3148. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 7 June 1818

3148. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 7 June 1818⁠* 

Keswick. 7 June. 1818

My dear Wynn

I thank you for Dr O Connors letter, & am very glad he can derive any pleasure from the expression of the high value which I set upon his labours, – such labours having very little to remunerate them except the gratification by which the employment itself affords. [1]  Thank you also for the Reports of the Copy-right Committee. The part of this business which most concerns me is the term of years, which the booksellers seem xxx willing to give up. Now in my case a prolongation of the term is of much more consequence than the eleven copies, – for my books make their way slowly, they have a steady sale, & there will be a greater demand for them in the first three or four years after my death than there ever has been, or will be, during in the same length of time which I x during my life. But xx the greater number of them will then have become common property. And the only means I can see of perceive of securing any advantage from them to my children, is, by never publishing a single xxxx improvement in any of them as long as I live, but reserving all corrections & alterations & additions for a posthumous edition. [2] 

I read Lambes death in the newspaper, [3]  & thought more of him, poor fellow, in consequence, than I had done for the last four & twenty years. – Do you remember Bean [4]  who was in the remove with me? he had a good strong head & an excellent heart. Two or three years ago I called at his brothers [5]  to enquire for him, & learnt that he was soon expected home from India, to settle in England upon the money which he had saved as an Army Surgeon, & the half pay, to which from length of service he was entitled. – Just about that time he was murdered by some Malay boatmen for the regimental money which he was carrying to one of the E Indian islands. Tis a melancholy thing when we have got more than half way over Mirzas bridge [6]  to look about us, & see how many of those who set out with us on the passage have fallen short by the way. I should have had real pleasure in meeting again with Bean, – all that was good in him was of the permanent kind, he had travelled widely, & would have come home with an extensive knowledge of men & things. Poor Lambe on the contrary xxx xx xxxxxfor want of had become a mere idle man {heir} of fortune, & not having ha {his} estates to manage while his father lived had not even that occupation to keep him from frivolities. He was an old man at thirty, & that too being of a family in which it is degeneracy to die at an age short of fourscore.

Scarcely a week passes in which I do not dream of Westminster, so strong a hold have those years upon the mind.

You franked me a letter some time ago from General Craufurd which has led to a correspondence with him. He has sent me some observations upon the Spanish war, – & among my Inscriptions I there was an epitaph for his brother which I was glad to communicate to him. [7]  I have written no poetry for many months, nor shall I have leisure for any this year, unless a much stronger inclination should arise for it, that I ever xxxx expect to feel. Before I set out for London in November I must bring forth the last volume of Brazil, & the life of Wesley. [8]  Of the former about a third is printed, of Wesley the sixth sheet (in octavo) is lying on my table.

I may tell you that the office of Librarian to the Advocates Library [9]  at Edinburgh was offered me the other day, – 400£ a year, with the prospect of an increase, & the labour of forming a catalogue. – Few persons would dislike such labour less, – but I am better employed. I do not love great cities. I will not remove farther from my friends (being already too far from them) – & having, God be thanked, nor wants xxxx no anxieties as far pecuniary anxieties, I am contented where I am & as I am, – wanting nothing, & wishing nothing.

I hope you are all ere this well thro the hooping cough, – this & the measles are among the things to which I look & fear.

God bless you my dear Wynn


Let me give you a specimen of the electioneering temper in Westmoreland. Wordsworths daughter [10]  (about 13 years old) was walking in Kendal with a yellow ribband, – one woman struck her a smart blow across the lips, & another pushed her out of the street into a shop, saying at the same time Lowther for never, A knife in his heart, & a fork in his liver. [11] 


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqre M.P./ Whitehall/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 10 JU 10/ 1818
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 48123D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 90–92. BACK

[1] The work Southey admired was Charles O’Conor (1764–1828; DNB), Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores Veteres, 4 vols (1814–1826), no. 2112 in the sale catalogue of his library. This was an edition of some of the manuscripts in the library at Stowe. O’Conor was the chaplain of Mary, Marchioness of Buckinghamshire (d. 1812). Her husband, George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham (1753–1813; DNB), provided financial support for the project. BACK

[2] Southey was asking Wynn for the Report of the House of Commons Select Committee on the Copyright Acts (1818). He wrote on the ‘Inquiry into the Copyright Act’, in Quarterly Review, 21 (January 1819), 196–219. Southey disliked the law that required publishers to deliver 11 copies of all works to ‘copyright’ libraries, describing it as ‘downright robbery’; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 13 April 1813], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part Four, Letter 2246. But he was even more concerned about the position under the Copyright Act of 1814 that an author (or his heirs) only retained rights in his work for 28 years after publication, or his life if longer. Alterations to published works made them into new editions subject to copyright, so if these were reserved until after Southey’s death this would prolong his family’s rights in his work. BACK

[3] Lamb had died on 13 May 1818. BACK

[4] William Bean (c. 1774–1813). The eldest son of an apothecary at Camberwell Green; he was educated at Westminster School with Southey and became an Army surgeon in various regiments in the West Indies and then in India. When his ship foundered on the way from Java to Bombay he was murdered by some of the crew. BACK

[5] Possibly Edward Bean (dates unknown), who continued to run the family apothecary business in Camberwell. BACK

[6] The Bridge of Human Life, as described in Joseph Addison (1672–1719; DNB) ‘The Vision of Mirza’, first published in The Spectator, 159 (1 September 1711). BACK

[7] Major-General Robert Craufurd (1764–1812; DNB), commander of the Light Division in the British army in the Peninsular War. Craufurd was mortally wounded leading his troops into a breach in the city walls at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812. Southey’s inscription ‘For the Walls of Ciudad Rodrigo’ praises Craufurd; it was not published until Southey’s Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 150–151. BACK

[8] Southey was preparing the final volume of his History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819) and his The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism (1820). BACK

[9] The Advocates Library, founded in 1689, is the library of the Faculty of Advocates (the Scottish equivalent of barristers) in Edinburgh and was at this time a copyright library. Alexander Manners, the incumbent, had tendered his resignation as Librarian on 10 April 1818. His successor, David Irving (1778–1860; DNB), was not appointed until 1820. BACK

[10] Dorothy ‘Dora’ Wordsworth (1804–1847). BACK

[11] At the general election in June 1818 the Lowther family’s dominance of the Westmorland constituency was contested for the first time since 1774, by Henry Brougham. Canvassing and campaigning were marked by a great deal of disorder, especially in Kendal. The Lowther colours were yellow, while Brougham’s colours were blue. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)


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