1277. Robert Southey to Charles Watkins Williams Wynn, 15 February [1807]

1277. Robert Southey to Charles Watkins Williams Wynn, 15 February [1807] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

That Bedford does not see his brothers state is plain from the way in which he writes of him. I have let him see it in the best way I could by advising what he may very likely think very ridiculous, but which I am persuaded is the only chance he has of ever recovering so as to be capable of doing any thing, – which <it> was – that Grosvenor should take him as if for a frolic to hear some of the most famous preachers and try to get him assinated with Methodism – a sort of assination which is to other madness what vaccination is to the small pox. [1]  If this should take – which from what I know of Horace is very likely – it would do just what mercurial girdles do for the itch, draw the disorder to one place & keep it there; – his madness would find vent in a licit way, & he might be as mad as he pleased with perfect impunity – yea & & can get credit for it into the bargain. – You will perceive by the first and last of the letters in this packet that on this subject I am likely to have studied as many cases xx as most people besides in addition to all my Catholick experience which is very great. – If ever I do any thing in English history it will be to write its Church History – & there are few subjects which would please me better. In that & in a previous history of the Monastic orders which has been long in my mind, I could say every thing, – & this is one of my great projects [2]  – if I live to get thro my Portugueze affairs [3]  – <for which> By Gods blessing a very few years will now suffice.

A John Louis Goldsmid [4]  of Roehampton hearing that I wanted to translate Esplandian [5]  wrote to offer me the use of a French set of all the books of the Amadis family. I have thanked him & asked if he has any of the Palmerins [6]  – Is this one of the Jews? Jew or Gentile it was very civil, & I am much obliged to him, tho his information happened to be wrong.

Your frank was misdated – but luckily not so heavy as a rascal which cost me 6/5 the other day for a mistake in the year. Rickman observed upon it that xx his old friend 1806 was a sort of Vampire. [7] 

Some arrangements of Coleridges render it necessary that I should either resolve upon fixing myself here or quitting the place; – the least evil of the two is to determine upon the former, – which indeed is hardly any evil, for I am grow more & more rooted to the country – & certainly should never like any other place so well. Besides it is far cheaper than the South. So I am there devising how to get my books here by water, & rejoicing as much in projecting their arrangement – as ever Bonaparte can do in portioning out new conquests. The main inconvenience of the situation would be at an end when I my books were collected.

I have seen neither of the works which you mention – nor am I likely to see them – Beloe ought to have made something curious because he is in the Museum – but he is a British Critic – & that includes all possible terms of vituperation [8]  – Those fellows live in an atmosphere of as impenetrable stupidity darkness as Sir John Maundeviles old Emperor of Persia in his province of Hangson – if you remember that delectable history. [9]  No light ever penetrates into the vacant interlunar cavities of their perixxxx pericrania –

Walter Scott has begun very early to collect his works [10] 

Your nameless daughter must be xx now advancing towards weeks of kissability, – & it will soon be time to instruct her in the first commandment of the nursery – which is thou shalt not piddle thy father.

God bless you.


Sunday 15. Feby.


* MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D (undated letters). ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 436–437. BACK

[1] For this suggestion, see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 2 February 1807, Letter 1270. BACK

[2] Southey’s Book of the Church was published in 1824. The history of the monastic orders was never completed. BACK

[3] Southey’s ‘History of Portugal’ was never completed. BACK

[4] (1789–1835), banker and book collector. BACK

[5] Las Sergas de Esplandián, (1510) one of a series of Spanish chivalric romances by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (1450–1504) of which Amadis of Gaul, which Southey translated in 1803, is the first. BACK

[6] The Palmerins comprise eight books, dating from the early sixteenth century, about the deeds and desires of Palmerin d’Oliva, emperor of Constantinople, and his descendants. Southey translated the sixth: Palmerin of England; by Francisco de Moraes. Corrected by Robert Southey from the Original Portugueze (1807). BACK

[7] The vampire was a creature new to most Britons, Southey having been one of the first to introduce it to English culture in his 1801 poem Thalaba the Destroyer. For more on the franking error mentioned here; see Southey to John Rickman, 30 January [1807] (Letter 1269) and 13 February 1807 (Letter 1274). BACK

[8] William Beloe (1756–1817), keeper of printed books at the British Museum, 1803–1806, author of Anecdotes of Literature and Scarce Books (1807–1812), reviewer for the Tory journal The British Critic. BACK

[9] In the largely fantastical The Voyages & Travels of Sir John Mandevile (many English editions from 1375), the province Hanyson of the country of Abchaz is described as being in a perpetual darkness sent by God to protect Christians from destruction at the hands of the Persian emperor’s army. BACK

[10] Scott’s Ballads and Lyrical Pieces was published in 1806. BACK

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