2918. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 14 February 1817

2918. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 14 February 1817⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Some person has sent me the M Chronicle with an advertisement of Wat Tyler by R Southey, – & a paragraph concerning it. [1]  – The facts are these, & I want your advice upon the matter. In xx I wrote this piece (for mine I suppose it is) in the winter of 1794, & poor Lovell took a copy to London which he put into Ridgeways hands (then in Newgate) – Ridgeway & Simmonds said they would publish it. [2]  – And there it ended, – they X I suppose thought better of it, – & from that hour till the present I never heard of the thing & scarcely ever thought of it, – except that in 1796 or 7 I began to remodel it, with the notion of making it good for something, – & transplanted from it a solitary line into Madoc –

Gently on man doth gentle nature lay
The weight of years. –  [3] 

Ridgeway must have acted like a rascal, – which perhaps may be only in his vocation. But Sherwood Neely & Jones are the publishers. [4]  Ought I in this case to obtain an injunction in Chancery? – If you think so, inclose this letter in a to xxxx Turner for him, & desire him to act for me. His direction is Red Lion Square.

There are few persons whom a thing of this kind would affect so little. For not to mention that one who has a grief at heart [5]  is very little sensible of a scratch upon his skin, I am not more ashamed of any errors which I committed in the 20th year of my age, than I was then of having misbehaved upon my nurses lap in infancy.

If it be expedient, as I suppose it is, to obtain an injunction, no time must be lost. My distance from London is in favour of the rascally publisher – who has not ventured to advertise it till it was ready, in apprehension of this step. – I should like to make him a loser by his rascality, – & it would xxxx xxx xxxx xxxx if serve him right if he were prosecuted for sedition.

God bless you my dear Wynn

yrs as ever


14 Feby. 1817.

I had forgotten to mention that nothing was ever paid for the MS. & thus a verbal bargain for a share of the profits might perhaps at this distance of time have justified Ridgeway in the publication, – it cannot apply to the present booksellers.


* Endorsement: 14 Feby 1817
MS: Houghton Library, MS Hyde 10. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] ‘A curious dramatic Poem, entitled Wat Tyler, by Mr. SOUTHEY, is just published’, Morning Chronicle, 12 February 1817. BACK

[2] Southey’s Jacobin drama Wat Tyler, which he had written in 1794 and sent to James Ridgway (1755–1838), and Henry Symonds (1741–1816), radical booksellers, for publication; see Robert Southey to Edith Fricker, [c. 12 January 1795], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 123. Ridgway and Symonds did not publish it and it remained in manuscript until a pirated publication, designed to embarrass the now anti-Jacobin Southey, appeared in 1817. Having taken advice from Wynn and Turner, Southey launched a suit in Chancery so as to gain an injunction suppressing the publication, on the grounds that it breached his copyright. BACK

[3] The adapted version of these lines appears in Southey’s Madoc (1805), Part One, Book 3, lines 220–221. BACK

[4] The firm of William Sherwood (1776–1837), Samuel Dunbar Neely (dates unknown) and Robert Jones (dates unknown). BACK

[5] Southey’s son, Herbert, had died on 17 April 1816. BACK

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