3604. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 January 1821

3604. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 January 1821⁠* 

Keswick. 11 Jany. 1821.

My dear Wynn

I inclose a letter for Elmsley. [1]  I have some objections, which appear to me of considerable weight, against this Constitutional Association. [2]  In the first place it is reversing the order of things. Government is endangered by a devilish Press, & instead of fairly attacking an evil which it must controul, or be destroyed by it, it wishes to keep aloof, & leave individuals to associate for its defence. That is, we are to protect Gov. instead of being protected by it.

Secondly – political associations in turbulent times are very dangerous things. Clubs may be met by clubs, Anti–Jacobine by Jacobine, – till we come to Club law.

Were it the system of the country, I should not object to a police as severe as that of Alfred, [3]  – which would leave no man loose upon society. – But I do not like to embody myself as a political Familiar. God knows from no fear of popular odium, – nor with any wish to shrink from responsibility, or notice, if that were possible. That I have shown, & by Gods blessing will show. But I do not like this mode of acting, because Government can & ought to do all that is meant to be done by this Association.

Tell me what you think of this subject.

I have had a severe shock in the death of my poor little friend Nash, who left us only in November, having passed four months with us. Of the last five years we have been companions at home & abroad more than one, – & a more thoroughly amiable man I never knew. – How many pleasant recollections are turned to eysel & gall [4]  by the loss of an intimate friend!

God bless you



* MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 227–228. BACK

[1] Southey to Peter Elmsley, 11 January 1821, Letter 3603. BACK

[2] The Constitutional Association was formed in 1821 to produce anti-radical propaganda and support the prosecution of radical publications. BACK

[3] Alfred the Great (849–899; King of Wessex 871–899; DNB). During his reign, groups of ten households were formed into ‘tythings’ to protect their property and deliver criminals to justice. In effect, members were responsible for one anothers’ actions and the community could be fined for individuals’ wrongdoing. BACK

[4] An alternative version of the ‘vinegar … mingled with gall’ that Jesus was given to drink on the cross, Matthew 27: 34. The phrase appears in The Manuall of Prayers, or the Prymer in Englyshe (1539). BACK

People mentioned

Nash, Edward (1778–1821) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)