258. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [22 September 1797]

258. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [22 September 1797] ⁠* 

Bristol. Friday.

My dear Wynn

Your letter followed me here, where I came to pass some 5 or 6 days, & enjoy my earthly elysium — a printers office. I immediately ordered old Sir Edward, [1]  & the moment he arrives I shall begin closely & wholly to study him.

Have you a compleat Amadis de Gaul? if so there is a passage which I wish to quote & Tressans book [2]  is not so fit a one to quote from. it is the circumstance of the horse of Amadis being pierced by a spike on the pointral or chafron of another horse, in th one (I believe the first) of the engagements with Lisvart after he attacks the Firin Island to recover Oriana for Patin. it happened immediately after Amadis had defeated Gasquiline — I write from memory — but I believe state it accurately.

I have been reading old Froissart. [3]  after Sir Walter Manny & about a dozen Knights with three hundred archers had sallied out & broken an engine than annoyed them — the Countess of Montford met them in the on their return, & she kissed them all three or four times, like a noble & valiant Lady.

I have a great love for this plain quaintness of speech — it is often ludicrous, but it as often beautiful — & one who wishes to write good poetry now should read old prose.

Do you know Rousseaus Levite of Ephraim? [4]  if not — you will find a poem that has not a word too much. I see Roughs Lorenzino [5]  reviewed. I had not expected much — & yet was surprized to find the extracts so very bad. do you not think too meanly of my friend Miss Anna Sewards lines to me? [6]  the lines upon Crecy & the first in which she describes Henry show an acquaintance with at least the language of poetry. gospel faith & piety to be sure limp a little.

Mrs Barbauld [7]  has written some lines to Coleridge advising him to abandon metaphysics. the poem is not good. if however you are inclined to see it I will copy it for you.

Coleridge has written a tragedy [8]  — by request of Sheridan. [9]  it is uncommonly fine — tho every character appears to me to possess qualities totally which can not possibly exist in the same mind. but there is a man, whose name is not known in the world — Wordsworth — who has written great part of a tragedy, [10]  upon a very strange & unpleasant subject — but [MS obscured] is equal to any dramatic which pieces, [MS obscured] I have ever seen.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

R Southey.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ Wynnstay/ Wrexham/ Denbighshire
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: [illegible]
Endorsement: Sept 22/ 1797
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 147–149. BACK

[1] Edward Coke (1552–1643; DNB), Commentarie upon Littleton (1628), the first part of his four part Institutes of the Laws of England (1628–1644). BACK

[2] Louis-Élisabeth de la Vergne, Comte de Tressan (1705–1783), who in 1779 published an abridgement of the romance Amadis of Gaul. BACK

[3] Jean Froissart (c. 1337–c. 1410), Le Premier (-Quart) Volume De Messire Jehan Froissart Lequel Traicte de Choses Vingts de Memoire Advenues Tant es Pays de France, Angleterre, Flandres, Espaigne que Escoce, ets Aus Tres Lieux Circonvoisins (1530). BACK

[4] Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), La Lévite d’Ephraim (1781), a prose-poem based on Judges 19–21. BACK

[5] William Rough (1772–1838; DNB), Lorenzini di Medici (1797). BACK

[6] Anna Seward (1747–1809; DNB), ‘Written by Anna Seward, After Reading Southey’s Joan of Arc’, published in the Morning Chronicle, 5 August 1797. BACK

[7] Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743–1824; DNB), ‘To S. T. Coleridge, 1797’, appeared unsigned as ‘To Mr C_____ge’ in the Monthly Magazine, 7 (April 1799), 231–232. BACK

[8] Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s play Osorio. BACK

[9] Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816; DNB). BACK

[10] William Wordsworth’s drama, The Borderers. BACK

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