxxxxxxxx sure of never being disappointed again. For xxx I have now neither expectation, hope, xx <or> I believe I may add, possibility of ever any thing beyond what the grey goose quill may procure. In this case I had good interest, as well as a fair claim.

In speaking of the xxx evils to be dreaded in consequence of Percevals death I looked forward to what appears to me a change of system with respect to the Peninsula, – concessions to America, & concessions to the Catholics. With regard to the first point, – I have more fears at this moment for G Britain than for Spain. As to America it is not all the concessions not on our part, nor all the sufferance imaginable which can conciliate a party <Governments> leagued with France & bribed with the promise of the spoils of Spain. America will go to war with us at last whenever she can no longer injure us as effectually by measures short of hostility & whenever she can muster up courage enough for it – which submission on our part will be the best means of giving her, – disputes of this kind – se termineront toujours a une guerre non seulement parce que l’homme prudent se lasse a souffrir, mais aussi parce que l’insolent se lasse d’etre souffert. [3]  The observation is Father Paul’s.

Upon the effects of Catholic concessions in Ireland I shall endeavour to explain my own notions in reply to Adderley, & will enclose the letter to you. Its effects in England will be to hasten on that downfall of the Establishment which so many causes are at this time operating to bring about. You know I am neither a bigot, nor a hypocrite – I never conceal my dissent from the Church upon some very material points, – still I regard it as the best Establishment which the Xtian world has ever yet seen, – & xx one infinitely better than any thing which could be substituted in its place. – You x xx I know are a churc sincere churchman, & I suppose your immediate friends are so, – but you must know that many of the party who sit with you are not. Fox [4]  was certainly no friend of the Church – probably he was not a Christian, – & it is more than probable that many of his followers are of the same no-faith. If a measure were proposed which might in its consequences prove injurious to the Church that very circumstance would recommend the measure <it> to those who call themselves – or who think themselves – philosophers.

The sale of the tythes is such a measure. It would be popular beyond a doubt. Whatever Minister should propose it would have the farmers with him, & the country gentlemen, – he would have the Dissenters, & the xxxxxxxx philosophes, & the Catholics whom your Emancipation would bring into Parliament would all of course support him. M. Wellesley if he becomes Minister will act as he did in India, he will carry on the war triumphantly, careless of the cost. He is right in this, & if he took the money from the sinking fund, or raised it by a hearth tax, or a graduated poll-tax I would applaud him. But the tythes offer a recourse xxx readier resource, – because there would be only the party who are to be none to stand up in their defence except the party to be plundered. Whenever that is done, the Establishment will in reality to be formed anew, & then it will be virtually put up to the lowest bidder: – a prospect which will reconcile the Saints to the new Reformation.

Oh my dear Wynn we are in a fearful state. The dragons teeth have been sown on all sides of us, – & where is the Jason [5]  who shall cut down this dreadful harvest? I have for some years seen this crisis coming on, – but did not expect it so soon, or rather thought of it as we all think of death, – a thing that must come, but of which we easily too easily put away the thought because the time of its coming is uncertain. Do you remember what is said in Espriella of the tendency of the Manufacturing system to this state? [6]  & in the last years register those remarks upon the sinking-down of Jacobinism from the middle to the lower ranks? [7]  – we have boasted too soon of our constitution. The publicity of the debates & the unbridled liberty of the press are but of one long reign, – they may be said to have begun under George 3, [8]  – & they will end with George 4th – but perhaps not before they have destroyd the dynasty & the system. We are at this moment upon the brink of a Jacquerie from which nothing but the Army preserves us. How long that may be depended upon God knows, – but the end of these things is the loss of English liberty. – I believe <that> the proudest days of England are to come, & that her happiest days are over. A great minister, if he were as good a man as Washington or Jovellanos [9]  might save us. We have none to look to. In my judgement Lord Liverpool is the ablest man left, – but he wants that vigour; – that audacity which the times require. M Wellesley has this, but he has nothing else & even this is at times overpowerd by his sensuality. [10]  – If I were a Roman Catholic I should think seriously of transplanting myself to Lisbon, & breeding up my children in the Portugueze tongue. – That language will be free, I fear, when our own will be no longer so.

God bless you



* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark [partial]: 9/ 1812
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Dating note: Misdated ‘May 6’ 1812 by Southey. The letter’s contents indicate it was written on 6 June 1812. BACK

[1] Misdated by Southey; letter is written on 6 June 1812. BACK

[2] Wynn was canvassing on Southey’s behalf for the post of Historiographer Royal, vacated on the death of Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB) on 23 May 1812. The campaign was unsuccessful and the post went to one of Southey’s particular bêtes noires, James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB). BACK

[3] The French translates as ‘[it] will always end in a war, not only because the prudent man grows weary of suffering, but because the insolent man tires of being suffered’: Paola Sarpi (1552–1623) ‘Supplement de l’Histoire des Uscoques’, probably encountered by Southey in Abraham Nicolas Amelot de la Houssaye (1634–1706), Histoire du Gouvernment de Venise 3 vols (1768), III, p. 229. This book was no. 42 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Southey approved of Sarpi as a determined opponent of papal authority in Venice. BACK

[4] Charles James Fox (1749–1806; DNB). BACK

[5] The Greek hero Jason, who defeated the warriors who sprang from the dragons’ teeth he had sown in the ground. BACK

[6] ‘Do I then think that England is in danger of revolution? If the manufacturing system continues to be extended, increasing as it necessarily does increase the number, the misery, and the depravity of the poor, I believe that revolution inevitably must come, and in its most fearful shape’, Letters from England, 3 vols (London, 1807), III, p. 133. BACK

[7] ‘Jacobinism had disappeared from the middle ranks, and sunk down to the lowest … it was become selfish and grovelling, yet from its very deterioration the more dangerous … Never before had sedition appeared in so sordid a shape’, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 229. BACK

[8] George III (1738–1820; King of the United Kingdom 1760–1820; DNB); and his son and successor George IV (1762–1830; Prince Regent 1811–1820, King of the United Kingdom 1820–1830; DNB). BACK

[9] George Washington (1732–1799), 1st President of the United States of America 1789–1797, and Gaspar de Jovellanos (1744–1811), Spanish statesman, author and philosopher. BACK

[10] Wellesley lived for nine years with Hyacinthe-Gabrielle Roland (c. 1760–1816), a French actress. They had five children before marrying in 1794. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)