1386. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [December 1807]

1386. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [December 1807] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Here is a piece of trickery inclosed which I will beg you to frank up to Bedford, & desire him to dispose of it according to direction.

Your notions respecting the Criminal Laws seem to me very just & sensible: yet I should be sorry to see less use made of transportation, which as you say, does not deter criminals, but is certainly the best means of employing them. Wise & extensive plans of colonization would be, I am fully persuaded, the best means of preventing not only petty offences, but <also> imminent danger to society; – the huge steam engine of the body politic needs such safety valves. Enlighten the poor, & find employment for all who want it, – that these are the preventatives. – I am inclined to think the punishment of death might in cases be best dispensed with; not from any horror at the thought of sending a criminal into eternity with all his unrepented sins upon him, – for if the man would have repented had life been granted him I cannot but suppose the will will be accepted for the deed, – but because I think imprisonment for life more terrible than death, – & the reverence for life which it would exhibit in the law would tend to produce & or strengthen the same reverence in the people. The only main objection seems to be that a criminals are thus made burthensome to the state as long as they lived: – this might be obviated by making them do prison work, – there are enough zealous clergymen of every persuasion who would look after their spiritual concerns, & I am mistaken in all my views of human nature, if the spectacle of one true penitent for such a crime as murder would not have more effect than fifty executions, – he might be made a spectacle by having the prison <church> service public.

The malice in the Critical comes from a man whose name is Le Grice, a school fellow of Coleridges; he hates him & therefore abuses me. [1]  I am however promised ‘ample justice’ for the future, for a reason equally valid. Fellowes [2]  is become a joint editor of that review, & he will praise me to gratify Miss Seward, with whom I am in actual correspondence! nay – I have promised to visit her on my way to London. How all this happened it will be shorter work to tell you when we meet than to explain now.

Thank you for the Lunatic Report: [3]  – it is humane & wise. As Protestant Establishments do not make enough use of religion, – xxx hospital & such asylums as this never can be so well superintended as by those who do it for the love of God. There is a good deal to be said about this, & a good deal might be done.

I hear of Espriella [4]  from many quarters. Our Cumberland Packet [5]  last week had a quotation from this ‘ingenious foreigner’ – of no use in the way of advertisement as it did not name him, – but it showed that somebody had read the book & liked it, & which I have sent you, you will think a very pretty piece of roguery. it is an invention of my own & a very ingenious invention it is. That book wants only a hearty shove to get it into a sale which would be very agreabell to its author I think. I shall make ‘a Clergyman of the Established Church’ quote him in the Gentleman’s Mag. against the Catholicks. –

God bless you.



* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr. M. P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 464–466.
Dating note: from Curry and internal evidence. BACK

[1] Madoc was negatively reviewed in the Critical Review, ns 7 (1806), 72–83, by Charles Valentine Le Grice (1773–1858; DNB). Southey also believed that Le Grice reviewed Wordsworth’s Poems in Two Volumes in the Critical Review, ns 11 (August 1807), 399–403, though he later changed his mind about this; see Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 9 December 1807, Letter 1393. On the authorship of this review, see William Wordsworth: The Critical Heritage. Volume 1 1793–1820, ed. Robert Woof (London and New York, 2001), pp. 170–171. BACK

[2] Robert Fellowes (1771–1847), editor of the Critical from 1807–1814. BACK

[3] The report of the House of Commons Select Committee on the State of Criminal and Pauper Lunatics (1807). BACK

[4] Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[5] The Cumberland Pacquet and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser. BACK

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