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

2601. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 20 May 1815]⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I see by this days paper that Strachey has lost a sister. [1]  – It is surprizing to me that men whose fortunes are not absolutely desperate at home will go to India to seek them, that is men who have any feeling beyond what is connected with the sense of touch. Fourteen years transportation is a heavy sentence, – Strachey I think has been gone 17. – What a portion of human life is this, & of its best years! After such an absence the shock {pain} of returning is has hardly less severe, & the perhaps the grief more {more} lasting, than that of departure. He finds his family thinned by death, – his parents if he finds them at all, fallen into old age, & on the brink of the grave, – the friends whom he left in youth, so changed as to be no longer the same – What fortune can make amends for this! It is indeed propter vitam vivendi perdere causas! [2]  – I grieve to think sometimes that you & I who were once in such daily habits of intimate intercourse, meet now only at intervals of two or three years; tho besides {our} communication by letter (too seldom I confess rather than complain) what we do in public serves to keep us in sight of each other. However indifferent may be the matter of the debate, I always look to see if Mr C Wynn has spoken. But Strachey must almost feel himself in another world.

Your last letter was in a more despondent strain than I expected from you. You gained so much credit last year by strengthening the Government & facilitating its exertions, – that I wished to have seen the same feeling displayed now, when it would have been both honourable & popular to have spoken more boldly than ministers ventured to do. In some of the debates I know not whether they or their assailants xxxx provoked me most.

I thought that rascal Murat [3]  might have done more mischief. The proper termination of his career would be that the Sicilian Bourbons should catch him, & send him to Madrid; & I think Louis 18 [4]  will {would now} be fully justified in sending Prince Joseph [5]  to the same place. My pl settlement for him should be to place his skeleton with a crown upon the head & a halter round the neck, at the door of the Burial Place in the Escurial. The contest in France cannot surely be long; if Buonaparte could have acted with vigour on the offensive he would have found perilous allies in Saxony, & little resistance from the Belgians. But the internal state of France paralises him, & if he acts on the defensive he can derive no advantage from the injustice of the great German powers. Two things were wanting last year, the British army did not get to Paris, & the French were neither punished as they deserved nor humbled as the interests of the rest of the world required. It will I trust now be put beyond all doubt that they have been conquered & that their metropolis has been taken.

I have an easy favour to request. My brother Dr S. is a candidate for the Middlesex Hospital, [6]  & Lady Carysforts [7]  name is in the list. It is not allowable to ask directly for a vote xxx before the vacancy has been declared, but it is perfectly correct to solicit request our friends not to engage their votes against us. You xxx Ladies you know vote by letter, & you may by a word in time do Harry some service & afford me a great gratification.

The second edition of Roderick [8]  is selling well. It will probably soon reach to a third, & then fall into the slow steady sale of its predecessors. I am perfectly convinced that a more fashionable sale The sale will become of importance when by the laws of literary property it will no longer benefit the author or xx his family. [9]  This is an abominable injustice, & will I suppose one day be redressed, but not in our time. I am misemploying much time in reviewing for the lucre of gain, – which nothing but ‘filthy lucre’ [10]  should make me do. My history of Brazil [11]  however gets on in the press, – & you wont be surprized were you see the materials which I have collected for it. I did not think it right to postpone this second volume till my history of the Sp. War [12]  was done, – for it had already been postponed too long. But it is a considerable sacrifice which I have thus been making. As soon as this work is off my hands I shall be able to put the Hist. of Portugal [13]  to press without impeding the more profitable work. It is on this that I should wish to rest my reputation. As a poet I know where I have fallen short; & did I consult only my own feelings it is probable that I should write poetry no more; – not as being contented with what I have done, but as knowing that I can xx xx xxx hope to do nothing better. I might were my whole heart & mind given to it, as it was in youth, – but they are no longer at my own disposal. – As an historian I shall come nearer my mark. For thorough research indeed, & range of materials I do not believe that my H. of Portugal will ever have been surpassed.

God bless you my dear Wynn. I wish you could see your Godson who is in disposition & intellect all that I could wish him.

Yrs very affectionately

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr / Duke Street/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: MY 20/ 1815
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. 109–111 [in part; dated 20 May 1815].
Dating note: dating from postmark and content. BACK

[1] Caroline Strachey (c. 1784–1815) died in London on 8 May 1815. Her death was reported in the Courier (12 May 1814). BACK

[2] ‘to destroy the reasons for living for the sake of life’, Decimus Iunius Iuvenal (late 1st century AD– early 2nd century AD), Satires, Book 3, Satire 8, lines 83–84. BACK

[3] Joachim Murat (1767–1815), Marshal of France, King of Naples 1808–1815, and Bonaparte’s brother-in-law. He had declared war on Austria on 15 March 1815, but his troops were forced to conclude a peace agreement on 20 May and Murat fled to Corsica. He was eventually executed by firing squad on 23 October 1815 after an unsuccessful attempt to regain Naples. BACK

[4] Louis XVIII (1755–1824; King of France 1814–1824). BACK

[5] Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844; King of Naples 1806–1808, King of Spain 1808–1813). BACK

[6] Henry Herbert Southey was standing for election to the post of Senior Physician at the Middlesex Hospital. BACK

[7] Elizabeth Grenville (1756–1842), Wynn’s aunt and sister of Lord Grenville. She was married to John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort, Irish politician and writer, who had taken some interest in Southey’s early work. BACK

[8] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). A second, duodecimo, edition was published in 1815. BACK

[9] i.e after 28 years, or the life of the author, if longer, under the Copyright Act (1814). BACK

[10] Titus 1: 11. BACK

[11] History of Brazil (1810–1819), volume 2 appeared in 1817 and volume 3 in 1819. BACK

[12] History of the Peninsular War (1823–1832). BACK

[13] Southey’s uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013