3733. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 29 September 1821

3733. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 29 September 1821⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Leverett [1]  is a real personage, – Governor of N England at that time, & believed to have been privy to Goffe & Whalleys [2]  place of concealment, & instrumental in saving them. There is a most extraordinary book called a History of the Three Judges, by Dr Ezra Stiles, one of the last Presidents of Yale College. [3]  Nothing more gossipping ever appeared in the Gentlemans Magazine; & nothing more thoroughly rancorous could have been written by Hugh Peters [4]  himself. And yet Ezra Stiles was xxxxxxx a kind simple–hearted creature, so that the milk of his nature, & the vengefulness of his prejudices make the strangest compound in the world. The book is valuable as a curiosity, & it has given me many useful hints. Leverett is certainly not a name that I should have chosen for the reason which you point out. – Randolph also is an historical character in xx very ill odour with the New Englanders. [5] 

I cannot call to mind my authority for the word accoil, tho I certainly used it in Roderick [6]  as an authorized word, – that is to say it occurred to me as such & I had no suspicion that it might be otherwise. Spenser I know uses the verb, [7]  – Ipecacuanha [8]  was in use long before that age. The word is Brazilian, & the medical properties of the plant were known in Europe soon after the discovery of the country where it grows.

I have had a very pleasing letter from Combe, who seems to have fallen into a peaceful & happy way of life, which might be thought natural too for a younger brother, if it were not unusual in these times. [9]  Ever since he left the Temple he has lived in his brothers house, & there he is likely to continue the main value of one of the livings which have just been given him being that it renders his residence there legal. The preferment which you saw noticed in the newspapers is from 3 to 400 a year, & he had two small perpetual curacies before, one of which was given him by Hanning. [10]  He is not married, & speaks of himself as leading a life of tranquil enjoyment in the house where he was born, – free from fat & the gout, & not more altered than must be expected from the wear & tear of time.

Your mention of Blake [11]  reminds me of his brother, with whom I had that kind of familiarity which juxtaposition sometimes brings about, when he used to come out of the Shell to sit in the fifth, where my station was at that time. I should like to know what is become of him, – & to meet him again.

Most of the shafts which are aimed at me are sine ictu, [12]  unseen, unfelt. I have neither seen D Juan, [13]  nor the Edinburgh nor the Eclectic Reviews. [14]  The latter is in able hands. The Editor & Proprietor I know, his name is Conder, he is of puritanical extraction & holds most of the opinions which were in fashion under Cromwell, [15]  – a thorough Independent. He is a clever clear–headed, good man. Foster the Essayist [16]  is one of his supporters, & the most violent political papers in the review come from him. Fine literature is either reviewed by Conder himself, or by Montgomery, who is a Moravian.

I go to Lowther tomorrow for a few days. Perhaps when I return I may take up O Newman with more spirit, because you like its progress.

God bless you


29 Sept. 1821.


* MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 274–275. BACK

[1] Southey had sent Wynn the fifth book of his unfinished epic ‘Oliver Newman’, set in New England. A fragment was published posthumously in Oliver Newman: a New-England Tale (Unfinished): with Other Poetical Remains by the Late Robert Southey (London, 1845), pp. 1–90. John Leverett (1616–1679) was Governor of Massachusetts 1673–1679. BACK

[2] William Goffe (c. 1605–c. 1679) and Edward Whalley (c. 1607–c. 1675) were two regicides who fled to New England in 1660 and lived there in concealment. BACK

[3] Ezra Stiles (1727–1795), History of the Three Judges of King Charles I (1794), no. 2552 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. Stiles was President of Yale University 1778–1795. BACK

[4] Hugh Peter (1598–1660; DNB), independent preacher who was executed after the Restoration. BACK

[5] Edward Randolph (1632–1703), central figure in securing the revocation of the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1684 and Secretary of the unpopular Dominion of New England 1686–1689. BACK

[6] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), Book 17, line 163. Southey used it again in ‘Oliver Newman’, Book 5, line 913. BACK

[7] Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599; DNB), The Faerie Queene (1590–1596), Book 2, canto 9, stanza 30, line 6. BACK

[8] An emetic drug, the dried root of Cephaelis ipecacuanha, from Brazil. Southey used the word in ‘Oliver Newman’, Book 5, line 899. BACK

[9] Edward Combe had attended Lincoln’s Inn in 1795 and was ordained in 1804. He was the younger brother of Richard Thomas Combe (c. 1770–1849), who had inherited their family’s country house, Earnshill in Somerset. BACK

[10] Edward Combe had been appointed Perpetual Curate of Barrington in 1810 and Drayton in 1816. In 1821 he was appointed Rector of Donyatt and Earnshill (where he lived) by his brother, Richard Thomas Combe. The post at Barrington had been given to Combe by the lay patron, William Hanning (c. 1768–1834) of Dillington House, Ilminster. BACK

[11] Sir Francis Blake, 3rd Baronet (c. 1774–1860), MP for Berwick-Upon-Tweed 1820–1826, and 1827–1834; an old Westminster schoolfellow of Southey’s and Wynn’s. His brother, Robert Dudley Blake (d. 1850), had also been at Westminster with Southey and Wynn, and later had a distinguished army career, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General. BACK

[12] ‘harmless’. BACK

[13] The first two cantos of Byron’s Don Juan (1819), published by Murray. The coruscating and hilarious ‘Dedication’, which attacked Southey and others, had been suppressed (and was not published until 1833), but Southey undoubtedly knew of its existence. BACK

[14] A Vision of Judgement (1821) was reviewed in the Edinburgh Review, 35 (July 1821), 422–436: ‘his prolific Muse, in short, is at last effete – that his vein is exhausted – and that the worthy inditer of Epics is falling gently into dotage – at least in his poetical capacity’ (422). The Eclectic Review, 17 (May 1822), 418–427, reviewed the poem with Byron’s Cain, a Mystery (1822) and objected to Southey’s ‘profanity’ in his treatment of heaven and divine judgement. BACK

[15] Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; Lord Protector 1653–1658; DNB). BACK

[16] John Foster (1770–1843; DNB), Baptist minister and writer, best known for his Essays (1805). BACK

People mentioned

Conder, Josiah (1789–1855) (mentioned 2 times)
Montgomery, James (1771–1854) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Lowther estate (mentioned 1 time)