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

2424. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 15 May 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. May 15. 1814.

My dear Wynn

It is long since I have written to you, & yet I think rather longer since you have written to me. Your sign manual disappointed me last when I found that it only covered a letter from Murray.

I have lately received a shock from which it will be long before I shall recover – the death of Danvers, – with whom I had lived for twenty years in the closest habits of intimacy, & whom I entirely esteemed & loved. [1]  – It has left me still in that state in which dreams are xx more distressing than waking thoughts; – & when time has scarred over the wound. There will always remain a gloom over what used to be some of the happiest recollections of my life.

The house which I inhabit is at this time for sale with the surrounding land to the value of something between 3 & 4000£. It is not unlikely that the purchaser, whoever he may be, will build me out of my lease, by rendering the situation no longer desirable, – & this makes me think of removing at the end of my first term, – three years hence. I shall be much inclined, if I can possibly command means for the removal, to pass two or three years with my family on the continent, where they may acquire the languages in the easiest manner, & I may enjoy fruits & sunshine. The difference of xxx expence in living would probably cover the costs of travelling, & Othellos occupation [2]  might go on there as well as here. As yet this is only a dream, & in my dreams I do not like to outstrip time so far, for no man had can have a more ever-present sense of the uncertainties of life.

Have you read Lewis & Clarks Journal? [3]  There is an end of the Welsh Indians, [4]  – & the quantity of evidence collected upon that subject must be explained in part by accounts of the Spanish backsettlers, passing from tribe to tribe, but mostly by that propensity to exaggerating & lying which is almost as mischievous as it is common. I wishd to have traced something of the Mexicans in this book, – but there are no vocabularies, – & in every thing else not a vestige is to be found, as far as these travellers extend their enquiries. Vocabularies would probably have shown some, for the language at Nootka Sound contains indisputable characteristics of the Aztec speech. Did I ever observe to you that the Calmuck Idols of which Dr Clark has given xx a print in his first volume are manifestly the connecting link between xx my friends of Padalon & the Swerga on one side, & Mexitli & his family on the other? [5] 

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Danvers had died on 3 May 1814. BACK

[2] Othello, Act 3, scene 3, line 357: ‘Othello’s occupation’ i.e. service to the State, in Southey’s case as Poet Laureate. BACK

[3] Probably Meriweather Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clarke (1770–1838), Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean (1814), reviewed by Southey in Quarterly Review, 12 (January 1815), 317–368. BACK

[4] i.e. the Madogwys (descendants of Prince Madoc) of popular legend and the basis of Southey’s poetic magnum opus Madoc (1805). In 1815 Southey added a footnote to the ‘Preface’ to the fourth edition of Madoc clarifying that contemporary expeditions had found nothing, and ‘it is now certain that no Welsh Indians are to be found upon any branches of the Missouri’, or, for that matter, anywhere else; Madoc, 4th edn, 2 vols (London, 1815), I, p. viii. BACK

[5] Edward Daniel Clarke (1769–1822; DNB), Travels in Various Countries of Europe, Asia and Africa. Part the First. Russia, Tartary and Turkey, 3rd edn (London, 1813), between pp. 244 and 245, a set of four ‘Sacred Pictures in use among the Calmuck Tribes’. Southey later acquired an 11-volume edition of Clarke’s Travels (1816–1824), no. 601 in the sale catalogue of his library. A student of comparative religion, Southey here connects the Calmuck deities with those of India and Mexico, the latter two featured in The Curse of Kehama (1810) and Madoc (1805). Southey had previously sent this information to Rickman; see Southey to John Rickman, 2 January 1813, Letter 2195. BACK

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August 2013