2319. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 28 October 1813]*
My dear Wynn
I own I am afraid of recommending Edward into any military service. There is a gap in his history which cannot possibly be filled in his favour. When I wrote to him in 1807 or 8 – he was a Lieutenant in one of our militias, – & the next news of him was that he had been recognized as my brother, a private in the 24th at Lisbon, – it was <to> this recognition that he owed his Portugueze commission, – & the worst appearance at present is that he attributes it to his <own> good conduct.
God knows I am not disposed to judge too hardly, – I did not know he was married  – & this places another difficulty in the way of his going abroad, for if dependent however upon the character of his wife. If she be that kind of woman to whom no other objection could be made than that it was imprudent to marry her, I cannot but feel that he would not be justified in leaving her upon the steps to subsist as she could. – You know how easy it is to dream of what one would wish; – if he be really attached to his wife that circumstance which might seem at first to compleat his ruin xxx would in reality appear to me the best means of his redemption.
I incline to think that if he could obtain a decent subsistence from the stage he is safer in that way of life than in any other, nor have I any pride <feeling> which could now be wounded by seeing him there. On the contrary I would use every means in my power for getting him an engagement in some respectable theatre, & equipping him for it. The strong inclination which he has for this way of life is no proof that he has talents for it, but it is some presumption; & very possibly he may have made the mistake of playing tragedy when his vein is in a contrary direction. If he were steadily & respectably fixed in his xxxx unlucky vocation the best hope for him would be that he might become a dramatic writer: for if my judgement of his intellectual character be as pert as it has unfortunately proved of his moral disposition, he has abilities sufficient for any thing.
If you have seen his wife tell me what her age appears, & what sort of countenance she has. I would have made enquiry about her from Kemble  if I had known her former name. Whether he found her a vagabond or made her one is a material consideration. Should the latter prove to be the case which is as is most likely & as on the whole I am inclined to hope, it would certainly confirm my opinion that he ought not to try his fortune in the army again. – In this case my present notion that I would xx have them to Keswick to remain with me while I xx till some decent engagement could be procured for them, – but of course I must be perfectly satisfied with her history & character before this can be hinted at.
God bless you my dear Wynn
 Edward Southey had a female companion (a Miss Lack), but on making further enquiries into her background and visiting her uncle, Southey discovered that they were not married; see Southey to Edith Southey, 5 November , Letter 2324. BACK