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

2471. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 19 August 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. 19 August. 1814.

My dear Wynn

You know there prevails an unlucky opinion in the world respecting Wales, that it never produced a man of genius; as if nature having bestowed great care in bringing the mutton of the principality to perfection, left the men thereof in a very unfinished state. I have more than once been driven to a nonplus in opposing this wicked opinion, not having been able to produce any greater men than Sir Henry Morgan the Buccaneer, [1]  & his namesake the great heresiarch Pelagius. [2]  – your friends the Catholicks however hold that miracles have not ceased in Wales, & St Winifred [3]  is at this time in full odour. But if a man of genius should peradventure be found there, look you Mr Charles Williams, I shall have xxxxx who do xxxx xxx xxxxx St Winifred {peradventure it may be a miracle, I dare not deny that;} but as a good Protestant & a staunch No Popery Man I defy Dr Milner [4]  to prove that St Winifred has any thing to do with it.

As you may well suppose I receive plenty of letters from poets aspirant, – more especially since my promotion to a dignity, which they seem to regard as curates do the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury. This evening however I have had a letter which is very x remarkable for its good sense, & {- more remarkable still, -} this letter is from a Welsh herdsman in the Vale of Clwyd.

He tells me that his father died when he was seven years of age, leaving him nothing to depend upon but a knowledge of reading writing & the principles of arithmetic {grammar}, which must needs have been little enough. That for nine years & a half he has tended the herds of a farmer between Ruthin & Denbigh. That thro the indulgence of a neighbouring gentleman (whom he has not named) he possesses many advantages, & he requests permission to send me specimens of his compositions in prose & verse that I may advise him whether to submit them to public notice or let them rest in oblivion. The most remarkable part of the letter is that he says he is seems to be perfectly contented. He says that his situation is comfortable, that he has no wish to change it, & that his highest ambition is the acquaintance of learned men. Whether he will prove poet or not remains to be seen, – but he is certainly an extraordinary man, & seems to possess that wisdom which is more rare & far more valuable than any brilliancy of talents.

I have He sent his letter by an acquaintance to Manchester & requested an answer thro the same channel, but I am apprehensive from xx the date & the time allotted for his friends stay there that that answer [5]  may arrive too late, & lie in the Manchester Post Office. So I write a second reply, [6]  in the hope that you may direct it so as to find him. And I have told him to direct his specimens under cover to you, giving him a proper caution as to the weight. Greeton Evans is his name, & he dates from Llynn Aledd {(which is between Ruthin & Denbigh, he says – you perhaps will know to which post town it had better be addrest.)} – Would it not have surprized you to find have found a herdsman reading Madoc [7]  in the vale of Clwyd? – I send my letter unsealed, that you may see in what manner I have answered him.

Should his writings possess any merit of their own, his lot may be bettered by them, without changing it. And whatever their merit may be there is something so happy in the mans state of mind that whenever I set foot in Wales again I will find him out. If he proves to be a Welsh Bloomfield I bespeak you for his patron. His letter is so well – I might say so beautifully written that it is the admiration of every person to whom I have as yet shown it. If he writes under cover to you, open the letter inclosure & judge for yourself.

I have a letter from Edward in which he expresses a wish for what has always seemed to me the wisest thing which could be done for him considering his habits & character, – that an engagement could be procured for him at a respectable theatre.

I am about to send off the preface &c of Roderick [8]  to the printer, [9]  another fortnight will compleat the printing. Where shall your copy be sent? & did you receive the Laureates last Odes? [10]  Xx xxxx xx xx xx Remember that if you do not receive every thing of mine as soon as it appears, xxxx xxx xxx negligence or oversight in the publishers is very possible, – but there will never be any neglect on my part. How is the eye?

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: [readdressed in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Llangedwin/ Oswestry {Acton}
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 372–374 [in part]. BACK

[1] The privateer and colonial governor Sir Henry Morgan (c. 1635–1688; DNB), son of Robert Morgan of Llanryhmny, Glamorgan. BACK

[2] The theologian Pelagius (fl. c. 390–418; DNB), whose teachings on free will and original sin were condemned as heretical. He was reputed to have been of British origin. It was also claimed that his name was a Hellenization of the common Welsh name ‘Morgan’. BACK

[3] St Winefride (7th century), Welsh princess and saint, who is commemorated in a pilgrimage site at Holywell, Flintshire. BACK

[4] John Milner (1752–1826; DNB), leading English Catholic and Vicar-Apostolic of the Midlands region 1803–1826. He was the author of Authentic Documents relative to the miraculous cure of Winifred White, of Wolverhampton, at St Winifred’s Well, alias Holywell, in Flintshire, on the 28th June 1805 (1806). BACK

[5] See Southey to Greeton Evans, 19 August 1814, Letter 2470. BACK

[6] See Southey to Greeton Evans, 20 August 1814, Letter 2472. BACK

[7] Southey’s Welsh-American epic Madoc (1805). BACK

[8] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[9] See Southey to James Ballantyne, [c. 23] August 1814, Letter 2475. BACK

[10] Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (1814). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013