834. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [early September 1803]

834. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [early September 1803] ⁠* 

The language of that political department [1]  I abominate as much as you can do, & have often pointed out its abomination to the author. [2]  on the general tenor of the opinions I look with a more favourable eye, & also on the omnifarious knowledge & powerful talent which even thro the medium of such a style so fixes the attention & impresses the memory. The book is not before me but from recollection I can enumerate most of the articles which are mine. Of the travels Sauers. Mackenzie, Pallas, Mrs Guthrie, Acerbi, Olivier Zucker, the Baptist Mission my best article – the Spanish Tesoro, Coxes Life of Lord Walpole – Recherches sur l’origin de l’Imprimerie Le Kains Life – Poetry by the author of Gebir & a few other trifling ephemeræ. [3]  Soulavies Memoirs [4]  I learn were done by my brother Henry, how well I cannot judge not having the volume before me. Chasteaubriands most French book [5]  is by Mrs Barbauld. so also that ill natured abuse of poor John Woodville, [6]  who deserved sentence of hanging – with a recommendation to mercy for sundry good things, & not to be broken on the wheel.

There seems a good deal of understrappery in the volume, of very indifferent journeymens-work. yet on the whole it is the best Review – for the Edinburgh is no Review at all, it never conveys xx information respecting the book reviewed. generally speaking unless a review be analytical it is good for nothing. – Two good instances of editorial management occurred to me in the printing this volume — th a volume of the General Biography [7]  was sent me – one might as well review a dictionary. I gave it half a dozen lines of general praise, which I hope that Angel who writes short hand for the trials at the last Assizes has not put down in his indictment against me – & I remarked that Tom Coryat [8]  the traveller was omitted. now Dr Aikin being the main spring of this work the book was turned over to some body else to be noticed at length, which has accordingly been done, & no notice taken of the omission which I had accidentally discovered. So much for family interest. In reviewing the life of Bonaparte I had advanced reasons for disbelieving or doubting the stories of Jaffa & the poison – God knows for no love of the scoundrel – but I like to hate a man fairly.  [9]  this has been omitted. I tell you these as anecdotes how these things are carried on. for the whole business of reviewing I connect as little pride with it as pleasure, & am perfectly indifferent to what becomes of my xxxxxx work after the bill is paid.

I will look at Tyrtæus [10]  & perhaps try but I am afraid the water is beyond my depth. the Morning Post calls upon me for more rhymes. you know that Laureateship is my best appointment. I have no heart to do any thing just now. the only subject on which I know I could write well, is one which upon which it would be very unwise to give vent to my feelings. Some national songs I think of – some Epigrams I have scrawled all to one tune of which take one for its witlessness.

Gallus et Taurus [11] 

All Europe from one end to t’other
Of this great war is full.
God bless us heres a mighty pother
About a Cock & a Bull.

Your old countryman Owen [12]  could not have resisted this jokeling had it come in his way.

God bless you.

R S.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr. M.P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Endorsement: Sep 1st 1803
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 328-330 [where it is dated September 1803].
Dating note: Dated from content. BACK

[1] The political section of the Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803). BACK

[3] Southey reviewed the following in the Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803): Martin Sauer (dates unknown), An Account of a Geographical and Astronomical Expedition to the Northern Parts of Russia Performed by Joseph Billings in the Years 1785-1796 (1802), 7-17; Alexander MacKenzie (1763/4-1820; DNB), Voyages from Montreal, on the River St Laurence, through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the Years 1789 and 1793 (1802), 18-30; Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811), Travels through the Southern Provinces of the Russian Empire, in the Years 1793 and 1794 (1802), 66-73; Maria Guthrie (dates unknown), A Tour Performed in the Years 1795-6, through the Taurida, or Crimea (1802), 62-66; Giuseppi Acerbi (1773-1846), Travels through Sweden, Finland and Lapland, to the North Cape, in the Years 1798 and 1799 (1802), 45-56; Guillaume Antoine Olivier (1756-1814), Travels in the Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Persia (1801), 89-101; Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society (1800-1801), 207-218; Augustin Louis Josse (1763-1841; DNB), El Tesoro Espanol o Biblioteca Portatil Espanola (1802), 557-566; William Coxe, Memoirs of Horatio, Lord Walpole (1802), 599-601; Pierre Lambinet (1742-1813), Recherches Historiques, Litteraires et Critiques sur l’Origine de l’Imprimerie (1799), 704-711; Henri Louis Cain (1728-1778), Memoires de Henri Louis Le Kain (1801), 595-599; Poetry by the Author of Gebir (1802), 663-666. Southey does not name his reviews of Frederick Augustus Fischer (1771-1829), Travels in Spain in 1797 and 1798 (1802), 35-43 and Henry Kett (1761-1825; DNB), Elements of General Knowledge, Introductory to Useful Books in the Principal Branches of Literature and Science (1802), 579-584. Nor does he name the review attributed to him in Charles Cuthbert Southey, Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), VI, p. 398 of Francis Wrangham (1769-1842; DNB), Poems (1802), 655-657. BACK

[4] Jean-Louis Giraud-Soulavie (1751-1813), Historical and Political Memoirs of Louis XVI (1802), Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 308-311. BACK

[5] Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand (1768-1848), Genie du Christianisme ou Beautes de la Religion Chretienne (1802), Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 247-255. BACK

[6] Charles Lamb’s John Woodvil: a Tragedy (1802), reviewed in the Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 688-692. BACK

[7] John Aikin et al, General Biography; or Lives, Critical and Historical, of the Most Eminent Persons of all Ages, Countries, Conditions, and Professions, Arranged According to Alphabetical Order, vol. 3 (1802), reviewed in Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 617-622. Aikin’s son, Arthur Aikin, was the editor of the Annual Review from 1802-1808. BACK

[8] Thomas Coryate (1577-1617; DNB), traveller and writer. BACK

[9] Jean-Louis Dubroca (dates unknown), The Life of Bonaparte, First Consul of France, from His Birth to the Peace of Luneville. Translated from the French (1802) was reviewed in Annual Review for 1802, 1 (1803), 623-625. As published, the review says ‘of course no hint is given of the massacre at Jaffa, and the more atrocious tale of the poisoned soldiers’. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821, First Consul 1799-1804, Emperor of the French 1804-1814) had conquered Jaffa in March 1799, ordering the execution of 3,000 Turkish soldiers. When he evacuated Jaffa on 27 May 1799 he ordered 50 or so soldiers who could not accompany the army because they were too ill with plague to be poisoned with laudanum – though there is no record of any of them dying from this ‘treatment’. BACK

[10] Tyrtaeus (7th century BC) was a poet who lived in Sparta. Only fragments of his verse survive. Some of it exhorts the Spartans to bravery and was turned into marching songs by the Spartan army. Possibly Wynn had suggested Southey should translate some of Tyrtaeus’s verses to aid the patriotic effort in 1803. BACK

[11] Morning Post, 15 December 1803. BACK

[12] Probably the Anglo-Welsh satirist and lover of bon mots Richard Owen Cambridge (1717-1802; DNB), Southey reviewed the posthumous edition of his Works (1803) in the Annual Review for 1803, 2 (1804), 583-585. BACK

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