463. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 16 December 1799]

463. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 16 December 1799] ⁠* 

Saturday night

My dear Wynn

Yours with the draft reached me by this days post, – my letters never reach me in time to be acknowledged by return – & luckily this makes no delay in the present case.

With regard to my expences, reviewing & the Morning Post have enabled me to support their increase. at present I was xxx almost out of cash from a delay in the newspaper payment; I had given them notice that from the state of my health &c I could not engage beyond the existing quarter, & they may likely have dropped their punctuality when it was no longer their interest to be punctual. Beddoes I have not consulted, because I am satisfied with the advice of Maurice [1]  (long my apothecary,) & of Davy, the pupil of Beddoes & the superior man infinitely, who manages the Pneumatic Institution. [2]  & also because I was willing to avoid the unpleasant circumstance of offering a fee, where I had reason to expect it would not be received.

Both Maurice & Davy agree with Dr Skey [3]  that the heart is not affected – urging that no disease of the heart is felt there, that the effects would be constant & in the pulsation. the pain therefore must be muscular, & the irregular action, nervous. that I am in a state of diseased irritability (mark you – not of temper!) I daily & hourly feel. for this I xx am about to try a medecine prescribed in like cases by Beddoes with success – & I am using an external application to my side, which is certainly less painful. At present I am losing strength – the flood gates of my bowels have again been opened, & a slight complaint of this nature materially weakens one already much debilitated.

I have given up the Morning Post, [4]  from an inability longer to perform task-work. my play [5]  is a lottery ticket – & may be a good prize. but however Thalaba will cost me less time than another years manufactory of weekly rhymes, & pay me better. besides it is an employment to which I turn with pleasure. my design is to print it like the small Joan of Arc, [6]  & sell the whole edition to a London bookseller. [7]  of finding a purchaser there can be no doubt. I calculate by Cottles profit on that second edition, & expect to gain from 130 to 150 pounds – reserving to myself the copyright. this money, if possible, I design to keep unbroken, & as soon as I possibly can, furnish with it a house in town, that I may at least attempt to do something in the law. I have thought of going abroad seriously, believing a warmer climate the best restorative – but this expends much time & much money.

For some days I have been thinking of your Xmas readings & endeavouring to bear-lick some lump-ideas into shape. something you shall have – but I have not the prophetic feeling of its worth – nor will the happy stories of the Old Woman & her Son the Surgeon be soon equalled. [8]  I would try something about the Vampires – but that I have incorporated that into my plan of Thalaba in a way that promises much effect. [9]  “the Hand of Glory” is also link-holder in the same great repository of out-of-the-way fictions. [10]  however you shall have The Lady Annabel [11]  – & the story of the Marine in the Mars, who, if you remember his history, did not keep the fifth commandment quite strictly. [12]  these look like good plans. there xxxxx <are some> Greek stories, which would be fine ground-works if I had enough knowledge to manage them – & Greek diablerie would have some novelty now.

God bless you


Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5 Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Postmarks: BRISTOL DEC 15 99; B/ DEC 16/ 99
Endorsement: Dec 16 1799
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Possibly Joseph Maurice, an apothecary based at St Michael’s Hill in Bristol. BACK

[2] The Pneumatic Institute, Dowry Square, Bristol, had opened in March 1799. BACK

[3] Dr Skey (dates unknown), probably a physician practising in or near Bristol. BACK

[4] Southey’s commitment to provide poems on a regular basis for the Morning Post. BACK

[5] Southey’s proposed play on the ‘Days of Queen Mary’, set in the reign of Mary I (1516–1558; Queen of England 1553–1558); see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 190–192. BACK

[6] The second edition Joan of Arc (1798), published in octavo, rather than the quarto first edition Joan of Arc (1796). BACK

[7] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) was published by Longman and Rees, but Southey was unable to keep the copyright and he was paid only £115. BACK

[8] ‘A Ballad Shewing How An Old Woman Rode Double and Who Rode Before Her’ and ‘The Surgeon’s Warning’, Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. [143]–160, [161]–173. BACK

[9] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 8, lines 102–203. See also See Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 184–185. BACK

[10] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 5, lines 301–360. A ‘Hand of Glory’ was the dried and pickled hand of a man who had been hanged. It was believed to be endowed with a variety of magical properties. BACK

[11] If Southey did write a poem on ‘Lady Annabel’, it has not survived. BACK

[12] The story Southey heard from his brother, Tom, of the sailor who persuaded his father to murder his mother and then gave evidence against his father to ensure he was hanged; see Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, 5 January 1799, Letter 369, and Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 193. This was scarcely honouring the fifth commandment to ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’, Exodus, 20: 12. BACK

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