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

2359. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 2 January 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. Jany. 2 1814.

My dear Wynn

The inclosed [1]  was directed to London, – the place from whence my letter was dated having not been noticed. This gave Harry an opportunity of seeing its contents, & you will & the opinion which he expresses upon them is but too just. There is a sort of insanity in this all this. Falsehood is become so habitual to him that he seems not to know how to speak truth. – He is now six & twenty, – there is still time before him, – still opportunity, – & nothing is wanting to save him but the will to be saved, – & xxx {tho} it is so little possible in the natural course of things that I could almost agree with the Methodists, that a new birth, – an immediate act of grace upon the soul, is necessary to produce it.

I wished him to continue in the line of life to which he has always gravitated, because I feel perfectly certain that he will find his way back to it, if he be sent to the Antipodes. And if he could have been placed in a decent theatre I thought it not unlikely that he might venture at composition & become a dramatic writer, being plentifully gifted with talents. God knows whether I could have got him an engagement; it would have been very difficult, especially as he objected to the Bath & Bristol stage, – the only one where I had any acquaintance with the Proprietor of a Theatre. [2]  This is out of the question now. I am as little inclined to be uncharitable as any man can be; being in his situation it was exceedingly likely that he should form such a connection as this, & as he could not make the woman worse in point of character or feeling than he found her, exceedingly excusable. It was also natural enough that he should not represent himself as married to you. [3]  To me it was a foolish falshood, & the second letter is worse than the first. However x all that results from it is that I cannot recommend him to an xxxx established theatre, – I merely deprives me of the power of making a very doubtful experiment. but do you then to Doyle if Do you then apply to Doyle, [4]  – he turned Catholic some years ago to get the favour of {please} some old Irish Countess, [5]  & I suppose if he gets to Spain he will chuse to pass for one still. There can however be no necessity for stating this.

_____

My Carmen Triumphale will be sent to St James’s Square for you. It is good for nothing, & I believe I did wrong in castrating it. [6] 

If you recollect that the title of my poem is not Pelayo but Roderick [7]  you will find that the action is going on from the commencement. I xxx have profited by some of your remarks, & shall curtail the beginning of the third book.

_____

I have just received yours of the 30th & was indeed about to have written to you upon that very subject. Glover [8]  is the man. The pamphlett is now published, & Duppa writes to me to this effect, – that he has heard that it asserted on the alledged authority of Thomas Grenville [9]  that Glover was always believed in their family to be Junius: [10]  Duppa himself is fully convinced of the fact, yet he says that Ld Grenville “could confirm or destroy his opinion with a breath”. – & he asks me if it be possible thro you, to know if this be the belief of the G. family, & likewise if possibly it may be asked, the facts on which that belief is founded. He thinks he shall be able to ascertain his point thro another channel, – but not immediately, – & would willingly save himself trouble by xx seeking it in the direct course. [11] 

_____

Thank you for your Nelsoniana. And one word more about Roderick before I seal up these scraps. There is no more of his history alluded to than is indispensably necessary to explain the render the poem intelligible: & all that is said, does in reality explain itself, – or if it does not I am in fault. But a xx Dramatis personae [12]  will put every thing within reach of the most indolent reader.

God bless you with many & happy years.

RS.

Return Edwards letter {to me} when you have perused it.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] A letter from Edward Southey. The inclosure has not survived. BACK

[2] John Palmer (1742–1818; DNB), owner of the Theatre Royal in Bath and in Bristol. BACK

[3] Edward Southey had claimed to have married a Miss Lack (dates unknown); see Southey to John Rickman, [2 November 1813], Letter 2322. In fact no marriage had taken place. BACK

[4] Possibly Charles William Doyle (1770–1842; DNB), an officer who had acted as a liaison between British and Spanish forces and had been involved in training Spanish troops. BACK

[5] The inspiration for Edward Southey’s conversion is unidentified. BACK

[6] Southey’s first Laureate poem. Five stanzas were considered by Croker and Rickman to be inflammatory. Southey bowed to pressure and deleted them from the version published as Carmen Triumphale in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. He incorporated the deleted stanzas into an ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’, published in the Courier, 3 February 1814. BACK

[7] ‘Pelayo’ was the original title for what became Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[8] The writer and politician Richard Glover (1712–1785; DNB). BACK

[9] Wynn’s maternal uncle, the politician and bibliophile Thomas Grenville (1755–1846; DNB). BACK

[10] Junius was the pseudonym used by the author – or authors – of a series of letters published in the Public Advertiser between 21 January 1769 and 21 January 1772. The letters took a high Whig line. They opposed the policies of the government and the king and were generally supportive of those of the ex-Prime Minister George Grenville (1712–1770; DNB) and of the radical politician John Wilkes (1725–1797; DNB). There was, from the outset, much debate as to the identity of their author or authors. Wynn was well placed to report on the stories about Junius passed on by his mother’s family the Grenvilles. BACK

[11] In 1813 Duppa’s Memoirs by a Celebrated Literary and Political Character (i.e. Richard Glover) had attempted to prove the latter was the author of Junius’s letters. (It was a contribution to an ongoing controversy. In the same year, John Taylor’s A Discovery of the Author of the Letters of Junius proposed another, more plausible, though equally controversial, candidate: the politician and writer Sir Philip Francis (1740–1818; DNB).) Duppa defended himself against his critics in an anonymous pamphlet, An Inquiry Concerning the Author of the Letters of Junius, with Reference to the Memoirs by a Celebrated Literary and Political Character (1814). BACK

[12] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814), pp. ix–xi. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013