705. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [13 August 1802]

705. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [13 August 1802] ⁠* 

Friday night.

To night I have been overhauling old papers – a business which to me is truly detestable – old recollections rise as if it were a rehearsal of Doomsday. old mirth that makes one unhappy – & letters from those who are dead! – a whole heap are already piled for the candle – another I have thrown aside as precious materials for

The Whole Works &c

of the late

Robert Southey! –

a publication which I hope may be long delayed – but such a heap I shall lay by. I have received too many odd letters to be all wasted.

You see what I send you. among the burnanda are a theme which Vincent  [1]  returned with a long row for abusing Burke [2]  in it – & a fragment of the ribband about which Morrell [3]  & Joe Phillimore quarrelled & fought & made a rebellion, eleven years ago. [4]  so long is it since I was a school boy –

Some letters have made me more than ordinarily serious. the two which I received from Lisbon on my being rejected at Ch. Church – & afterward on abandoning Oxford. [5]  ten years have materially altered me. the flavour of the liquor is the same – & I believe it is still sound – but it has ceased to froth & to sparkle. – what what avails it to discover where <& how> you lost your way upon a road that is never more to be travelled? –

Howbeit there is a long account to balance the loss. in no other circumstances should I have possessed the powers & knowledge which I now feel. – there they lie – & I wish my Executor – that is the Gentleman whoever he be that will one day execute me biographically – or rather necrologically dissect me – had the trouble of picking them up & arranging them.

There are more relics of poor Bunbury – for my own <part> I hate these memorials & had almost as lief meet the ghost of a dead friend as these bodily & tangible remembrancers. there are some savages who bury with the dead all his arms & cloathes – I am somewhat of their way of feeling only burning would be better — & a high wind for the ashes.

God bless you Wynn

I wrote this morning to Wrexham before your letter came & inclosed the Dog story. [6] 


* Endorsement: Aug/ 1802
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. AL; 2p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 202-203 [in part].
Dating note: Dated from the letter’s content. The letter belongs to early-mid August 1802, and was written after that to Wynn of [6 August 1802]. BACK

[1] i.e. work returned to the schoolboy Southey. BACK

[2] Edmund Burke (1729/30-1797; DNB). BACK

[3] Southey’s Westminster contemporary Deacon Morrell (d. 1854), in later life a clergyman. BACK

[4] When Morrell and Phillimore fought each other in November 1791 the whole school turned out to watch them, refusing the headmaster’s summons to return. BACK

[5] i.e. letters sent to Southey by Herbert Hill in 1792 and 1794, respectively. Vincent had been instrumental in Southey’s rejection by Christ Church, Oxford; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, [c. 29 September 1792], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 1, Letter 25. BACK

[6] The ‘dog Story’ came from Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá (1555-1620), who served as a captain in the 1598 expedition that first colonised New Mexico. His epic Historia de la Nueva México (1610), Canto 19, lines 221-244, described how he was forced to kill his dog for food. However, he then found he was unable to eat the animal. Southey’s letter containing the story has not survived. BACK

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