1185. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 21 May [1806]

1185. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 21 May [1806] ⁠* 

The papers say nothing about Portugal. – their alarms come and go like ague fits, & this is one of the intervals. But my Uncle seems to think that some mischief is going on – my opinion, he says, is that we shall not have any Envoy Consul or Chaplain here many months longer. I am much of the same opinion, but if the question were put out of doubt, it would relieve me from a not very comfortable state of indecision. A little time will show: if the country be not seized in revenge for Mirandas exped strange expedition, [1]  or to try the system of shutting the ports against us xx on a great scale, which if done must be done soon. [2]  Then I shall feel persuaded that the same causes which have thus long xxx operated to prevent the seizure of Portugal, will continue so to do.

I perceive in one of Cobbetts numbers an assertion that the duties on the importation of books for private use – & not for sale – have sometimes been remitted, on application; & that this was done in his case, tho he did not avail himself of it, having previously paid the money, & finding it too much trouble to get it back. [3]  Now in case my Uncle should be obliged to send his books home, I shall certainly endeavour to discover thro what channel this application must be made.

I am working as hard as this fine weather will let me, for there is a perpetual temptation to be in the open air, at D Manuel first, running a race as usual with the printer; & secondly at the Chronicle of the Cid – so I design to call it. [4]  You will I think be much pleased with this. I give the whole story at full in Chronicle language, with all its fabulous ornaments, compiled from the original Chronicle, the metrical romances <or history> which was probably the foundation of that, the Ballads, & all the other histories which I can command, & which are not few in number. The respective authorities will be stated step by step, & appreciated in the notes, wherein also I shall point out, as far as possible, what is true, & what fictitious, where that needs to be done: insert the more curious passages from the different poems, & be as learned & as amusing as I can. The whole will give a striking picture of what may be called the heroic age of Spain, & thus shall I dispose of much matter collected for any historical preliminaries, but for which there will be there no room. It is not unlikely that while thus employed I may yield unto temptation & make more ballads after the manner of Queen Orraca [5]  & Garci Ferrandez, [6]  so as to fill a little volume with Tales & Poems founded upon the Spanish & Portuguese history. It will be hard if I cannot get as much for writing upon subjects which interest me as for reviewing; I shall try the experiment, but am not sanguine as to its success.

Let me know whether Longman has sent you the Joan of Arc. [7]  The first edition of the Poems I found & sent you from Rickmans. [8]  The small set will soon form so respectable a length upon the shelf that you should have them all; they are now eleven in number, & the Spaniards, the small edition of Madoc, the edition of Kehama & the Cid – all of which will be added within the next twelvemonths will make them twenty. [9]  If I live long enough I shall outvolume Voltaire. [10] 

God bless you


May 21. Wednesday.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Whitehall/ London/ private
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] FREE/ MAY/ 1806
MS: National Library of Wales MS 4812D. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] In 1806 the South American revolutionary Sebastián Francisco de Miranda Ravelo y Rodríguez de Espinoza (1750–1816), who had been resident in London and had received unofficial encouragement from ministers, launched a private expedition aimed at liberating Venezuela from Spanish colonial rule. Since Spain was an ally of France, this action risked provoking Napoleon to seize, in retaliation, Britain’s ally Portugal. BACK

[2] Napoleon introduced this measure, ‘the Continental System’, in November. BACK

[3] The Weekly Political Register compiled and published by William Cobbett (1763–1835; DNB) from 1802–1835. BACK

[4] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella; Translated from the Spanish, published in 1807; the Chronicle of the Cid, published in 1808. BACK

[5] ‘Queen Urraia and the Five Martyrs of Morocco’, published in in the Morning Post in early September 1803, in the Iris, 3 November 1804, also in English Minstrelsy. Being a Selection of Fugitive Poetry from the Best English Authors; with some Original Pieces hitherto unpublished, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1810), in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1808 (Edinburgh, 1810), in Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and Poetical Works (1837–1838). See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt (London, 2004), V, pp. 406–413. BACK

[6] ‘Garci Ferrandez’, was published in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809 (1811), in Minor Poems (1815 and 1823) and Poetical Works (1837–1838). See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt (London, 2004), V, pp. xxiv and 517. BACK

[7] The third edition of Joan of Arc, printed by Nathaniel Biggs in Bristol, was published in 1806, with some alterations. It included the ‘Vision of the Maid of Orleans’, originally published in the second volume of Poems (1799), at the end of the poem. For the alterations, see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), I. BACK

[8] Poems (1797). BACK

[9] The second edition of Madoc (1805) was published in 1807; the Curse of Kehama was published in 1810. BACK

[10] François-Marie Arouet, ‘Voltaire’ (1694–1778), wrote more than 2000 books and pamphlets. BACK

People mentioned