1057. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 April 1805

1057. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 11 April 1805 ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

I have remedied my neglect to Ld Carysfort. [1]  – to Strachey I shall not send a copy, because tho I have written to him, & twice sent him books to India he has never written me a line. The truth of the matter is this. At one time he thought it prudent to drop his acquaintance with me – but the recollection which he had of old times, & the feeling which he had for <towards> me in the bottom of his heart, & the connecting link which you formed, – forced him to an occasional intercourse which was always uncomfortable. – & which I ought to have broken off, seeing that it was uncomfortable to him, & that his father past me in the streets. Strachey feels all this & when he remembers me is not pleased with himself, because he knows he has acted inconsistently, xxx less unkindly than he meant to have acted – more so than he ought. I did not myself know how like a scabby sheep I had been considered before the touch of the Irish Chancellor had purified me, till Daunceys poor wife, [2]  – the very last time I ever saw her, burst into tears & took my hand & almost in direct terms asked me to forgive her for having for so many years shunned me. Dauncey himself was present – x I xx was never more xxxxxxx <confounded> in the course of my life – & have seldom been more affected. With her family Strachey was very intimate & that he was acting in the same manner I very well know, not merely from my own observations – but from some of his own letters which were once inadvertently shown me. – I will not therefore write to him again, nor in way force myself upon him. When he returns to England if we should meet by chance as most probably we shall, I shall not forget his very many very excellent qualities, nor the deep & unaffected prepossession in his favour which I felt the very first day I ever saw him, when I was placed under him as his shadow. [3] 

As yet I have heard of Madoc from nobody but Wm Taylor – his opinion is very flattering – ‘one believes it, he says, as one believes the historical plays of Shakespere.’ This – which applies to the first part more particularly is high praise, & such praise as I conceive most appropriate. I heartily rejoice that the preface first meditated was laid aside at your advice – for the cloud under which it was written has passed away – I do not now feel the distrust of the poem which then hung over me.

Thinking over your remarks upon Kehama [4]  it seems to me that occasional rhymes may be admitted into a xxxxx <stanza> where the blank endings very much predominate. – but that blank endings must not be perceptible in a stanza of rhyme. The Curse [5]  is certainly ill expressed – if I cannot mend its rhyme – it shall be given in some marked rhythm. The Man Almighty hath xxx a startling sound producing an effect like blasphemy: it has been noticed by Coleridge & by him objected to. [6]  Other persons xxxxxx agreed with me that this is what it should be – that it at once expresses the whole superstition & prepares the reader for a Curse & a story which from this extravagance need some such stunning application as a preparation.

When the poem will proceed I do not know. I should be ashamed to reflect how long it is since it was begun – immediately on my return from Lisbon – if I had not in that time translated Amadis – recomposed Madoc – written at least three quarto volumes of history, [7]  & contributed for three years to the Annual Review – besides a good deal during the first <two> years to the Critical – for which I shall never get a single sixpence. [8] 

The Emperor of the Franks has had a fine opportunity of giving his casting vote. [9]  had he gone the other way you would have regretted your absence from the scene of action. Indeed I suspect it may accelerate your return as such a blow may probably be followed up with good effect, the odium necessarily attaching itself to those who attempted to screen the delinquents. Nothing would delight me so much as to see Pitt out of office – [10] 

Ld Carysfort will have his copy tomorrow. I have not seen the book yet. Artaxerxes tells me it is considered as one of the most beautiful that has ever been published in this country – this you know is bibliopolice [11]  speaking, & he refers wholly to the book quoad book – not quoad poem. [12] 

God bless you


April 11. 1805. Keswick.


* Address: C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Mold/ Flintshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 381–382. BACK

[1] John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB): judge, diplomat, Whig politician and poet, who was the author of Dramatic and Narrative Poems (1810). He was a fellow pupil of Southey at Westminster School. BACK

[2] Marie (Mary) Dauncey (b. 1769) was the daughter of Southey’s childhood friend, Mrs Dolignon. She was married to Philip Dauncey (d. 1819), a barrister who became a Kings Counsel and Treasurer of Gray’s Inn. BACK

[3] At Westminster School Strachey was ‘substance’ to Southey’s ‘shadow’ and thus responsible for teaching him the customs and rules of the school. BACK

[4] Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. Southey had sent Wynn an early draft of the poem; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 24 March [1805], Letter 1050. BACK

[5] The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 2, lines 144–169. BACK

[6] The term ‘Man-Almighty’ or ‘Almighty Man’ is retained in the published text of The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[7] References to Southey’s translation of Amadis of Gaul (1803), publication of Madoc (1805) and work on his uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[8] After Samuel Hamilton (dates unknown) sold the Critical Review in 1804, Southey was left his creditor for reviews he had written. BACK

[9] The Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Abbott, who had the power to frank mail. Rickman, his secretary, used this facility on Southey’s behalf. Abbott had given his casting vote in the House of Commons in support of a motion of censure of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742–1811; DNB), Secretary of State for War 1794–1801 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1804. From 1802–1805 Dundas’s misuse of public funds when Treasurer of the Admiralty (1782–1800) was being investigated by a Commission of Inquiry; its report led to the motion of censure. BACK

[10] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801, 1804–1806. BACK

[11] A word Southey coined to refer to his publishers. BACK

[12] The Latin word ‘quoad’ is used by Southey to mean ‘as the’. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)