601. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 19 August 1801

601. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 19 August 1801 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I know not ubi diabolus [1]  to direct to you. losing the chance of hitting you at Oswestry I have been in hope of hearing from you– but doubtless you have in the same manner lost sight of me – I move the end of this week for Keswick where you will direct.

Ellis’s book [2]  made me angry that he had incorporated the whole of his former volume instead of leaving it untouched. new extracts could have been made with little trouble – & very many might have been better. of Quarles [3]  he is strangely ignorant as indeed of all the poets of that day with whom I am acquainted. his historical sketch is very [MS obscured] & must have cost great labour.

It is a serious evil that no man of adequate talents will take the Welsh antiquities in hand, & that no encouragement is given those who do. Owens has translated Llywarc Hen badly [4]  – that is evident – yet his version is better than none, & eminently useful to all who want that information either in old history or our old manners. I wish that the Literary Society [5]  as they call themselves would employ their fund better. they will give any man of Letters – ten pounds – who will ask for it with proper certificates &c – but they will not pay him for executing a wanted work. I would have them pay Owen if no abler can be found to translate Taliessin – Aneurin [6]  &c & advance money for the publication taking the risk themselves. he would think himself well paid with fifty pounds a volume, – so should the Metrical Romances &c be edited. thus would their funds be of public utility – now they are only collected for the ostentation of patronage & do no more good than any common alms. I am fretted about your Welsh books, feeling the want so sorely. & if ever it should please God that I should have a settled home in England <this island> I would wish it to be on the South side of some Welsh mountain, that I might conversationally learn the language, & do something for those who will come after me.

For Madoc [7]  I am rummaging the dirty dunghill of Irish antiquities – in which I have discovered two tricks of pure Paddyism. the one that of dying their shirts &c with saffron [8]  – to keep them clean – a pretty origin of the Orange badge – the other that of making balls for their slingers of brick-dust & blood. [9] 

In the Welsh books – the Odyssey-part of Madoc – I design to introduce old Giraldus [10]  excommunicating Owen Cyveilioc [11]  (– as he did –) for not going to the Crusade. & to remove the interview with Llewellyn [12]  to the Island of Bardsy – which I wish to visit. he shall also take a dog who is to be found in Giraldus [13]  with him, – the poor beast watched his masters corpse for eight days – I can make him useful & he ought to have his fame – only how to christen him? have xxxx you any decent dog names in Wales? – for the Propria quæ canibus [14]  of England are vile –

I have read & laughed over Irelands Ballads [15]  – a fellow who thinks that to write badly is to write like the old Poets – & that hey no nonny is worth reviving.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

Aug. 19. 1801


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ 5. Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Endorsement: Aug 29/ 1801
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 166-168 [misdated 29 August 1801]. BACK

[1] The colloquial Latin translates as ‘where the devil’. BACK

[2] George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets (1801). The first edition had been published in 1790. BACK

[3] Francis Quarles (1592-1644; DNB), poet, best-known for Emblemes, Divine and Moral (1635). BACK

[4] William Owen Pughe, The Heroic Elegies and Other Pieces of Llywarc Hen (1792). BACK

[5] The Royal Literary Fund, set up in 1790. BACK

[6] Taliesin (6th century), Welsh poet, whose work survives in the medieval Book of Taliesin; Aneurin (6th-7th century), Welsh poet, author of the epic ‘Y Gododdin’, contained in the 13th-century Book of Aneirin. BACK

[7] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was hoping to revise it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[8] Sir James Ware (1595-1666; DNB), ‘The Antiquities of Ireland’ in The Works of James Ware Concerning Ireland Revised and Improved, 3 vols (Dublin, 1739-1746), II, p. 178. Southey noted this down; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), II, p. 255. BACK

[9] Sylvester O’Halloran (1728-1807; DNB), A General History of Ireland, from the Earliest Accounts to the Close of the Twelfth Century, 2 vols (London, 1778), II, p. 224. Southey made a note of this; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), II, p. 238. BACK

[10] Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146-c. 1223), clergyman and chronicler. BACK

[11] Owain Cyveilioc (c. 1130- c. 1197), poet and Prince of Powys. He was excommunicated in 1188 for refusing to support the Third Crusade, an incident Southey used in Part I, Book 15 of Madoc (1805). BACK

[12] Llewelyn ‘the Great’ (c. 1173-1240; DNB), Prince of Gwynedd and effective ruler of Wales in his later years. Madoc’s meeting with Llewelyn on Bardsey occurs in Part I, Book 13 of Madoc (1805). BACK

[13] Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146- c. 1223), Itinerary through Wales (1191), Book 2, Chapter 10. Southey was not able to introduce the faithful dog into Madoc (1805). BACK

[14] The Latin translates as ‘[names] which are appropriate for dogs’. BACK

[15] William Henry Ireland (1775-1835; DNB), Ballads in Imitation of the Antient (1801). BACK

People mentioned

Pughe, William Owen (1759–1835) (mentioned 2 times)
Ellis, George (1753–1815) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)