3292. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 9 May 1819

3292. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 9 May 1819⁠* 

Keswick 9 May. 1819

My dear Wynn

After ten weeks of illness, of one kind or another, affecting sometimes the Mother, sometimes the child, & sometimes both at once, I begin to breathe from continual anxiety; & if no ill fortune intervene your godson will be christened on Wednesday, [1]  – on which day, tho he cannot drink your health, I will. – It seems more likely now that I shall see you in Wales this summer than in London, – for it is hardly possible that I should leave home in less than a month, & by that time you will be longing to escape from the dust & heat of the metropolis. On all accounts I should far rather have made my journey earlier th in the year. But the history of Brazil [2]  has grown under my hands beyond what I either wished or expected, – my materials have proved so rich, & it was not possible for me to calculate better, because no one had ever gone over the ground before, – so that there was not even the rudest map by which I could estimate my course. We are printing the last chapter, which is a general view of the state of the country at the time when the Court removed thither, – as to population, trade, manners &c &c. [3] 

The H of Commons appears to me in a sounder state of mind than it has been at any time within my remembrance, – I mean that questions are judged of more by their own xxx merit & less from mere party spirit. I do not apprehend any thing worse from the Bullion–business [4]  in these times, than that the Bank must pay pretty smartly (which it can afford to do) for the experience of the country; & when it is made plainer than a pike staff (as plain it is already) that the issue of gold when in coin or ingots can answer no other purpose than that of enriching those who deal in it, the nation will be persuaded of the truth of what Lord Stanhope told them & Berkeley (very different men) told their grandfathers. [5]  – The Mr Cropper [6]  whose name was brought forward in Parliament is I believe a coarse sort of Quaker whose way of thinking upon most subjects is any thing but English, – at least so it was when I saw him accidentally twelve years ago. But upon the question of paper money I entirely agree with him. – Fifty years ago, & for some twenty years, the Kings fifths of gold from Brazil [7]  averaged above 100 arrobas yearly, the arroba being 28 pounds weight. They have decreased gradually till for the last 15 or 20 years they have not averaged 20. And I do not know that any other gold comes from the earth into the market, except what little is brought from Guinea. But it is very likely that more gold than ever xxx may in a very few years be brought from Brazil, – for their mines as yet have only been scratched, xx there is a great spirit of enterprize there; & a company has recently been formed for working what is supposed to be the best ground. [8] 

I wish the Copy–right question, – or rather the affair of the Eleven Copies [9]  had been in your hands instead of Lambtons, [10]  who is I fear more likely to do harm than good by his intemperance. I know him a little, – a good natured but hot–headed young man, – & not the better for having been had received an education in which religion made no part – tho perhaps less the worse for it than most men would have been. [11]  Did I tell you that Brougham positively denied to him ever having mentioned my name upon the hustings at Appleby? [12]  – Whereas many hundred persons heard him, as well as the newspaper reporters who are pretty good evidence in such cases. This is a specimen of Broughams veracity, – for that he should forget what he had said on such an occasion is impossible.

What has been done in the scheme of looking for Madocs people? [13]  There was one of the most valiant lies about them in the Courier some eight or ten weeks ago, that ever defied common sense. [14]  I do not think any part of N America remains unexplored, – & what is more to the purpose, I doubt very much whether a colony of men would be under such circumstances would transmit their language beyond the first generation, – for every where men speak their mother tongue. It even required xx legislative interference to prevent a savage language from prevailing in great part of Brazil, for that reason. [15] 

This country is just opening into full beauty. Thankful I am that my lot has fallen in such a goodly land. I do not know any situation of rank, power or emolument, for which I would exchange the leisure & freedom & enjoyment of the life I am leading.

God bless you my dear Wynn

Yrs most affectionately



* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Charles Cuthbert Southey was baptised on 12 May 1819. BACK

[2] Southey’s History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[3] Chapter 44, History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, 676–879. The History stopped at the time the Portuguese court fled to Brazil in 1807–1808, following the French invasion. BACK

[4] The House of Commons was debating legislation to recommence the convertibility of paper currency to gold, which had been suspended since 1797. The legislation passed on 2 July 1819 and convertibility was restored on 1 May 1821, but the period 1819–1821 witnessed a fall in commodity prices and rising unemployment. BACK

[5] Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753–1816; DNB), for example, in his speech in the House of Lords, 16 July 1811: ‘To believe gold necessary to a circulating medium was an idea only fit for Hottentots’. George Berkeley (1685–1753; DNB), philosopher and Bishop of Cloyne 1734–1753, argued in The Querist (1735–1737) that currency had purely symbolic, rather than intrinsic, value. BACK

[6] James Cropper (1773–1840; DNB), Quaker merchant and philanthropist from Liverpool. He had signed a petition from Liverpool bankers and merchants against the resumption of cash payments and then added his own reasons for doing so, an aspect of the petition that Canning drew attention to when he presented it to the House of Commons on 2 February 1819. BACK

[7] The Portuguese Crown was entitled to one fifth of all gold mined in Brazil. BACK

[8] Since 1803 the Portuguese government had encouraged the formation of joint stock companies to undertake gold mining in Brazil, and in 1817 foreign-owned companies were allowed into the trade. Southey may be referring here to the Cuyaba Mining Company, founded in 1817. BACK

[9] The publishing trade was campaigning to overturn the clause in the Copyright Act (1814) which confirmed that a copy of every published work should be placed with all eleven ‘copyright’ public and University libraries. BACK

[10] John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham (1792–1840; DNB), MP for Durham 1813–1828, presented the petition from London booksellers to reform the Copyright Act to the House of Commons on 22 March 1819. BACK

[11] Lambton had been tutored by Thomas Beddoes in 1798–1805, before attending Eton for three years; he did not go to university. BACK

[12] When Brougham spoke from the hustings at Appleby on 30 June 1818, during the General Election contest at Westmorland, he was reported to have criticised Southey for supporting his opponents. His speech was reported in the national newspapers, for example, the Courier, on 4 June 1818. BACK

[13] Southey had been forced to add a note to the fourth edition of Madoc, 2 vols (London, 1815), I, p. viii, casting doubt on his initial assertion that the descendants of the twelfth-century Welsh settlers would be found in America: ‘That country has now been fully explored, and wherever Madoc may have settled, it is now certain that no Welsh Indians are to be found upon any branches of the Missouri.’ BACK

[14] A letter from Owen Williams of Cardiganshire, who had settled in Baltimore as a fur trader, dated 21 February 1819. He claimed to have met Welsh-speaking Indians, stating: ‘They are generally a tall and powerful people, of fair complexion, and of amiable manners; they have the use of letters, and are in possession of numerous manuscripts respecting their ancestors of this island, whom they call Brydon.’ BACK

[15] The Tupi language was used widely as a lingua franca in Brazil until the late eighteenth century. Its use was (officially at least) prohibited in favour of Portuguese by the Lei do Directorio of 1757–1759. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)