622. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 29 October 1801

622. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 29 October 1801 ⁠* 

Thursday. 29 Oct. 1801.

My dear Wynn

For the last eight months there has been hardly past a single Sunday in which I have not been among the persons prayed for in the Litany as travellers by land or by water. on Sunday next you will remember me in your “We beseech thee to hear us” [1]  – as being in the mail coach. Monday I expect to be in London.

I saw little in the land of potatoes, & did nothing that is Secretarianly speaking. Mr Corry was in the hurry & bustle of removal – so I got half thro the first book of Madoc [2]  in correction, & began a copy for you. One discovery I made which may please you. the Patricians [3]  are the noblest of nations by descent. all other people sprung from the loins of Adam. but the Irish are descended from the Sirloins of Pasiphaes paramour. [4]  they claim Cretan origin, [5]  & who shall dispute it? The exportation of Irish cattle being now permitted [6]  I have brought over a few fresh Bulls for you.


We go right to Bedfords lodgings – just to house ourselves on arrival. I have yet no clear conception of how I am to be employed – in the way of common business there seems to have been no want of me – it looks as if I were to read for him & talk with him – his manners are pleasant, & I should suspect him of more abilities than Abbot [7]  seems to possess. he mentioned your letter – & spoke of you in a way which gave me much pleasure.


I have never mentioned to you the Peace. [8]  – & is not this vile wickedness about Toussaint [9]  & the slave trade? – if they do not surprize him I trust that by the blessing of God & the help of the yellow fever he will defend St Domingo successfully against all the power of France. [10]  Clarkson was here yesterday. the good man who ruined his health & sacrificed two thirds of his fortune in the surprizing exertions he made for the abolition. he said your Uncles [11]  heart was in the business. If the ministry here lend any open aid to France against the negroes – it will perhaps bring the question on again – that young Jenkinson [12]  must be a shallow – hard hearted man.

Has the Bishop of St Giles’s [13]  taken Sir Herbert Croft for his chaplain & secretary? – the review of Thalaba [14]  smells strongly of that reverend Baronet. I wish it could be ascertained.

God bless you –

R Southey



* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: KESWICK
Postmark: E/ NO/ 2/ 1801
Endorsement: Oct. 29 1801
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 253-254. BACK

[1] In the Litany of the Church of England Book of Common Prayer (1662), to be repeated every Sunday, the congregation responds with ‘We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord’ to the priest’s prayers. One of these is ‘That it may please thee to preserve all that travel by land or water’. BACK

[2] Southey had completed a version of Madoc in 1797-1799 and was revising it for publication. It did not appear until 1805. BACK

[3] The Irish, as followers of St Patrick, 5th-century patron saint of Ireland; but also a play on the word for Roman aristocrats. BACK

[4] In Greek mythology, the bull, Taurus. Pasiphae, Queen of Crete, fell in love with him and their child was the Minotaur. BACK

[5] See, for instance, Geoffrey Keating (c. 1569-c. 1644; DNB), A General History of Ireland (London, 1738), pp. 185-199. BACK

[6] The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland (1800) had created a customs union between the two countries, gradually allowing the free movement of all goods. BACK

[7] Charles Abbot, Lord Colchester (1757-1829; DNB), Chief Secretary for Ireland 1801-1802, The Speaker 1802-1817. BACK

[8] Britain and France had signed ‘Preliminary Articles of Peace’ on 1 October 1801. This was effectively a ceasefire to allow negotiations for a full treaty. BACK

[9] Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743-1803), leader of the revolution in the French colony of Haiti against slavery; effective ruler of the country 1796-1802, and of the whole island of Hispaniola 1801-1802. Accounts of the new constitution that Toussaint had promulgated (e.g. in Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 11 October 1801) suggested that it might allow the continued importation of slaves from Africa. BACK

[10] France’s preliminary peace with Britain, signed on 1 October 1801, allowed it to prepare an expedition, which sailed on 14 December 1801, to re-conquer Haiti. BACK

[11] William Grenville, 1st Lord Grenville (1759-1834; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1791-1801, Prime Minister 1806-1807. BACK

[12] Robert Jenkinson, Lord Hawkesbury (2nd Earl of Liverpool from 1808) (1770-1828; DNB), Foreign Secretary 1801-1804, Home Secretary 1804-1806, 1807-1809, Secretary of State for War 1809-1812, Prime Minister 1812-1827. BACK

[13] Robert Nares, founder and editor of the British Critic 1793-1813. BACK

[14] British Critic, 18 (September 1801), pp. 309-310. The review was anonymous and a sustained attack on ‘this complete monument of vile and depraved taste’. BACK

People mentioned

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)