465. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 19 December 1799]

465. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 19 December 1799] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I had hardly patience to copy for you this miserable version of what certainly is a fine story. [1]  it must be rewritten – & on a different plan. the story is not like Lord William & Rudiger [2] xx in which the effect of the whole is to be attended to – & not the working up of all the parts. this should be written more at length – the parts made more distinct & finished highly. read it & burn it.

I will try to manufacture something better. the demonical story is curious – I do not recognize the superstition in any other story. [3]  witches had not to my knowledge the power of transporting so unmercifully – I thought it had been peculiar to Scotch judges, & French Directors. [4]  perhaps one day the circumstance may ferment into a ballad – but I see not how at present. the tale from Sully [5]  I suppose gave Dryden or Lee the hint for xxxx <the> Duke of Guise [6]  – & if so, is the remote cause of a simile in Joan of Arc blundered up from Rabadan the Spanish Moor [7]  & that play when I had nothing to refer to. The Dog is a good tale. [8] 

Pausanias & Cleonice [9]  is the Greek story that strikes me as fit for a wild poem. there is another in Pausanias of Euthymus fighting a Demon & delivering a damsel. [10]  But I succeed best either in trifles of this class – as Bruno & Hatto & the Well of St Keyne [11]  – or in narration of more length where there is room to develope character & feeling.

God bless you. my nose is like a fountain of water – xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx & I have scarcely time all day to do any thing but blow it.

yrs affectionately




* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5 Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Postmarks: FREE/ DEC 19/ 99; B/ DEC 19/ 99
Endorsment: Dec. 19 99
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 2p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, p. 208. BACK

[1] The enclosed poem has not survived and cannot be identified. BACK

[2] Southey’s ballads, ‘Lord William’, Morning Post, 16 March 1798, and ‘Rudiger’, Poems (Bristol, 1797), pp. 175–186. BACK

[3] The ‘demonical story’ cannot be identified from the information in Southey’s letter. BACK

[4] In 1793–1794, five British radicals were sentenced to be transported to Australia after trial in Scotland. The French Directory (1795–1799) preferred to exile opponents to French Guiana. BACK

[5] Maximilien de Bethune, Duc de Sully (1560–1641), Memoires (1638–1662). BACK

[6] John Dryden (1631–1700; DNB) and Nathaniel Lee (1653–1692; DNB), The Duke of Guise. A Tragedy (1682). BACK

[7] Muhammad Rabadan, Mahometism Fully Explained (1723–1725), trans. Joseph Morgan (fl. 1720s); cited in the notes to Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). Rabadan was a Spanish Muslim (fl. 1603) who ended his life in exile in Tunis. The ‘simile’ was from Joan of Arc (1796), Book 4, lines 245–252 and concerned the effect produced by a visit from Azrael, Angel of Death; see Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 August 1797, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part 1, Letter 249. BACK

[8] Southey possibly alludes to his letter to Wynn, 28 November [1799] (Letter 457). This cited the story that in France in c. 1400, the Chevalier Maquer murdered a man called Montdidier. Montdidier’s greyhound found the corpse and accused Maquer by attacking him. In a trial by combat between the man and the dog, Maquer was overpowered, confessed to his crime and was executed; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 197. BACK

[9] Pausanias (d. c. 470 BC) was a Spartan general and regent. He accidentally killed Cleonice, a young virgin of Byzantium, and was haunted by her spirit; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 163. BACK

[10] Euthymus of Locris (fl. 484–472 BC) was a famous boxer; Pausanias (2nd century AD), Description of Greece, Book 6, chapter 6 tells the story of how he defeated a demon who was troubling the people of Temessa; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 226–227. BACK

[11] ‘Bishop Bruno’, Morning Post, 17 November 1798; ‘God’s Judgement on a Bishop’, Morning Post, 17 November 1799; ‘The Well of St. Keyne’, Morning Post, 3 December 1798. BACK


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