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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1924. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 17 May 1811 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 17. 1811.

My dear Wynn

I thought to have seen you xxxx before this time, but my journey has been so long delayed that I suppose you will have left London ere I reach it. The cause of this has been the enormous length of the Register for 1809, – whereby I lose three months close labour & have the additional recompense of losing the greater part, if not the whole profits of my twelfth share in the work; for the booksellers are afraid to raise the price & it will be well if the increased bulk does not make it a losing concern. [1]  However this has not made me out of heart xxxxxxx xxxxx neither have I slighted it in any manner for the sake of shortening so xxxx unprofitable a task.

If you have seen Grosvenor he will have told you that my fathers remain last brother is dead, [2]  & has left his property between his man Tom [3]  & a person at Bristol, with whose family he was intimate, [4]  – his last boast being (like that of John Southey before him) that no one of his own name should ever be a shilling the better for him. I feel with respect to him just as I did to his brother, neither angry nor surprized. It has been beyond all doubt a species of madness, – but one which the law does not reach. We had been upon xxx good terms for many years, & I had never given him the slightest cause of offence. If this news should give you a momentary feeling of disappointment it will be more than it did me. As long as I have health, old Withers motto may be mine. Nec habeo, nec cares, nec curo. [5]  The last two years have brought with them a material improvement in my worldly affairs by means of the Quarterly & the Register. – Kehama [6]  has sold better than my former poems. Longman tells me he has 109 copies left & that he thinks it time to put a smaller edition to press. [7]  Madoc [8]  is in the press also, it xx was xxxx a very ugly book & I will now take care that its appearance shall not discredit it again.

Poor Mr Bunbury was buried in the church here on Tuesday. This of course brought his son here. He is the first person I ever met after 19 years absence, & the total difference between the boy which I left him & the man which xxx he is now xxx produces a strange & confused feeling when I think of xxxx it. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I have his xxx image as vividly in my mind as if it were but yesterday that we were in Deans Yard together, & there is now no trace of resemblance. I have been exceedingly pleased with him – his situation gives him of course great opportunities of information, but in addition to this I have seldom met with so sensible a man.

Shall you be in town three weeks hence? I hope to reach London in that time. My stay there will be about a month, most part of it at Streatham. From there we go to Bristol & if I do not meet Landor there or at Bath, we shall most likely make Llanthony in our way home & so from thence to Ludlow & Liverpool, halting a day or two at both places in our progress. I shall probably never see you for more than a morning-call till I make a journey into Wales on purpose & God knows when it will be in my power to do that. This additional length in the years register having cost occupied full three months I am thrown just so much behind hand with other engagements, – & it will be a long time before I shall be able to recover my lee way.

The last Quarterly had nothing of mine xxxxxxxxxxx neither is {there} likely to be any thing in the next. I had written a long reviewal of Pasleys book, [9]  which is now under correction that it may not give offence to Castelcicali. [10]  Our ministry will not believe any thing against that infamous court of Palermo. I thought this was likely enough but was determined at least to make the trial. The Register I have to myself & will open a battery there, which nobody can silence. [11]  – In other points of view the delay of the article was fortunate, some of it having been superseded by Massenas retreat. [12] 

What part have you taken upon the Bullion question? Koster has xxxxxxxxxx {shown} that the consumption of gold has of late increased at least fifty fold while the supply has almost wholly failed: & he has, therewith, established a principle of which Locke [13]  had a glimpse & at which the Ministerial pamphlet [14]  hints without xxx appearing to perceive its importance, – that gold is as incapable of being kept at a maximum xx as any other commodity. [15]  Political oeconomy is much talked of as one of the things to be learnt at Edinburgh, – but I suspect it is almost in as imperfect a state as metaphysics, & that the Scotch are in reality no better versed in one than in the other. When the bullion report [16]  was first made public Coleridge & I talked a great deal upon the subject, & the more I have considered it {since} the more am I confirmed in the opinion which we then formed of its errors & its danger.

God bless you

RS.

I had almost forgot to tell you that Brougham applied to my Uncle to know if I would translate Lucien Buonapartes poem! [17] 


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ London
Postmark: FREE/ 20 MY 20/ 1811
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 222–224. BACK

[1] Ballantyne was concerned enough about the length of the historical section to insist that Southey explained himself to the readers in a prefatory note; see Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), [v]–vi. BACK

[2] Thomas Southey’s death was reported in his local newspaper the Taunton Courier on 18 April 1811. BACK

[3] Thomas Southey’s servant Tom (dates and surname unknown). BACK

[4] Possibly William Oliver (1775–1830) of Hope Corner, Taunton. BACK

[5] George Wither (1588–1667; DNB), Wither’s Motto: Nec Habeo, Nec Cares, Nec Curo (1621). The Latin translates as: ‘I have not, I want not, I care not’. BACK

[6] The quarto first edition of The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

[7] The second edition of Kehama appeared in 1811. BACK

[8] The third edition of Madoc, published in 1812. BACK

[9] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB) had questioned whether British conduct to Sicily had been unwise and had suggested Britain should have ‘taken possession of Sicily for ourselves’, Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (London, 1810), pp. 171, 163. Southey undoubtedly agreed with this, making the inventionist case in the Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 99. In contrast, the published version of Southey’s review of the Essay, which had been rewritten by Croker, in consultation with Gifford and Murray, dismissed Pasley’s ideas as ‘fraught with dangerous principles’ (Quarterly Review, 3 (May 1810) pp. 429–431). BACK

[10] Fabrizio Ruffo, Prince of Castelcicala (1763–1832), Sicilian minister to the Court of St James 1802–1815. BACK

[11] Southey had to wait until Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1811, 4.1 (1813), 422–437 to express his views. BACK

[12] The French Marshal André Massena (1758–1815). His army started to retreat from Portugal into Spain in March 1811. BACK

[13] John Locke (1632–1704; DNB) had argued that the value of money was inversely related to the amount of money in circulation. He also believed that the economy would suffer if a country’s gold inflow from trade fell relative to those of its trading partners, e.g. in Several Papers Relating to Money, Interest and Trade, et cetera (1696). BACK

[14] Possibly a reference to John Charles Herries’s A Review of the Controversy Respecting the High Price of Bullion, and the State of Our Currency (1811). BACK

[15] John Theodore Koster, A Short Statement of the Trade in Gold Bullion: Shewing the True Causes of the General Scarcity and Consequent High Price on that Precious Metal: Also Demonstrating that the Notes of the Bank of England are Not Depreciated (1810). It went into a second edition in 1811, and Koster followed this with Further Observations on Bullion and Bank Notes (1811). BACK

[16] The Bullion Committee, a select committee of the House of Commons, had recommended in 1810 that convertability between paper currency and gold bullion (suspended in 1797) should be restored. BACK

[17] Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), brother of Napoleon and author of Charlemagne, ou l’Eglise Délivrée (1814). Southey refused the request. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013