2175. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 November 1812 

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

2175. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 November 1812 ⁠* 

Keswick. Nov 5. 1812.

My dear Wynn,

I have another daughter, – being like you it seems, in the girl-line. Five children are a tolerable allowance in these longè-post-diluvian times; [1]  but the more the merrier, & the more there are of a family, the better in general do they make their way in the world.

You have probably been warmly engaged in the Chester contest. [2]  I am glad it was not for your own seat. [3]  There is a piece of secret history about Curwen’s [4]  ejectment which perhaps you may not have heard. He must have won his election if he could have ventured to stand it, – but he could not face the scandalous stories which would have risen in judgement against him, & has literally paid the penalty to public decency. He exceeds any man that I ever heard of in this country in profligacy with respect to women. The particular scandal which would most have shamed him relates to a sort of sentimental intrigue with the Bp of Llandaffs eldest daughter, concerning which he writes exculpatory letters to his friends, confessing imprudence & protesting innocence as to any thing farther.

You will find the Omniana [5]  in Duke Street, whither I suppose you will soon migrate. My own movement will not take place till April, & meantime I have a long winters work to perform. The life of Nelson [6]  will be ready by Xmas. I have corrected seven sheets & am better pleased with it than I had anti expected, for it was not a subject which I should have chosen originally for the review, – neither should I ever have thought of enlarging what was there printed into a compleat life. – My poem [7]  is now in rapid progress, – the plan is now matured & the difficulties disappear. It must not take its name from Pelayo, – because Roderick is the more conspicuous personage. I xxxx cannot yet determine whether to call it Roderick, the Last of the Goths, – or Spain Restored. The former is the better title, but I should be very sorry to give it a use one which could possibly seem as if it were intended to remind the pub reader of Scotts poem [8]  & thereby invite an unfair comparison. I am making a transcript which is ultimately intended for the press, but goes to Bedford now, & to my brother Henry, when he has done with it. Grosvenor will show it you.

A few days ago I received a letter from an Evangelical Parson to thank me for the benefit he had derived from – Thalaba. It has strengthened his faith, he says, – & he proposes to send me “a sketch of the instruction to be derived from it”. [9]  – I dare say this will be almost as good as some of Croxalls morals to Esops fables. [10]  – He read the book upon the recommendation of the Xtian Observer. [11]  If the Evangelicals should take me in good earnest into favour as a poet, it would be what the Portugueze call a fat fortune, as well as a comical one.

My brother the Doctor is removed to town & has taken a house in Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square: – according to the opinion of all who know him, with good prospect of success.

I have now good hope from the Russian war. [12]  The Bear is made of good stuff. He loves his country & his beard & St Nicholas, [13]  & he does not understand parlezvous. This insurrection at Paris [14]  is a daybreak of hope also even in that quarter. I am deeply convinced that from the beginning of the Spanish contest we ought to have published to the world the terms upon which we were ready to make peace, & to have declaring {at the same time} our determination never to negociate with Buonaparte. I would do it now, & offer at once to France all the cessions which would ever be made by xx xx xx by treaty. But alas – I wish you could see the picture of the English Government which is given in the last number of the Investigador Portuguez. [15]  – I could not read it without shame & humiliation.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: [readdressed in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Llangedwin {Norton Priory}/ Oswestry {Warrington}
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] i.e. a long time after the Flood, before which Biblical patriarchs had lived to a great age, Genesis 5. BACK

[2] In the General Election of 1812 at Chester the sitting MPs, the Independent, John Grey Egerton, 8th Baronet (1766–1825), MP for Chester 1807–1818 and the Whig, General Thomas Grosvenor (1764–1851; DNB), MP for Chester 1795–1826, were returned on 20 October 1812, receiving 602 and 637 votes respectively. The defeated candidates were the Whig Sir Richard Brooke, 6th Baronet, of Norton Priory (1785–1865), who received 575 votes, and the Independent Edward Venables Townshend of Wincham (1774–1845), who received 537 votes. Elections at Chester were bitterly contested between the Grosvenors and their ‘Independent’ opponents and that of 1812 saw the usual bribery, intimidation and drunkenness during a prolonged poll of the Chester freemen. BACK

[3] Wynn had been one of the members for Montgomeryshire since 1799. BACK

[4] At the 1812 general election, the wealthy colliery owner John Christian Curwen (1756–1828; DNB) had allegedly refused to stand for the Carlisle seat he had held for 21 years because of rumours concerning his seduction of Dorothy Watson (1777–1837), eldest daughter of Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, who owned an estate at Calgarth on Lake Windermere. BACK

[5] Omniana, or Horae Otiosiores (1812). BACK

[6] Southey’s Life of Nelson (1813). The biography, commissioned by John Murray, was a development of an article in Quarterly Review, 3 (February 1810), 218–262. BACK

[7] What became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1813). BACK

[8] Scott’s Vision of Don Roderick (1811). BACK

[9] Longmire had read Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) as an allegory of the powers and virtues of Faith, and drawn parallels between events and characters in Southey’s poem and the bible; see Southey to John Martyn Longmire, 4 November 1812, Letter 2172. BACK

[10] Samuel Croxall (1688/9–1752; DNB), Fables of Aesop and Others (1722), which fused morality with Whig politics. BACK

[11] This had praised Southey for being ‘unequalled’ in ‘sublimity of conception, eloquence, and depth of feeling’ and cited Thalaba as ‘by far the best’ of his ‘performances’, Christian Observer, 9 (June 1810), 389. BACK

[12] The French had invaded Russia on 24 June 1812. Although they won a tactical victory at Borodino (7 September), in the longer-term the French’s failure to destroy the Russian army marked a turning point in the campaign. Their numbers decimated by appalling weather, lack of supplies and guerilla attacks, the last French troops left Russia on 14 December 1812. BACK

[13] St Nicholas (270–343), a popular saint in Russian culture, particularly in times of trouble. BACK

[14] The attempted Parisian coup of 23 October 1812 led by Claude François Malet (1754–1812). This planned to announce the death of Bonaparte and establish a provisional republican government. It failed and the leaders were executed on 31 October. BACK

[15] The periodical O Investigador Portuguez em Inglaterra; ou, Jornal Literário, Politico, &c (1811–1819), no. 3409 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013