584. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [started before and continued on] 14 June 1801

584. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [started before and continued on] 14 June 1801 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Your letter by a very unlucky accident did not reach me till the Packet which brought it was under weigh for the return – an hour earlier & I might have answerd it – a day earlier & I would have taken my departure. since then we have lost a packet. I return in the next which would have sailed on Sunday if Frere [1]  had not before its arrival engaged an armed vessel to carry dispatches.

I am only afraid the situation you mention [2]  is more adapted for a single than a married man. except this it is every way desirable. a fortnights practise will enable me to write French. I never shall speak it decently – but I can make myself be understood, & in these things habit is all in all. – our packet sails the middle or end of next week. let me find a letter from you at Falmouth. I shall remain two or three days at Bristol, & if you are in London proceed to town. – you have given me Robinson Crusoeish [3]  dreams about Greece & Asia Minor & Troy – & I shall be bitterly disappointed if neither Etna nor Vesuvius [4]  treat me with an illumination.

We are within a hundred miles of the seat of war [5]  & are almost as ignorant of what is going on as you can be. this only we know that any <people> but Spaniards would conquer the country & any soldiers but Portugueze utterly destroy the Spanish army. both armies are in want. for the loaf which here is 40 reas – 480 have been offered in the camp, & by the last account it sold for 240. the soldiers have been sixty hours without bread. now they have half a loaf a day – which is about half a breakfast – & their allowance of rice is diminished in consideration. the old Duke [6]  meantime sends to Lisbon for his water, to a particular fountain. Why the French linger we know not unless they are concluding a peace. without generals – without money, food or ammunition, Portugal has no alternative. all the Saints have been called in. I saw a special procession on Sunday last. The miraculous Image our Lord of the Sufferings is now in the Cathedral where the men & women of rank set the example of first putting his heel against each eye & then kissing it. yesterday I went to see this ceremony. no doubt is entertained here that peace must be made by the expulsion of the English, still a heavy calamity to the settlers, tho much of the property has been removed. the prospect for the inhabitants is dismal. Alentejo their corn-country is the seat of war & famine appears inevitable. the English families begin to move & some of the merchants are sending away their fam wives & children, that they may be the less embarrassed at last. I should like to have staid to “see de fun.” – the conduct of the court towards the Galegos [7]  is characteristic. they ordered them all out of the Kingdom within 15 days. this was sending from 30 – to 50,000 working men – who knew the country – to the Spaniards who would immediately form an army of them. they are the water-carriers here – the porters – the servants – almost exclusively. to supply their places Portugal must thin her armies. they found out this & fell upon all underhand shifts to prevent the execution of their own order. first they forbade all carriers to take any Gallegos baggage. then they refused to grant them passports. at last they issued another edict to make them stay.

June 14 Saturday. The armed vessel sails this morning instead of tomorrow & I have the news so late that I doubt whether this will be in time. it will carry the news of peace. [8]  the terms not yet transpired – but necessarily bad.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately RS.

Will you be good enough – as I have no possible time – to write a line to Danvers telling him I come by the next packet. we go to his mothers house immediately & therefore he should be apprized. 9. St Jamess Place Kingsdown Bristol –


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ 5. Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: LISBON
Postmark: [partial] FOREIGN OFFICE/ JY
Endorsement: June 14 1801
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Adolfo Cabral (ed.), Robert Southey: Journals of a Residence in Portugal 1800-1801 and a Visit to France 1838 (Oxford, 1960), pp. 173-175. BACK

[1] John Hookham Frere (1769-1846; DNB); educated at Eton, and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (BA 1792, MA 1795); MP for West Looe 1796-1802; envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Portugal 1800-1802 and then to Spain 1802-1804, 1808-1809. Also a poet, he contributed parodies to the Anti-Jacobin 1797-1798. BACK

[2] Secretary to Sir William Drummond (c. 1770-1828; DNB), classical scholar, poet and diplomat. Charges d’Affaires in Denmark 1800-1801, Minister-Plenipotentiary in Naples 1801-1803 and 1807-1808, and Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1803. BACK

[3] Daniel Defoe (1659-1731; DNB), Robinson Crusoe (1719). BACK

[4] Two volcanoes in the Kingdom of Naples, where Wynn had proposed that Southey take a post as secretary to Sir William Drummond. BACK

[5] Spain had invaded the Alantejo province of Portugal on 20 May 1801. BACK

[6] Joao Carlos de Braganca e Ligne de Sousa Tavares Mascarenhas de Silva, Duke of Lafoes (1719-1806), Secretary of State (prime minister) 6 January–21 May 1801, and commander of the Portuguese army sent to resist the Spanish invasion. BACK

[7] Inhabitants of Galicia in North West Spain. BACK

[8] Portugal and Spain ended their brief conflict with the Treaty of Badajoz, signed on 6 June 1801. Portugal agreed to close its ports to British ships, pay Spain’s costs incurred in the war and cede the border town of Olivenca to Spain. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Danvers’s, Kingsdown, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)