1650. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 6 July [1809]

1650. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 6 July [1809] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

When your letter arrived I was dining with Dickenson whom I had not seen till that day, since you & I supt at his rooms in January 1792. [1]  Seventeen years ago, – these things make one feel the lapse of time. I should not have recollected him at first, but after awhile his face xxxxxxxx xxx returned to my memory. He tells me Combe has taken orders without any preferment or chance of any, & without even a curacy to give him employment. He lives with his mother, & his main delight is in taking care of the flower garden. Poor Majesty! – I hunted for him without success when last in London. In hopes of shaking him by the hand again, tho the next minutes feeling would have been the painful one that he & I who had once lived years together in the most thorough intimacy could not now find matter of common interest enough for half an hours conversation.

The Quarterly has struck root, & will grow better every number for some time to come. I am in odd company & not the most congenial, – but far more so than the Edinburgh would have been. For the politics of Brougham & Jeffray are to me the more hateful for the mixture of good which now & then appears in them. Both these men are such thoroughly unprincipled politicians that xxxxxxx xxxxx the public mind xxxx could not be worse guided. They set out xxx <with> that precious definition of war which you will remember, – they xxx are now the cowardly advocates for peace. They wrote in defence of the whole system of corruption against Cobbett while their party was in power, & they write Jacobinism as soon as their friends are out again. Cobbett may by possibility not be a rascal because he set out with the worst opinions in the world, & has ever since been getting farther & farther from them. But for these men there is no such saving possibility – they are every thing, or all things – with a view to their own advancement. I thought those articles upon the Conscription, & the Revolutionary Biography could not come from any ordinary works in that Journal. They were in so much wholesomer a stream of thought & feeling, – & I find accordingly they appear to be the work of an American by name Walsh. [2] 

In the third number you will see Holmes’s American Annals [3]  from me & possibly the Transactions of the Miss. Society in the South Sea Islands. [4]  I have Lord Valentias Travels [5]  on my Table, & have bespoken some other books. Whether they will let me undertake a justification of Frere against the friends of Sir J Moore I know not, but I have offered my services. [6] 

You a little surprize me by what you say of Bedford. Did you understand what species of humour I meant? It was Rabelais’ vein, in which it is my full opinion that Grosvenor would exceed him & all other men. [7]  This talent was called out in the history of Martin & his Contessa [8]  (Oh Wynn – in the long catalogue Rerum Deperditarum [9]  is there any loss equal to what the world must sustain in that! –) – You perhaps are less acquainted with Butlerology than I am. [10]  xxxxxx I verily believe that it is in Grosvenors power to burst out at once into a reputation surpassing that of any other man in what may be called the grotesque sublime, – far infinitely far beyond Rabelais, whom I have lately been reading with some disappointment. – Elmsley I believe agrees with me in this opinion of Bedfords peculiar talent, – respecting his other powers I think as you do.

I do not perceive the difficulty about Lobaba, – the column of sand was ‘driven by the breath of God’. [11]  Nor do I see any about the she-bear, Thalaba being like Daniel in the lions den preserved by his xxxxx piety, – spared by a wild beast, [12]  – & they miraculous enough for the situation, & not xx <so> much so as to render a specific spell necessary. That bridleless steed [13]  is a wretched phrase which I could not get rid of, but I dare say it will give way to some better one in some lucky minute.

There are seven volumes xxx published of Aikins Biography, & two more will probably compleat it. Of my handy work what little there is in is in the two last volumes, [14]  they have not called upon me for my contributions to the next, & I want to be called upon before xxx I do any thing. – having so much <many other things> to do.

God bless you.


July 6. Keswick.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 150–152 [in part]. BACK

[1] William Dickinson (1771–1837), a pupil at Westminster School, who later went on to Christ Church, Oxford (BA 1793, MA 1795). He was Civil Lord of the Admiralty 1804–1806. BACK

[2] Robert Walsh (1784–1859) reviewed Code de la Conscription: ou Recueil Chronologique des Lois et des Arrêtes du Governement, des Décrets Imperiaux Relatives á la Levée à Conscrits (1806) in the Edinburgh Review, 13 (January 1809), 427–462, and the 1807 French edition of Biographie Moderne in the Edinburgh Review, 14 (April 1809), 211–243. BACK

[3] Southey’s review of Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals; or, a Chronological History of America, from its Discovery in 1492 to 1806 in the Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 319–337. BACK

[4] Southey reviewed Transactions of the Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 24–61. BACK

[5] Southey reviewed George Annesley, Viscount Valentia (1770–1844), Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (1809) in the Quarterly Review, 2 (August 1809), 88–126. BACK

[6] The diplomatist John Hookham Frere was sent to Spain as minister-plenipotentiary to the Central Junta on 4 October 1808 and when the French marched on Madrid he urged Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB), the Commander of the British forces in northern Spain also to advance upon Madrid, despite his inclination to retreat through Portugal. After the disastrous retreat to Corunna, Frere was blamed for this advice and recalled by the British government. Frere’s correspondence with Moore was published in 1810 in a work entitled To the British Nation is Presented by Colonel Venault de Charmilly, Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, the Narrative of his Transactions in Spain with the Rt. Hon. Hookham Frere, His Britannic Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary, and Lt. Gen. Sir John Moore, K.B. Commander of the British Forces: with the Suppressed Correspondence of Sir J. Moore: Being a Refutation of the Calumnies Invented Against Him, and Proving that He was Never Acquainted with General Morla. Southey did not write an article on this topic. BACK

[7] François Rabelais (c. 1494–1553) was a writer of fantasy, satire and the grotesque in works such as Gargantua and Pantagruel. Southey is referring to the comic stories that he and Bedford spun, in the style of Rabelais, when at Westminster school. BACK

[8] One of the comic inventions of Southey and Bedford. BACK

[9] Meaning ‘things lost’. BACK

[10] ‘Butlerisms’ or ‘Butlerology’ were words coined by Southey to refer to their humorous schoolboy inventions, which he often pressed Bedford to publish so that they would not be forgotten. They were never published by Bedford, but provided the hint for Southey’s comic novel/ miscellany The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[11] Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer (1st edn 1801; 2nd edn 1809), Book 4, line 568. BACK

[12] Southey’s hero is spared by a female bear in Thalaba the Destroyer, Book 8, lines 382–394. BACK

[13] Thalaba the Destroyer, Book 6, line 54. The word ‘bridleless’ was omitted from the 1838 edition of the poem in Southey’s Poetical Works. BACK

[14] John Aikin’s General Biography: or, Lives, Critical and Historical, of the Most Eminent Persons of all Ages, Countries, Conditions, and Professions, Arranged According to Alphabetical Order was published in 10 volumes between 1799–1815. According to Kenneth Curry (New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, p. 403), Southey contributed the following entries to volumes VI (1807), VII (1808) and VIII (1813): Volume VI: ‘Vasco Lobeira’, 314–317; ‘Francisco Rodrigues Lobo’, 318; ‘Fernam Lopez’, 340; ‘Gregorio Lopez’, 340; ‘Francisco de Losa’, 344–345; ‘Joam de Lucena’, 371–372; ‘Miguel de Luna’, 388; ‘Fr. Francisco de Santo Agostinho Macedo’, 434–435, ‘El Enamorado Macias’, 437–438; ‘P. Fr. Pedro Malon de Chaide’, 506; ‘D. Jorge Manrique’, 523–524; ‘Don Juan Manuel’, 529–530; ‘Ausias March’, 542–543; ‘Juan de Mariana’, 555–557; ‘Vicente Mariner’, 558; ‘Luis de Marmol Carvajal’, 569; ‘P. M. Fr. Juan Marquez’, 574–575. Volume VII: ‘Juan de Mena’, 28–30; ‘Don Inigo Lopez de Mendoza’, 37–38; ‘D. Diego Hurtado de Mendoza’, 38–39; ‘Menezes’, 41–42; ‘Christoval de Mesa’, 59–60; ‘George de Montemayor’, 174–175; ‘Ambrosio de Morales’, 194–198; ‘Alonso de Castro Nunez’, 466; ‘Antonio de Naxara’, 469; ‘Abraham Nehemias’, 469; ‘Florian de Ocampo’, 471–472; ‘Fr. Diego de Olarte’, 487; ‘Fr. Andres de Olmos’, 497; ‘Jerome Osorio’ [with Thomas Morgan (1752–1821)], 530–533; ‘Alonso de Ovalle’, 548; ‘Andres de Oviedo’, 555–556; ‘Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo’, 556–557; ‘Lorenzo de Padilla’, 578; ‘Pedro Paez’, 578–580; ‘D. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza’, 585. Volume VIII: ‘Josef de Ossau, Salas y Pellicer’, 25–26; Bartholomé Pereira’, 46; ‘Luys Pereyra’, 46; ‘Antonio Perez’, 46–47; ‘Ruy de Pina’, 173; ‘Juan de Pineda’, 175; ‘Fernam Mendes Pinto’, 178–179; ‘Thome Pires’, 182–184; ‘Fernando de Pulgar’, 385. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)