1161. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 28 February [1806]

1161. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 28 February [1806] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

The intelligence in your letter has given me more pleasure than I have often felt. In spite of modern metaphysico-politico-Philosophicide I do not believe that God Almighty’s first commandment is an obsolete statute yet [1]  – & am very sure that man is a better being as well as a happier xxxx one for being a husband & a father. [2]  May God bless you in both relationships.

I shall be in London about the time when you are leaving it, & remain there a just month – so that you will probably be there the latter end of the time. It is long since we have met, & now that I certainly am going abroad again in the autumn, & have some reason for hoping I may stay there, [3]  I should be sorry to lose one of those opportunities of which life does not allow very many. It will be nearly two years since you were here, & if our after meetings are to be at at long intervals – there are not many to look on to. Many things make me feel old, – ten years of marriage – the sort of fatherly situation in which I have stood towards my brother Harry now a man himself – the premature age at which I commenced author – the death of all who were about me in childhood – a body not made of lasting materials – & some wear & tear of mind. You once remarked to me how time strengthened family affections & indeed all early ones – One’s feelings seem to be weary of travelling, & like to rest at home. I had a proof the other night in my sleep how the mere lapse of time changes one’s disposition – I thought of all men in the world Forester called upon me, & that we were heartily glad to see each other. [4]  They who tell us that men grow hard hearted as they grow older have but a very limited view of this world of ours. It is true with those whose views & hopes are merely & vulgarly worldly. But where human nature is not perverted time strengthens our kindly feelings & abates our angry ones.

After this next meeting God knows when we shall see each other again, for I shall certainly go in the Autumn. However reasonable my expectations may be they ought not to influence my plans, nor ought I to wait & wait for a better opportunity of doing that – in doing which no opportunity & no time should be lost. So Fortune may find me at Lisbon, if she please to favour me – but I will not delay my voyage in the hope of her company. There is however a cloud hanging over Lisbon. If any attempt is made against Gibraltar that port must previously be shut against us, & if there be not Bonaparte may chuse to do it just to show his power. The terrible means of resentment in our power might deter a cooler man, but cannot be calculated upon as preventatives in this case. We might take Brazil, & famish Lisbon: – he would not care so he could say that the English should drink no more port wine till they chose to ask his leave.

Where is your house? When marriage does not estrange a man from his friends it introduces an order into his abode & a certain set of arrangements xxxxx of which the benefit extends to them. You have a way of having your breakfast in a tray, which is something more than uncomfortable; it is even anti-comfortable. I look upon it as one of the good effects of this change of administration that that tray will be discarded.

God bless you. I believe I might venture to whisper some family news in your ear, but one does not like to be disappointed in these things – & my hopes may be premature. [5]  However hopes I have that you may be called upon by & by in due x time, according to an old promise, to enter into certain engagements against the World the Flesh & the Devil. [6] 

Yrs affectionately


Friday 28th Feby


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Whitehall/ London/ Private
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] FREE/ MAR/ 1806
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 30–31[in part]. BACK

[1] Genesis 1.28 ‘Go forth and multiply’. BACK

[2] Wynn was to marry Mary Cunliffe (d. 1838), daughter of Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet (1755–1834) on 9 April 1806. BACK

[3] Southey intended to travel to Portugal to work on his ‘History of Portugal’, anticipating Wynn’s influence as Under-Secretary of State in the Home Office would lead to an ambassadorial position there. These plans did not materialise and Southey’s history was never completed. BACK

[4] William Forester (d. 1794), a fellow pupil of Southey’s at Westminster School (admitted 1782). He later entered the army, dying of yellow fever during the St Domingo expedition of 1794. Southey did not like Forester, accusing him of bullying and of forcing him to write Latin verses on his behalf. BACK

[5] Southey’s son, Herbert, would be born on 11 October 1806. BACK

[6] From the litany in the Book of Common Prayer (1662): ‘From fornication, and all other deadly sin, and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, spare us, good Lord’. BACK

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