340. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 3 August [1798]

340. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 3 August [1798] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Your account of poor Bunbury  [1]  woke in me the recollections & almost the feelings of old friendship. Good God what a blessing might he have been to his friends & to his country! It is mortifying to look back to our school days & reflect that Matthew Lewis should be the wonder of the day, [2]  & Bunbury dead & forgotten. a man so gifted – & the victim of one failing. he should have been removed from Westminster ere habit was rooted in him – I think I could cure the vice at 16 which would destroy at six & twenty. I am no friend to public schools – where they are beneficial to one they are ruinous to twenty. nor do I think that the argument you once used in defence of universities a just one – that young men take <run> their xxxxx <race> of vice & grow tired & come away with characters unblemished. this to me seems the real evil. people will be ashamed of debauchery if they are not kept in countenance.

Have you collected any thing for poor Blighs widow? [3]  if you have send it me to remit to her – & you may inclose a frank afterdated some few days – for her Darlington Durham. we have raised here three & thirty pounds already & sent it. & I shall endeavour to get the boy when old enough into Xts Hospital. [4] 

Did I tell you of a plan in which John May has engaged with Marten, [5]  the Secretary to the Society for bettering the condition of the Poor? they have hired a room where they hear the stories of all the beggars who chuse to apply, & get them relieved either by making the parish officers do their duty, or assisting them themselves. you would be surprized at the numbers they have relieved. there is room for much to be done in this way. If ever you are disposed to make motions in this way the house, I should be delighted to see you the Reformer of the Poor Laws.

I have found an Irish story for you. a gentleman saw a boy driving a cow through his hedge backward & forwards – & askd him what he was doing – Och – says he – I am taiching the cow to get her own living. [6] 

My Letters [7]  are in the press & I have pruned them. Bob is very civil in his half years retrospect. [8]  the Vision will go soon – it will be the pocket size – & I shall add a few ballads & small pieces to make it thick enough for a volume. [9] 

God bless you

yrs as ever

Robert Southey.

I have long wished to see St Palayes Book. [10]  pray send it directed to Cottles.

Friday 3rd August.


* Address: To/ C. W. Williams Wynn Esqr/ Christ Church/ Oxford
Stamped: BRISTOL
Endorsement: August 3 1798
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 59–60 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s old schoolfriend Charles John Bunbury had recently died at the Cape of Good Hope. BACK

[2] The poet and playwright, Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775–1818; DNB), author of the controversial Gothic novel, The Monk (1796). BACK

[3] Southey was attempting to raise funds for the widow of the Midshipman James Blythe (1766/7–1798), killed in the fight between the Mars and L’Hercule on 21 April 1798. BACK

[4] There is no evidence that Southey did manage to get Blythe’s son into Christ’s Hospital School in London. BACK

[5] Matthew Martin (1748–1838; DNB), secretary to the Society for Bettering the Condition and Improving the Comforts of the Poor. BACK

[6] A paraphrase of Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849; DNB) and Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744–1817; DNB), Practical Education, 2 vols (London, 1798), I, p. 211. BACK

[7] The second edition of Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal, published in 1799. BACK

[8] The review of the first edition of Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal in the British Critic, 11 (April 1798), 362–367 had praised the volume’s style but cautioned readers about its radical politics. The British Critic was published twice a year; hence providing a ‘half years retrospect’. BACK

[9] ‘The Vision of the Maid of Orleans’ published, with several shorter works, in Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. [1]–69. BACK

[10] Jean-Baptiste de la Curne de Sainte-Pelaye (1697–1782), Memoirs of Ancient Chivalry. To which are added, the Anecdotes of the Times, from the Romance Writers and Historians of those Ages (1774). BACK

People mentioned

May, John (1775–1856) (mentioned 1 time)
Nares, Robert (1753–1829) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Cottles (mentioned 1 time)