1416. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 14 January 1808.

1416. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 14 January 1808. ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

You may rest assured that not one syllable of the abuse in the Courier has come from Coleridge. [1]  The origin of the report is obvious. He is very intimate with Stuart, who is one of the proprietors (not the editor) & to whom the house belongs, & his home in town is in consequence at the Courier-Office. I am a little suprized that you should have thought it possible any thing so contemptible could have come from him.

If it be possible for me to create time for the employment you will see me in the Courier during the course of the winter, or spring. I am resolved to take Jeffray in hand, & give him a few letters there, every one of which shall operate as a most vigorous sudorific. The impertinence with which he alludes to my residence at the Lakes after having been my guest there, fully entitles him to any discipline which I may be disposed to bestow.

The reviewals which this animalcule & the British Critic have set forth upon the Specimens have proved that it is possible to produce something worse than the book. [2]  – I shall take your word for George Stevens’s poem, & let him hear of it: In one of his first numbers he saw he could read Virgils second eclogue with as much pleasure as if it had been addressed to a different subject – he shall hear of that too. [3]  I will take him up as moralist, politician &c – & gibbet him to public contempt & indignation.

I am obliged to you for the newspapers. Scott Warings reasoning, if it can be so called, is thoroughly despicable. [4]  Something I had read upon the subject in reviewing Buchanans Travels, [5]  – & I am not without hopes that in consequence of what I said to him yesterday, the Bp of Llandaff may take up the subject.

The removal of the Court to Brazil cannot be otherwise than most highly beneficial to that country & to this, as we shall now trade as freely with the colony as we did heretofore with Portugal. Any thing like enlightened policy is not to be looked for: nor any thing beyond what cannot possibly be avoided. The Prince [6]  is almost an idiot, – but just as he was obliged to run away from Bonaparte (who proved himself the greater idiot of the two in this business,) just so will he be obliged to open a free trade with England – circumstances compel him to it. With respect to the natives, I am of opinion that it would require two or three generations of civilization or taming, before intermarriages could be productive of good. The mixed breed or Mamalucos as they were called were desperately bad, – even the Jesuits pronounced them irreclaimable. I have not yet learnt what proportion of the Brazilian tribes still exist upon the sea coast, – probably a very small one. They must have been pretty well used up by a villainous sort of slave trade, against which the Jesuits never could prevail, till it was too late. Nor can I tell you what is the present state of the missions, – they have probably diminished since the dissolution of that wonderful Society which was destroyd just when it had ceased to be mischievious, & was doing nothing but good. Those Reductions [7]  may however easily be restored; – & the Jesuits meant this system to go no farther. – theirs was a sort of illuminism; – designed to tame the savages, & keep them always in a state of subjection founded upon ignorance. Yet such Reductions are good preparatory schools – it requires two or three generations to domesticate the animal, & get rid of the effects of cannibal-diet-& wild habits.

That paper of D Luiz da Cunhas [8]  is greatly abridged. My Uncle permitted Lady Shuldham [9]  to bring the original to England, – she left it with her son to be Simon Harcourt, [10]  – to whom I applied for it, – & could get no answer to my application. I shall be ready almost immediately on my return from London to put the first vol of Brazilian history to press – & if I can borrow the very few Spanish Chronicles which I still want, – the first of the European hist. also.

I have no poems, – & long disuse begin to occasion something like an unwillingness to attempt any. Sir G Beaumont wrote to me the other day – & abused me for having left off poetry – I told him in reply that if the world would buy my poems they should have more, but that they must not expect another Madoc for five & twenty pounds. – that it was well we should be contented with posthumous fame, – but impossible to be xx so with posthumous bread & cheese.

You and I are looking for the same great family event about the same time. [11]  This is a little unlucky – for had my journey taken place a few weeks sooner I could have touched at Wynnstay, & seen more of you in a day there than in a month at London, where we shall both be very busy & move in such opposite different circles that we shall never meet

God bless you


Jany . 14.1808.


* Address: To C W Williams Wynn Esqr M P./Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
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), II, pp. 48–50. BACK

[1] This has not been identified. BACK

[2] Southey’s and Bedford’s Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807) were reviewed in the Edinburgh Review, 11 (October 1807), 31–40, and in the British Critic, 29 (1807), 245–249. BACK

[3] Southey implies that Jeffrey approves of sexual immorality: The Edinburgh Review (pp. 36–37) had regretted the relative lack of poems in the Specimens by the Shakespearian editor George Steevens (1736–1800; DNB) and recommended two love poems for inclusion, the second showing the middle-aged Stevens imagining vicariously, through his ‘boys’, the pleasures of wooing his mistress’s ‘girls’. Virgil’s second Eclogue was thought to reveal his homosexuality and paedophilia. BACK

[4] John Scott-Waring (1747–1819; DNB), MP and author concerning Indian affairs; he opposed the campaign to encourage the East Indian Company to allow missionaries to proselytise in its territories and in 1808 involved himself in a pamphlet war on the subject, publishing in 1808 A Reply to a Letter, addressed to John Scott Waring, Esq., in Refutation of the illiberal and unjust Observations and Strictures of the anonymous Writer of that Letter. BACK

[5] Southey had reviewed, in the Annual Review for 1807, 6 (1808), 49–61, Francis Buchanan (1762–1829), A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar: Performed under the Orders of the Most Noble the Marquis Wellesley, Governor General of India, for the Express Purpose of Investigating the State of Agriculture, Arts, and Commerce; the Religion, Manners, and Customs; the History Natural and Civil, and Antiquities, in the Dominions of the Rajah of Mysore, and the Countries Acquired by the Honourable East India Company (1807). BACK

[6] The Portuguese Prince Regent, John VI (the Duke of Braganza) (1767–1826). BACK

[7] The name of the village colonies established by the Jesuits around their missions to the Brazilian and Paraguayan Indians. Southey was to publish a poem on this subject in 1825–A Tale of Paraguay. BACK

[8] Southey discusses the 1738 manuscript report, Carta ao Marco Antonio, of the Portuguese ambassador to Paris, Luiz da Cunha, in his History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 265, 296. Da Cunha describes therein the advantages that would accrue from the removal of the court from Portugal to Brazil. BACK

[9] Margaret Irene (c. 1772–1811), daughter of John Sarney of Somerset House, London, and widow of John Harcourt of Ankerwyke, Buckinghamshire, married Admiral Molyneux Shuldham (1717/18?–1798; DNB) in 1790. The couple resided at Lisbon. BACK

[10] Lady Shuldham’s son by her first husband. BACK

[11] Wynn’s wife gave birth to a daughter (first name unknown) in 1808. Southey’s letter congratulating Wynn is dated [March 1808], Letter 1437. Emma, the Southeys’ fifth child was born on 9 February 1808. BACK

Places mentioned