2652. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 September 1815

2652. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 September 1815 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I am on the eve of starting from home for a longer flight than I have for many years taken. My brother carried his election, his four competitors successively withdrawing from the contest, [1]  – he has married since to a woman whom I remember a child in arms at Lisbon, – they are going to the continent for a months excursion, & I have been tempted to join their party. We go to Ostend & Brussels, returning of course by Antwerp, – & if the finances hold out we shall get as far as Spa & Aix la Chapelle. – into France I shall not go, – the state of affairs is too lowering, – if I had time & money I might perhaps see part of Holland, but travelling to me is doubly expensive inasmuch as I lose all that I should else have gained in the time so employed. –

On my return I purpose staying not more than a fortnight in town, & taking you in my way home, if you should be at Llangedwyn.

I will try at an Inscription as soon as I can find out how to set about it. Lapidary inscriptions [2]  I have never written, & know not how to write; never having been able to discover any principle upon which they are composed. But what can be done in verse with the county of Denbigh & Sir WWW!  [3]  – Your resolutions may perhaps put something into my head.

We have had a bonfire on Skiddaw for the battle of Waterloo &c [4]  – follow the example on Snowdon, & you will have a feeling of sublimity which is certainly not to be obtained in a lower region. I wish you had been with us. Wordsworth was there & Boswell. [5] 

You will see a long paper in the next Quarterly continuing the sketch of Ld Wellingtons life from the battle of Vittoria [6]  to the present time. [7]  I am to have 100£ for it, – these things are valued by the public fashion for them, not by what they are intrinsically worth. This however has cost me more time than would have sufficed for much better compositions. So it is, that I who heartily despise reviews & have moreover a principled & moral dislike to them, am compelled to pass half my time in reviewing. Do not you however who have truly been my Maecenas [8]  & support when I had not no other, quote upon me ‘ut nemo quam sibi sortem &c [9]  – for I am contented & thankful in that state of life to which it has pleased God to appoint me.

Here am I interrupted by news which would make a Welsh man swear. An importation of toasting-cheese from the county of Durham (famous for that commodity) is just arrivd, – & the mice have eaten half of it by the way.

I cannot judge of what length your plinth will allow me, – tho of course the fewer lines the better. But you had better tell me the extent of my tether. If you direct to 15 Queen Anne Street, I shall find the letter on my arrival in town.

God bless you

Yrs affectionately


5 Sept. 1815.


* Address: [readdressed in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Wynnstay <Acton Park>/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
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), II, pp. 425–426 BACK

[1] Henry Herbert Southey had been elected Senior Physician at the Middlesex Hospital on 17 August 1815. BACK

[2] i.e. an inscription that is engraved in stone. BACK

[3] A committee had been set up by Wynn’s fellow Welshmen to commission a huge silver vase to commemorate the safe return from the Battle of Waterloo (18 July 1815) of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Southey was asked to write an inscription to be engraved on the vase, but failed to do so; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 December 1815, Letter 2682. BACK

[4] The bonfire took place on 21 August 1815; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 22 August 1815 (Letter 2648) and Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 23 August 1815 (Letter 2649). BACK

[5] The barrister and literary scholar James Boswell (1778–1822; DNB). BACK

[6] The allied defeat of the French at Vittoria, 21 June 1813, paved the way for eventual victory in the Peninsular war. BACK

[7] Southey had been commissioned to write a second review article on Wellington, capitalising on public interest following Waterloo. It comprised a review of: Eustache-Auguste Carel (1788–1836), Précis Historique de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1808 à 1814 (1815); Jean Sarrazin (1770–1848), Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne et de Portugal, de 1807 à 1814 (1814); General View of the Political State of France, and of the Government of Louis XVIII (1815); An Answer to the Calumniators of Louis XVIII (1815); Official Accounts of the Battle of Waterloo (1815); Lieutenant-General W. A. Scott (dates unknown), Battle of Waterloo (1815), and appeared in Quarterly Review, 13 (July 1815), 448–526. BACK

[8] i.e. a patron in the mould of the wealthy, generous and enlightened patrician Gaius Clinius Maecenas (70–8 BC). BACK

[9] A contraction of Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BC), Sermones, Book 1, Sermo 1, line 1: ‘How comes it to pass, Maecenas, that no one lives content with his condition’. BACK

Places mentioned

Skiddaw (mentioned 1 time)