2819. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 2 July 1816

2819. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 2 July 1816⁠* 

Tuesday 2 July. 1816

My dear Wynn

Do not imagine that any circumstances would ever render me indifferent to any thing which concerned your happiness. [1]  My state of mind as it regards my own loss is what it should be, & admits of no repining thought or feeling: least of all occasions would any such feeling occur upon the present, – an event of which I have so truly wished to hear.

I hope to see you here. If I leave home this year it must be for a longer journey than to Wales. Bedford I think must lose his mother ere long, – she is not in immediate danger, but she may be so at any moment, – that she should recover is nearly impossible, & any day may the disorder may assume a fatal character. Whenever this event happens, if it be possible for me to get from home I should wish to go with Grosvenor for five or six weeks to the continent, – the best thing for him, – & which would be wholesome for me also. During my last trip I kept a minute journal, [2]  & were I to go thro the rest of the Netherlands the knowledge which I have acquired from books, & which I have the means of obtaining in that country, would enable me to make a volume that should do me no discredit; & would pay the expences of my journey.

As to the mention of the Catholic Question, the character of the poem rendered it indispensible. [3]  The Sovereign of this country has no more imperative duty than that of preserving the institutions of the country. That the Roman Catholicks will ever succeed in building up their own Church here I do not believe, – but they may go a great way in assisting to pull our church down, – & a church xxxx which is undermined, which is battered in breach, – & which has the dry rot to boot, is in a bad way for durability. That you will carry the question for I take for granted, – from the total want of activity in your opponents. [4]  You would not carry it if most of the men who sit upon the wool sacks were not as soft as the wool which they sit on. [5]  The next demand which the Catholicks make is for a Catholick Establishment in Ireland, – & upon this quarrel (into which every Paddy Rampant will enter as into a crusade) you will have a civil war; – & if it <be> delayed till the Bourbons feel safe upon their throne, you will find far more danger from a Bourbon xxx fomenting a Catholick Rebellion, – than ever you did from a Directory instigating a republican one. [6]  – The question will not however be easily carried, – this business in the South of France has opened the eyes of the Dissenters, & you may probably calculate upon some act of folly in the Irish. [7] Gifford is so connected with Canning that the Quarterly will probably be enlisted on that side, – in that case I shall most likely publish a pamphlett upon the subject.

Tho I cannot come to you at present (my fellow traveller Nash, who made the drawings for me [8]  is just arrived) – at some future time I hope to go over Madocs ground, [9]  that I may improve the poem by interweaving local descriptions. My race as a poet is nearly run – if I finish what I have begun, it is likely xx little likely that I shall ever begin any thing more. Solve senescentem. [10]  The hours which I might be able to spare for such pursuits in declining life would be better employed in correcting my former poems than in attempting any thing more.

I have received Mr Rochejaquelein for the next number, [11]  & written a paper upon bettering the condition of the Poor. [12]  I am about to take Pinckards shallow book for a text, & write upon the West Indies. [13]  – My mind is reconciled to remaining here, – & having worn out the first inclination of flying from the spot, in all likelihood I shall never remove from it. I am perfectly at ease respecting the future circumstances of my family, ––– were I to be removed immediately there would be a provision for them, & if I live some few years it will be in my power to save money. All things considered I have been singularly fortunate; – nor can shall I ever be unmindful how much this has been owing to you.

God bless you my dear Wynn. present my congratulations to your wife, & believe me

Most affectionately yours

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ Acton/ near/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 30–32. BACK

[1] Southey’s only son, Herbert, had died on 17 April 1816. Wynn’s first son to survive infancy, Henry Watkin Williams Wynn (1816–1832), was born on 29 June 1816. BACK

[2] Finally published as Journal of a Tour in the Netherlands in the Autumn of 1815 (1902). BACK

[3] Southey’s The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816). It celebrated the marriage of Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) on 2 May 1816. The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816), ‘The Dream’, stanzas 40–57, contained a lengthy lecture to the royal couple from the ‘Angel of the English Church’ on the need to uphold the privileges of the Church of England, especially against the ‘inveterate malice’ of the Catholic Church (the ‘Harlot old’; stanza 52, line 2). BACK

[4] Wynn favoured the removal of civil disabilities from Roman Catholics and the attempt to do so was a staple opposition measure; but the Catholic Relief Bill failed again in 1816. BACK

[5] The Lord Chancellor, who presided over the House of Lords, as well as being a senior judge and a cabinet minister, sat on a woolsack while acting as Speaker of the House of Lords. The occupant of this office in 1816 was John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751–1838; DNB), Lord Chancellor 1801–1806, 1807–1827, a notorious reactionary and opponent of Catholic Emancipation, so Southey may be using ‘the men who sit upon the wool sacks’ as a general term for the House of Lords. BACK

[6] The five-man Directory which governed France in 1795–1799 had supported the Irish rising of 1798. BACK

[7] The conflicts between supporters and opponents of the French Revolution in 1815–1816 included clashes between Protestants and Catholics in the South of France, where there was a significant Calvinist minority. This produced many protests from English Nonconformists, including Southey’s friend John Prior Estlin in his On Persecution: A Discourse. To which are added Extracts from the Report of the Persecution of the French Protestants, by C. Perrot (1816). BACK

[8] Nash produced seven of the eight drawings for The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). BACK

[9] Wynn lived at Llangedwin in North Wales; and much of Madoc (1805), Part One was set in this part of the country. Southey did not fulfil his intention. BACK

[10] Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BC), Epistles, Book 1, Epistle 1, lines 8–9: ‘Put your aged, broken horse out to pasture’. BACK

[11] Amable Guillaume Prosper Brugiere, Baron de Barante (1782–1866), Mémoires de Madame la Marquise de la Roche Jacquelein, écrits par elle-même (1815), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 1–69. BACK

[12] Southey’s article on ‘On the Poor’ was published in the Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235. BACK

[13] George Pinckard (1768–1835; DNB), Notes on the West Indies (1806). A second edition was published in 1816. Southey possessed both editions, nos 2243–2244 in the sale catalogue of his library. He did not review this book as Murray refused to accept a pro-abolitionist article for the Quarterly Review. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)
Nash, Edward (1778–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Bedford family (mentioned 1 time)
Gifford, William (1756–1826) (mentioned 1 time)
Canning, George (1770–1827) (mentioned 1 time)