1113. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 20 October 1805

1113. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 20 October 1805 ⁠* 

Sunday Oct 20

My dear Wynn

I reached home yesterday – just as your letter with the draft had arrived.

We found a week at Edinburgh quite enough, & both I & Elmsley were willing to get home again. It is certainly a magnificent city. The new town resembles Bath in the regularity, the cleanliness & the silence of its streets, & in the colour of the buildings; but the houses being only of ordinary height are dwarfed by the old city. There they are commonly six seven or eight stories on the one side – ten – twelve or thirteen on the other – & this height increased by the chimneys which rise like a sort of turret from the front of the house instead of the gable end. The famous view of Leith [1]  & the river which the Scotch boast of so loudly – is nothing to one who has seen Lisbon. I did not even think it of the second best order. But that from Princes Street [2]  is truly surprizing. You cross a valley (once a Loch) by a high bridge & the back of the old city appears on the edge of this depth so vast – so irregular – with such an outline of roofs & chimneys that it looks like the ruins of a Giants palace. I never saw any thing so impressive as the first sight of this. – there was a wild red sunset slanting along it.

Of Edinburgh society I think very little. Elmsley very justly observed that of the three faculties of the mind judgement is the only one which they cultivate or value. Jeffrey is amusing from his wit – in taste he is a mere child, & he affects to despise learning – because he has none. Perhaps I am not a fair judge, having been accustomed to live with Coleridge & Wordsworth, – but the plain truth is that x compared with such men as these the Scotch literatuli  [3]  are very low indeed. Brougham was not in good health, & did not open much. I had however conversation enough with him to see that he never regarded anything in the broad moral point of view. As for Jeffrey I really cannot feel angry with any thing so diminutive. [4]  He is a mere homunculus [5]  & would do for a Major in Gog & Magogs [6]  army were they twice as little.

We were three days at Scotts – a much superior man, whom it is impossible not to like. He was delighted with the M. S. & has commissioned me to offer 15 guineas for it for the Advocates Library. [7]  Were there any sale for such things I would willingly add three more volumes to Ritsons [8]  – but these must be left to be done by future Academies – perhaps the London Institution [9]  may bestow some of its funds upon our national literature.

Longman sent me the Censura Literaria. [10]  You seem to appreciate it accurately yet execrable as it is, it is like Duppas story of the bad weather – better than none.

Fr Aikin has written to me for the article Lobeira for his Biographical Dict. [11]  Requesting me to contribute all that relates to Sp. & Port. Literature. I have promised to <do> this – it is only printing what I should else be accumulating in manuscripts – & I may as well get paid for my first drafts. [12]  My busy season is setting in – & there is a world of work before me, which might appal an indolent man. This engagement for one thing – the proofs to the Specimens [13]  – to supply the gap made in the 2 Vol. of Poems by the omission of the Vision, – which must be done by tinkering the Retrospect – Rosamund &c. [14]  a full sixth of the Annual, [15]  which shall be my last work of the kind – & Espriellas letters [16]  to compleat & transcribe. Of the play I shall think to do more than think will be impossible till this mass is cleared off. [17]  By April I expect – if no sickness or sorrow interrupt – to have got thro the campaign; & then I hope to sail for Lisbon.

I have heard at second hand that Thalaba is selling with increased rapidity. [18]  Rees told Ballantyne. It is very likely Madoc, in spite of all attacks & all prejudices, will push xxxx <himself> & his brethren. Success in these cases is slow but sure.

Elmsley & I parted yesterday morning at Carlisle. When we shall see so much of each other again heaven knows. This I know that it will be long before I shall have so pleasant a companion xxxxx. I know few men who approach to his learning, not one who judges so sanely upon all subjects. We have been very serious together & very merry, & I believe no two travellers were more disposed to take things quietly, & laugh at inconveniences.

Home is very comfortable after even a short absence. I am glad work is come – that I may be once more fairly at work – & yet wish it were over that the work were done.

God bless you.


Sunday Oct 20. 1805.


* Address: To C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Wynnot/ Wrexham
Stamped: [partial] KESWICK
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 341–344. BACK

[1] A district in the north of Edinburgh, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, which provides a port for the city. BACK

[2] One of the main thoroughfares of central Edinburgh. BACK

[3] A diminished form of literati, or men of letters, intended to be derogatory. BACK

[4] Southey consoled himself for Jeffrey’s printed criticisms of his work in the Edinburgh Review, by reflecting on his diminutive stature. BACK

[5] Meaning a little or diminutive man; a mannikin. BACK

[6] The church of St Dunstans in the West, on Fleet Street, London, bears a clock, with two small figures, known as Gog and Magog, who strike the hours and quarters with clubs. BACK

[7] In his letter to Wynn of 3 October 1805 (Letter 1109), Southey mentions being alerted to ‘an old MSS volume of poems’ by Robert Hurrell Froude (1770/71–1859; DNB), a Church of England clergyman, who was later Archdeacon of Totnes. The volume contained the text of three rare medieval metrical romances: Sir Isumbras, Sir Gowther, and Amadas (or Sir Amadace). It had been owned by the Sherbrooke family of Oxton, Nottinghamshire since the sixteenth century. Southey arranged for its purchase, through the good offices of Scott, by Scott’s friend Thomas Thomson (1768–1852; DNB), the Edinburgh advocate, record keeper and editor of medieval manuscripts. See letter 1147 of this edition. From Thomson the manuscript went to the Advocates Library, Edinburgh. It remains in their collection today (National Library of Scotland, Advocates MS 19.3.1). BACK

[8] The antiquary, Joseph Ritson (1752–1803; DNB), published in 1802 two works that were intended to revive interest in medieval literature. One was his edition Ancient English Metrical Romanceës; the other was Bibliographia Poetica, a Catalogue of Engleish poets, of the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth, Centurys, with a Short Account of their Works. BACK

[9] The idea of establishing a London Institution to promote the diffusion of science, literature and the arts was first mooted in March 1805, with a formal meeting taking place on 23 May 1805 to discuss the practical details of setting it up. The Institution was established on 18 January 1806. BACK

[10] Censura Literaria: Containing Titles, Abstracts, and Opinions of Old English Books, with Original Disquisitions, Articles of Biography, and other Literary Antiquities (1805–1809), ed. Samuel Egerton Brydges (1762–1837; DNB). BACK

[11] John Aikin’s General Biography or, Lives, Critical and Historical, of the Most Eminent Persons of all Ages, Countries, Conditions, and Professions, Arranged According to Alphabetical Order was published in 10 volumes between 1799–1815. Southey contributed a biographical notice on Vasco Lobeira (d. 1403), the Portuguese author of Amadis de Gaul for volume 6 (1807), 314–317. Southey was familiar with Lobeira’s work after publishing a translation of Amadis of Gaul, by Vasco Lobeira in 1803. BACK

[12] According to Kenneth Curry (New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, p. 403) the other entries that Southey contributed to the General Biography were to volumes VI (1807), VII (1808) and VIII (1813): Volume VI: ‘Francisco Rodrigues Lobo’, 318; ‘Fernam Lopez’, 340; ‘Gregorio Lopez’, 340; ‘Francisco de Losa’, 344–345; ‘Joam de Lucena’, 371–372; ‘Miguel de Luna’, 388; ‘Fr. Francisco de Santo Agostinho Macedo’, 434–435, ‘El Enamorado Macias’, 437–438; ‘P. Fr. Pedro Malon de Chaide’, 506; ‘D. Jorge Manrique’, 523–524; ‘Don Juan Manuel’, 529–530; ‘Ausias March’, 542–543; ‘Juan de Mariana’, 555–557; ‘Vicente Mariner’, 558; ‘Luis de Marmol Carvajal’, 569; ‘P. M. Fr. Juan Marquez’, 574–575. Volume VII: ‘Juan de Mena’, 28–30; ‘Don Inigo Lopez de Mendoza’, 37–38; ‘D. Diego Hurtado de Mendoza’, 38–39; ‘Menezes’, 41–42; ‘Christoval de Mesa’, 59–60; ‘George de Montemayor’, 174–175; ‘Ambrosio de Morales’, 194–198; ‘Alonso de Castro Nunez’, 466; ‘Antonio de Naxara’, 469; ‘Abraham Nehemias’, 469; ‘Florian de Ocampo’, 471–472; ‘Fr. Diego de Olarte’, 487; ‘Fr. Andres de Olmos’, 497; ‘Jerome Osorio’ [with Thomas Morgan (1752–1821)], 530–533; ‘Alonso de Ovalle’, 548; ‘Andres de Oviedo’, 555–556; ‘Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo’, 556–557; ‘Lorenzo de Padilla’, 578; ‘Pedro Paez’, 578–580; ‘D. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza’, 585. Volume VIII: ‘Josef de Ossau, Salas y Pellicer’, 25–26; Bartholomé Pereira’, 46; ‘Luys Pereyra’, 46; ‘Antonio Perez’, 46–47; ‘Ruy de Pina’, 173; ‘Juan de Pineda’, 175; ‘Fernam Mendes Pinto’, 178–179; ‘Thome Pires’, 182–184; ‘Fernando de Pulgar’, 385. BACK

[13] Southey’s and Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s jointly-compiled anthology Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[14] The third edition of Joan of Arc was published in 1806, with the ‘Vision of the Maid of Orleans’ – originally published in the second volume of Poems (1799) – printed at the end of the poem. Southey now wished to fill the gap made by the removal of the ‘Vision’ in the new 1806 edition of Poems that he was preparing for the press. He filled it with ‘The Retrospect’, originally published in Poems (1795) but did not include ‘Rosamund to Henry, Written after She Had Taken the Veil’, also originally published in Poems (1795). Other poems brought into the 1806 edition to make up for the removal of the ‘Vision’ were, ‘Translation of a Greek Ode on Astronomy, written for the prize at Cambridge, 1793’ (pp. 3–9); ‘Remembrance’ (pp. 40–43); ‘To Recovery’ (pp. 49–51); ‘Youth and Age’ (pp. 52–53); ‘The Traveller’s Return’ (pp. 54–55); ‘Autumn’ (pp. 56–58); ‘The Destruction of Jerusalem’ (pp. 59–62); ‘The Spanish Armada’ (pp. 63–66); ‘St Bartholomew’s Day’ (pp. 67–69); ‘To a Bee’ (pp. 74–75); ‘Metrical Letter’, pp. 76–79. For the alterations, see Robert Southey. Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), I. BACK

[15] Southey reviewed in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806): James Bruce (1730–1794; DNB), Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768–73 (2nd edn, 1804–1805), 2–16; Thomas Lindley (dates unknown), Narrative of a Voyage to Brazil; ... with General Sketches of the Country ..., and a Description of the City and Provinces of St. Salvadore and Porto Seguro (1805), 27–32; Joseph Skinner (dates unknown), The Present State of Peru, Comprising its Geography, Topography, Natural History, Mineralogy, Commerce, the Customs and Manners of its Inhabitants; Embellished by ... Engravings of Costumes (1805), 49–60; John Griffiths (dates unknown), Travels in Europe, Asia Minor and Arabia (1805), 67–77; James Stanier Clarke (1765?-1834; DNB), Naufragia, or, Historical Memoirs of Shipwrecks (Vol. 1; 1805), 99–100; Charles François Dominique de Villers (1765–1815), An Essay on the Spirit and Influence of the Reformation of Luther (1805), trans. B Lambert (dates unknown), 177–187; William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de Medici (1805), 449–467; Arthur Cayley (1776–1848), The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh (1805), 477–483; Dieudonné Thiébault (1733–1807), Original Anecdotes of Frederic the Second, King of Prussia, and of his Family, his Court, his Ministers, his Academies, and his Literary Friends: Collected During a Familiar Intercourse of Twenty Years with that Prince (1805), 488–495; William Parr Greswell (bap. 1765–1854; DNB), Memoirs of Angelus Politianus, Joannes Picus of Mirandula, Actius Sincerus Sannazarius, Petrus Bembus, Hieronymus Fracastorius, Marcus Antonius Flaminius, and the Amalthei: Translations from their Poetical Works: and Notes and Observations Concerning Other Literary Characters of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1805), 509–515; George Ellis, Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances (1805), 536–544; Henry John Todd (bap. 1763–1845; DNB), The Works of Edmund Spenser (1805), 544–555; William Lisle Bowles, The Spirit of Discovery (1804), 568–573; William Hayley (1745–1820; DNB), Ballads; Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals, with Prints, Designed and Engraved by William Blake (1805), 575–576; John Hoppner (1758–1810), Oriental Tales: Translated into English Verse (1805), 576–578; Francis Burroughs (dates unknown), A Poetical Epistle to James Barry Esq. (1805), 578–579; Vincenzo Monti (1754–1828), Penance of Hugo: A Vision (1805), trans. Henry Boyd (1748/9–1832; DNB), 581–588; James Grahame (1765–1811; DNB), The Sabbath (1805), 588–591; Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769–1850; DNB), Rhymes on Art, or, The Remonstrance of a Painter (1805), 592–596; Samuel Whitchurch, (dates unknown), Hispaniola, a Poem (1804), 596–597; Matthew Rolleston (dates unknown), The Anti-Corsican, A Poem (1805), 597–598; Charles Grant, Baron Glenelg (1778–1866; DNB), Poem on the Restoration of Learning in the East (1805), 598; Edward Coxe (dates unknown), Miscellaneous Poetry (1805), 598–600; Malcolm Laing (1762–1818; DNB), The Poems of Ossian, Containing the Poetical Works of James Macpherson in Prose and Verse, with Notes and Illustrations (1805), 615–620; Archibald Macdonald (1739–1814; DNB), Some of Ossian’s Lesser Poems Rendered into Verse [from Macpherson]; with a Preliminary Discourse, in Answer to Mr. Laing’s Critical and Historical Dissertation on the Antiquity of Ossian’s Poems (1805), 620; Philip Massinger (1583–1640; DNB), Plays (1805), ed. William Gifford, 625–634; Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), Nathan the Wise; a Dramatic Poem in Five Acts (1805), trans. William Taylor, 634–639; John Collett (dates unknown), Sacred Dramas: Intended Chiefly for Young Persons (1805), 639; Henry Mackenzie (1745–1831; DNB), Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland, Appointed to Inquire into the Nature and Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian (1805), 679–699; Hannah More, Hints Towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess (1805), 708–713; Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838; DNB), Improvements in Education as it Respects the Industrious Classes of the Community (3rd edn, 1805), 732–736; Samuel Jackson Pratt [pseud. Courtney Melmoth] (1749–1814; DNB), Harvest-home: Consisting of Supplementary Gleanings, Original Dramas and Poems, Contributions of Literary Friends and Select Re-publications (1805), 736–738; William Henry Ireland (1775–1835; DNB), The Confessions of William Henry Ireland Containing the Particulars of his Fabrication of the Shakespeare Manuscripts (1805), 743–745. BACK

[16] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

[17] Southey was contemplating writing a play, stimulated by an offer, sent via Wynn, from Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775–1818; DNB) to smooth its passage to the stage. He contemplated various plans, including a Greek drama, a dramatisation of Madoc, and a play set in the reign of Mary I (1516–1558, Queen of England 1553–1558; DNB); see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4th series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 190–192, Southey to Peter Elmsley, 10 July 1805, Letter 1081 and Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 12 July 1805, Letter 1083. BACK

[18] Southey’s poem Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). A second edition was not called for until 1809. BACK