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

2205. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 17 January 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany. 17. 1813.

My dear Wynn,

It is somewhat late to speak of Christmas & the New Year, – nevertheless I will wish you as many as you may be capable of enjoying, & the more the better. Winter is passing on mildly with us, & if {it were not for} our miry soil & bad ways did not I should not wish for pleasanter weather than January has brought with it. Ailments rather than inclination have led me of late to take regular exercise, which I was wont to think I could do without as well as a Turk: so I take two or three of the children with me, & giving them leave to call upon me for their daily walk, their eagerness overcomes my propensities to the chair & the desk. We now go before breakfast, for the sake of getting the first sunshine on the mountains, – which when the snow is on them is more glorious than at any other season. Yesterday I think I heard the Wild Swan; & this morning had the finest sight of wild fowl I ever beheld. There was a cloud of them above the lake, xxxxxxx at such a height that frequently they became invisible; then twinkled into sight again, sometimes spreading like smoke when {as} it ascends, then contracting as if performing some military evolution, once they formed a perfect bow; & thus wheeling & changing & rising & falling they continued to sport as long as I could watch them. They were probably wild ducks.

Your godson is determined to be a Poet he says; & I was not a little amused by his telling me this morning when we came near a hollow tree which has caught his eye lately, & made him ask me sundry questions about it, – that the first poem which he should make should be about that hollow tree, – I have made some progress in rhyming the Greek accidents for him, – an easier thing than you would perhaps suppose it to be, Xxxxxxxxx it tickles his humour, & lays hold of his memory.

This last year has been full of unexpected events, – such indeed as mock all human foresight. The present will bring with it business of importance at home whatever may happen abroad. I do not think we sent Lord Walpole to the right place, [1]  – for the moment Austria ceases to fear Buonaparte she will incline to support him, – but at Berlin & at Dresden some good might be produced. [2]  The great xxxxx best thing which could possibly be done would be for Russia to reestablish Poland, – not piece-meal as France has done, – but fairly restoring her own ill-gained portion, – & claiming the rest for a King of her own appointment – Prince Czartorinsky [3]  perhaps. Prussia would consent to this if recompensed by the restitution of her other lost dominions. And that the North of Germany would confederate against France, if any new plan were formed for its deliverance is beyond all doubt. I believe also that they could do this xxx more willingly when there was no danger of their aggrandizing Austria by their success.

I was pleased to find in Gascoignes poems that the English Officers spoke of the Dutch then, just as they speak of the Spaniards now: – & represented Haarlem as a single & insulated proof of patriotism – as Zaragoza has been instanced: there are the same complaints of them as cold & half-hostile allies, & the same distrust of the issue. [4]  There is one point in which most men, however opposite in their judgements – about the affairs of the peninsula have been xxxx xxxxx deceived, – in their expectations from the Cortes. [5]  There is a lamentable want of wisdom in the country, among the peasantry its place is supplied by their love of the soil & that invincible perseverance which so strongly marks the Spanish character: Buonaparte never can subdue them even if his power had received no shock, & his whole attention were exclusively directed toward Spain, it is in his life prolonged tho it should be prolonged to the length of Aurengzebe’s [6]  (as great a villain as himself) would not give him time to wear out their perseverance & religious hatred. I have never doubted of the eventual independence of Spain; but concerning the government which may grow out of the struggle my hopes diminish, & I begin to think that Portugal has better prospects than Spain, because the government there may be induced to reform itself; & it is only when reform originates there that, in these days, good can be produced without evil.

If Gifford prints what I have written, & lets it pass unmutilated, you will see in the next Quarterly some remarks upon the moral & political state of the populace, & the xxx alarming manner in which Jacobinism disappearing from the educated classes has sunk into the mob; – a danger far more extensive & momentous than is generally admitted. [7]  Very likely xx a sort of cowardly prudence may occasion some suppressions, which I should be sorry for. Windham [8]  would have acknowledged the truth of the picture, & have been with me for looking the danger in the face. – It is an odd xx fact that the favourite song among the people in this little town just now (as I have happened to learn) is upon Parker the Mutineer, it purports to have been written by his wife, & is in metre & diction just what such a woman would write. [9] 

What part do you take in the E. Indian question? [10]  I perceive its magnitude & am wholly incapable of forming an opinion.

Coleridge’s tragedy which Sheridan & Kemble rejected 15 years ago will come out in about a fortnight at Drury Lane. [11] 

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: [readdressed in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Llangedwin {Wynnstay}/ Oswestry {Ruabon}
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [illegible]
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 10–13 [in part]. BACK

[1] Horatio Walpole, styled Lord Walpole before he succeeded as 3rd Earl of Orford (1783–1858), MP for Kings Lynn 1809–1822. He was a member of the British diplomatic staff in Russia 1813–1815. BACK

[2] In this paragraph Southey sets out his plan for waging war against France in northern Europe. He hoped to draw Prussia, Saxony and possibly Austria into a new coalition with Russia against the French; and to replace the Duchy of Warsaw, which France had created out of Prussian Poland in 1807, with a new, enlarged Kingdom of Poland, thus reversing the division of the country between Russia, Prussia and Austria in 1792–1795. BACK

[3] Prince Adam Czartoryski (1770–1861), Polish nobleman and good friend of Alexander I (1777–1825; Tsar of Russia 1801–1825), who he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs 1804–1806. BACK

[4] George Gascoigne (c. 1535–1577; DNB), ‘The Devises of Sundrie Gentlemen’ (1573), lines 284–303; quoted in Robert Southey to John Rickman, 23 March 1814, Letter 2396. Southey compares English views of the Dutch as allies in the war against Spain in 1572–1648 with their view of the Spanish as allies in the war against France in 1808–1813; and the effect of Dutch resistance during the siege of Haarlem in 1572–1573 with that of Spanish resistance at the siege of Zaragoza in 1808–1809. BACK

[5] The representative assembly that was established in Cadiz in September 1810. It created the liberal Constitution of 1812. BACK

[6] Aurangzeb (1618–1707; Mogul Emperor 1658–1707). During most of his reign he waged war against Hindu states in India and was regarded by most British observers as a fanatical and intolerant Muslim. BACK

[7] Southey’s review of Patrick Colquhoun (1745–1820; DNB), Propositions for ameliorating the Condition of the Poor: and For Improving the Moral Habits, and Increasing the Comforts of the Labouring People (1812), appeared in the Quarterly Review, 8 (December 1812), 319–356. Croker and Gifford did insist on changes prior to its publication, a process Southey regarded as castration. The latter possibly restored some of the excised material when republishing it with 5 additional pages in his Essays, Moral and Political, 2 vols (London, 1832), I, pp. 75–155. BACK

[8] The politician William Windham (1750–1810; DNB), Secretary at War 1794–1801, Secretary of State for War, 1806–1807. BACK

[9] The popular ballad the ‘Death of Parker’, purportedly sung by Ann (née McHardy, b. c. 1770, d. after 1840), the widow of Richard Parker (1767–1797; DNB) who had been executed for his role in the Nore naval mutiny of 1797. Parker had been hanged from the yardarm on HMS Sandwich. Ann Parker had witnessed the execution from a small boat and later retrieved her husband’s corpse, which she put on public display in Rochester and then London. Magistrates, in fear of public disorder, intervened and Parker was buried in the vault of St Mary Matefelon, Whitechapel. His widow was still living in 1840, reportedly blind and impoverished. BACK

[10] The debate about whether the East India Company should lose its trading monopoly. It did under the East India Company Act (1813). BACK

[11] Remorse, staged at Drury Lane, London, 23 January-12 February 1813. The actor John Philip Kemble (1757–1823; DNB) and the playwright, theatre proprietor and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816; DNB) had rejected it in 1797, when it was titled ‘Osorio’. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013