1681. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [mid-September 1809]

1681. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [mid-September 1809]


My dear Wynn

I am afraid it would be hopeless to make any attempt for my brother Tom, & thro Canning certainly it would, as by the manner in which his application to Ld Mulgrave [1]  about the Stewardship was reported to me it was evident enough that he had little influence in that quarter. [2]  The only chance would be thro Sir G. Beaumont – but there too I am hopeless, for if he could have done it & wished to have done it, I think he would not have waited for me to solicit him. However I will write to him, at the risk of being set down in his opinion for an Asker, – a name, be it known with you, if you do not already know it, by which the professional beggars designate themselves. – x My own prospects seem to be at an end. Scott inclosed to me a letter from Ellis <to him> on this about six weeks ago, which stated that he had talked with Canning about xxx <me> & recommended, as the easiest & f shortest method, increasing my Pension, till Dutens died, [3]  or any thing turned up for which it could be exchanged. There seems <however> a fair chance of succeeding the Frenchman under any administration, now that the ice is so far broke: – you or Canning would get it for me if it were within your reach, – from these men I think Lord Lonsdale would get it, – & I believe also I could get the D of Northumberland [4]  to ask for it. & Scott would get <obtain> it from Ld Melville if he were in. [5]  I wish for it for this reason among others – that being an honorary distinction it might very probably weigh some thing with Thomas Southey who has a thousand a year to dispose of. But my wishes upon such subjects are not very ardent – God be thanked. I can almost say with old George Wither – Nec habeo, nec careo, nec curo [6] 

My main fear in this wretched state of political affairs is that the miserable ministry who may be patched up will make xxx peace for the sake of six months popularity, – & this I am afraid any set of men who might succeed them would do also, except Ld Grenville, & perhaps Canning. As for Whitbread [7]  the language which he holds upon the subject looks to me either like downright insanity or pure folly. Indeed of all parties I bear the strongest dislike to the Foxites, [8]  a feeling in which xx almost all persons whom it is my fortune to meet with are agreed.

I am as sensible of the just causes & impediments xxx <why> I should not chronicle passing events, as you can be. – but here is the old counseller whom Virgil calls Malesuada [9]  at my elbow, – & besides this cogent motive I have certainly take some pleasure in speaking plainly & forcibly upon important subjects: – the question of Catholick emancipation for instance – to which as you <know I> am a mortal enemy; [10]  – the Copenhagen business, [11]  the necessity of carrying on the war as long as Bonaparte lives, & the deplorable imbecillity with which it is conducted, when we have the means of victory in our own hands. The bare communication of these & subjects will show you what a political Ishmaelite [12]  I shall appear.

The third Quarterly has not yet reached me, nor am I doing any thing for the fourth. Gifford has an article in his hands upon Holmes’s American Annals, [13]  which I think will please you. I mean to write upon Methodists when I have time. [14]  My next Missionary Article will be curious, – it will relate to South Africa, [15]  & I have written to my Uncle for a manuscript of D’Anvilles, containing a project for opening a communication between the Portugueze settlements in SE and W Africa across the country across the country. [16]  If these articles are continued according to my present intentions, I think hereafter of a little enlarging them, adding references, & publishing them in a seperate form as an account of, or Remarks on, the existing Protestant Missions & – What tack will the Quarterly stand on now? will it follow Canning or Lord Melville? – As for me I fight under the Bloody Flag & no other, – War abroad & radical reform at home, & all other things I care for merely as they refer to these.

I am not sure that my biennial visit to town will take place next year. If I go from home it will most probably be into Herefordshire to my Uncle, & to Savage Landor at Lanthony, – but every years equally lessens my inclinations & facilities for moving. The more I do the more I wish to be doing, – & in fact it becomes every year necessary to do more than the last to xxx meet the increased expenditure of the times, it not being in my power to raise my rents.

My first volume will be out before Xmas. [17]  You were apprehensive & not without reason that my stile would savour to strongly of the olden times, relating its colour from the materials before me. The accident of beginning with Brazil has prevented this, & I believe the language to be as thoroughly plain, pure, & to the point, as any which has appeared in that form for three hundred years past.

God bless you


Kehama is soon going to the press. [18] 


* Address: To C W Williams Wynn Esqr M P./ Llangedwin/ Oswestry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D (undated letters). ALS; 4p.
Dating note: From internal evidence. BACK

[1] The politician Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831; DNB), First Lord of the Admiralty 1807–1810. BACK

[2] In July 1809, Southey was informed by Richard Sharp that the stewardship of the Derwentwater Estates (which were owned by Greenwich Hospital) would soon become vacant on the death of the incumbent. Southey asked several friends to intercede on his behalf, including Humphrey Senhouse and George Beaumont, but in the end it was considered unsuitable for him; see Southey to Walter Scott, 8 August 1809 (Letter 1666) and Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 August 1809 (Letter 1669). BACK

[3] Louis Dutens (1730–1812; DNB), a French Protestant, held the post of Historiographer Royal until his death on 23 May 1812. Southey’s campaign for the post proved unsuccessful and it went to James Stanier Clarke (c. 1765–1834; DNB). BACK

[4] Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742–1817), army officer and politician. BACK

[5] 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 Melville’s use of public funds when Treasurer of the Admiralty (1782–1800), was investigated by a Royal Commission. When the Commission reported, Melville was censured in the House of Commons for allowing public funds to be diverted to private accounts. He resigned and impeachment proceedings were commenced against him. Though the proceedings failed, he never held office again. BACK

[6] One of George Wither’s (1558–1667; DNB) most popular poems was Wither’s Motto: Nec Habeo, Nec Careo, Nec Curo (1621). The Latin means ‘I have not, I want not, I care not’. BACK

[7] Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB), brewer, Whig politician and advocate of a negotiated peace with Napoleon. BACK

[8] A faction within the Whig party who were followers of the policies of Charles James Fox. BACK

[9] Virgil (70–19 BC), Aeneid, Book 6, line 276. The Latin translates as ‘crime-provoking Hunger’. BACK

[10] The Catholic Emancipation Act was not passed until 1829. BACK

[11] In the summer of 1807 the British, believing that France would gain possession of Denmark and its fleet, amassed ships and troops and on 2 September launched a pre-emptive attack on Copenhagen, causing the deaths of over two thousand townspeople. BACK

[12] Meaning an outcast, because in the Bible Ishmael was cast out by his father, Abraham. See Genesis 21:14. BACK

[13] Southey reviewed Abiel Holmes (1763–1837), American Annals; or, a Chronological History of America, from its Discovery in 1492 to 1806 in the Quarterly Review, 2 (November 1809), 319–337. BACK

[14] [James Sedgwick (1775–1851; DNB)], Hints to the Public and the Legislature, on the Nature and Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a Barrister (1809), in the Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 480–514. BACK

[15] Southey did not write an article for the Quarterly Review on this subject. BACK

[16] Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville (1697–1782), geographer and cartographer, who was appointed ‘géographe du roi’ to King Louis XV (1710–1774). His manuscripts, which are housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, are largely unstudied. BACK

[17] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[18] The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810. BACK

Places mentioned

Llanthony (mentioned 1 time)