2841. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 September 1816

2841. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 September 1816⁠* 

My dear Wynn

There are but few points upon which you & I should disagree when we understood each other. [1]  Upon that of the farms we are perfectly agreed, – my position being that the smallest which can be cultivated with adequate advantage to the cultivator is best. – Your plan respecting the churches is so simple & so good that one wonders it should not have been hit upon before, – & the very means proposed would include good in itself – for the service is at present too long. I have not seen the E Review – but from all I hear it seems xxx fit that I should regularly see it, for the advantage which it would give me. Some day I shall come it upon it with a heavy hand & a whip of scorpions. Malthus’s proposal which this precious Review has reviewed, you will see treated, exactly as you regard it, in my former paper upon the Poor (No 16.) [2] x & I wish you would cast your eye upon <over> those pages of that paper which speak of the state of public opinion as influenced by the newspapers. for some years I have believed (& most reluctantly believed xx) that we are hurrying on towards a Revolution, which according to all xx symptoms will not be less bloody nor less destructive than what has been witnessed in France. [3]  The three men in the world of <in> whose judgement I have the highest most confidence have, I know, the same ominous apprehension; & each has formed it for himself, uninfluenced by, & even unknown to, the others. [4]  I am afraid that this danger will never be perceived on your side the house, – it seems in the nature of partys spirit to make men suppose that they can always direct the whirlwind, & believe that the storm which wrecks their rivals will blow them into port. I wish you were in office for many reasons & for this among others, – that if you were, I think you xxx would lend your aid manfully & efficiently towards checking an evil, which if it be not checked will, I verily believe, involve us in utter ruin. Nine tenths of the provincial papers are now as mischievous as ever Paine [5]  was, – & you know better than I do what is the complexion of the London weekly magazines of sedition. [6] 

From what you told me of Reginald Hebers notions I imagine that he & I should agree in the main in your <our> views respecting a sort of comprehension of the Methodists, - [7]  toward which your plan for the xxx service in the school houses would contribute greatly.

Since you were here I have been much in company, to the dissipation of more time than I can well afford to lose. We have had here the Secretaries of the Bible Society one of whom I knew formerly at Bristol [8]  – the King of Prussias Librarian, [9] Rogers, – Glover, [10]  young Westall who is lodging here, Sir G Beaumont (also resident) – Owen of Lanark [11]  – a son of the Duke of Brescia [12]  &c &c &c – My Tea – Table d’hote as I call it is supplied with as curious a succession of guests at this season of the year as could be found perhaps any where in England. x xx Heber talks of coming. – I have been twice on Causey Pike since our expedition there, – on one of these walks the two Ediths [13]  & Bertha were with me, – they carted it to the foot of the hill, – & on our descent we dined beside the stream in the bottom. The other was with Rogers, Wordsworth, & Sir George Beaumont – neither of whom had been there before: – Wordsworth agrees with me that there is no finer point in the whole land of mountains.

I will send Oliver Newman in a few days. [14]  – A book of Toms lettering must [MS illegible] for an opportunity of conveyance.

What think you of a club of Atheists meeting twice a week at an Alehouse in Keswick, to enjoy the pleasure of denying God & Devil, – & the Landlady of their way of thinking? – Our Reverend Porpoise here is a Magistrate also; [15]  – but he nods in the reading desk, & sleeps on the bench.

God bless you


11 Sept. 1816


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ Llangedwin/ near/ Oswestry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The following passages respond to Wynn’s comments on Southey’s article ‘On the Poor’, published in the Quarterly Review, 15 (April 1816), 187–235. BACK

[2] Southey’s article in Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. It contained (320–327) a denunciation of Thomas Malthus (1766–1834; DNB), An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) and in particular Malthus’s proposal in the second edition of 1803 to abolish poor relief for children born after a certain date. Malthus was a Whig and his work received a number of supportive comments from Whig journals, e.g. Edinburgh Review, 11 (October 1807), 100–116. BACK

[3] Southey’s article on the Poor Laws in Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356, especially 341–343. BACK

[4] The three men were possibly John Hookham Frere, John Rickman and Daniel Stuart. BACK

[5] Thomas Paine (1737–1809; DNB), author of The Rights of Man (1792). BACK

[6] Southey may have had in mind weekly newspapers with a national circulation, like the Political Register (1802–1835) and Examiner (1808–1886). BACK

[7] Plans for reintegrating Methodism within the Church of England. BACK

[8] The Secretaries of the British and Foreign Bible Society (founded 1804): John Owen (1766–1822; DNB), Curate of Fulham 1795–1813; and Joseph Hughes (1769–1833; DNB), Baptist Minister who held various posts at Bristol’s Broadmead Baptist Church 1791–1796, where he met Southey. BACK

[9] Samuel Heinrich Spiker (1786–1858). An English translation of his account of his experiences in Britain was later published as Travels through England, Wales, & Scotland, in the Year 1816, 2 vols (London, 1820). His meeting with Southey was described on I, pp. 269–272. Naturally, Spiker was most interested in Southey’s library. BACK

[10] John Glover (1767–1849; DNB), the watercolour painter who owned Blowick Farm in Patterdale, on Ullswater. BACK

[11] Robert Owen (1771–1858; DNB), manager and owner of the mills and model community at New Lanark in Scotland 1799–1825. BACK

[12] Unidentified. BACK

[14] Southey’s unfinished epic on seventeenth-century New England, ‘Oliver Newman’. BACK

[15] Isaac Denton (c. 1758–1820), Vicar of Crosthwaite, Keswick 1786–1820; as a magistrate, he was responsible for licensing alehouses. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)