83. Robert Southey and Charles Watkin Williams Wynn to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 March [1794]

83. Robert Southey and Charles Watkin Williams Wynn to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 March [1794] ⁠* 

Per varios casus per tot discrimina rerum —  [1] 
In plain prose my dear Grosvenor you shortly shall hear em.

Sunday morning. March 23rd. Balliol College.

And it came to pass, in the days of John Davey the master of Balliol that great disturbance happened in the community

For the children of Balliol sat down to meat. now this was the seventh day. & the chief priests & elders sent down to them that grace might be said for this was the manner.

But behold the man was ill by whom the grace should have been said.

And Jeremiah the scout came down, & delivered the summons as was commanded him. & they answered him nor a word

Then came fear upon Jeremiah the scout. & he said — behold now the chiefs & elders have called for the grace — now therefore obey ye the call.

And Nicholas Lightfoot answered him & said — lo now Allen is ill — & let him who is the junior go up & do this thing.

Then the junior looked silly & answered him not

And Jeremiah the scout grew more fearful & the chief priests & elders more impatient. then spake he to Southey — go thou & say the grace. but Southey knew it not.

And the chiefs priests & elders departed in wrath.

And they cried out with one voice crucify them crucify them


Titus Vespasian [2]  the DELIGHT of MANKIND

and the Best Sovereign that History records,

crucified two thousand Jews one morning & Ralph Churton observes that “with a generous clemency that inseperable attendant on true heroism, he crucified prisoners till space was wanting for the crosses, & crosses for the captives [3] 


The delight of the Common Room

and the Best Fellow in Balliol College

crucified eight scholars after dinner


John Davey

with a generous clemency that inseperable attendant on true learning abused them like pickpockets — degraded them from their rank — sequesterd their revenues — & set them a volume of sermons to translate.

If I could — turn the sentence neat & pretty — Period round & period witty — this sonnet should have made a seperate letter. but I am ill at these things. remember tis the only sonnet I have written.


Virgin of Orleans, [4]  oft thy minstrels eye
Has loved thy course thro fields of blood to trace,
When waved the lillied flag in conquest high
And thy fallen foes retreated with disgrace

Ill-fated heroine round that lovely frame
That breast too firm in fortitude to fear,
The hangman reard around the unwilling flame
And sternly softened to a maiden tear.

Yet heaved not then her bosom with the sigh
Nor faultered then the maidens parting breath
But pleasd in Freedoms glorious cause to die
She saved her country & she smild at Death.

Oft oer thy lovely form the Bard shall bend.
Whilst Memorys grateful hour recalls the absent friend.


Read this to Mrs Bedford in your best manner. I am sorry that I cannot send CC to read it prettily. or rather Wynn is sorry for me. you may guess whom I have at my elbow.

[Start of section in Charles Watkin Williams Wynn’s hand] The chief Ch. Ch. news which I can relate is that his most Proboscinasal majesty has been of late rather <drunk &> amorous has got an impositon a black eye & has given my electrical machine a violent shock. C.C. has got a little bandbox about 3 feet by two in which he sits & frys till the room floats with his own grease which he likewise employs to daub his scull with instead of Pomatum xxxxxxxxxxxxxx believe [end of section in Charles Watkin Williams Wynn’s hand]

adieu xxx xxxxx

I know not if you understand this asinine language of Wynn which he thinks so well adapted.

tis a long while since I heard from Horace. Clodius accuset modius [5] 


* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ Old Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: OXFORD
Postmark: AMA/ 24/ 94
MS: Houghton Library, bMS Eng 265.1 (2). AL; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Virgil (70–19 BC), Aeneid, Book 1, line 204. The Latin translates as ‘through so many sorts of disaster and so many crises’. BACK

[2] The Roman Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus (9–79; reigned 69–79). BACK

[3] A paraphrase of Ralph Churton (1754–1831; DNB), Eight Sermons on the Prophecies Respecting the Destruction of Jerusalem, Preached before the University of Oxford in the Year 1785 (Oxford, 1785), p. 201. BACK

[4] Joan of Arc (c. 1412–1431), the subject of Southey’s first published epic. BACK

[5] Juvenal (fl. AD late C1 and early C2), Satire 2, line 27. The Latin translates as ‘Clodius accused adulterers’. BACK

Places mentioned

Balliol (mentioned 4 times)