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

2668. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 7 November 1815]⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I ought to have told you a week ago that I was once more in England safe & sound. But the continual excitement & hurry & bustle of this place scarcely allow me time for sleep. Our journey has been very interesting, – the route was thus – Ostend, Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, the fields of battle of the 18 & 16th – Namur, Huy, Liege, Spa, Aix la Chapelle, – this the farthest point. Then Maestricht, Louvain, Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Courtray, Menin, Ypres, Bergues, Dunkirk & Calais. I kept a minute journal [1]  & you know that a traveller who attempts to do this can find no time for any other writing. Perhaps no five weeks of my life were ever better employed. I bought a good many books, & among others have bargained for a set of the Acta Sanctorum. [2]  As yet there is no tidings of their arrival.

The political aspects are as bad as possible. The universal belief is that we let Buonaparte loose from Elba: & the answer to one who attempts to prove the folly of this supposition – “why did you not put him to death then when you had him in your hands? If the Devil had called xx all his imps to council to invent a means for confirming this notion he could not have devised a better than that of this present of house & furniture! The absurdity & unpopularity & indecency of the thing are felt so strongly that it is stoutly denied at present, – as if it were possible to conceal it when the bill is to be paid! [3] 

We shall remain in & near London some ten or twelve days longer then travel homewards viâ Ludlow [4]  where we must halt for two or three days. Of course we are very anxious to be at home, & after having been fallow so long, I have a great appetite for falling to work.

Roderick [5]  sells steadily & well, & at length Madoc is well printed in the small form. [6]  I have planned a poem of which Waterloo is to furnish the occasion {& title} rather than the subject – if it be executed as it is planned it will do me credit, – & part of my journal will be affixed as preface or as postscript; – that only which relates to the scenes of action. [7] 

God bless you

RS.

I have thought & puzzled myself about your inscription to no purpose, as yet, – but still I hope something will come of it. [8] 


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Llangedwin/ Oswestry
Postmark: FREE/ 7 NO 7/ 1815; ONO/ 7/ 1815
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Unpublished.
Dating note: dating from postmark. BACK

[1] The Journal was finally published as Journal of a Tour in the Netherlands in the Autumn of 1815 (1902). BACK

[2] Southey hoped he had bought the 53 volume Acta Sanctorum (1643–1794), no. 207 in the sale catalogue of his library. In fact he received a 6 volume edition of 1783–1794, no. 152 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] Napoleon had left Elba on 26 February 1815 and re-established his rule in France, until French troops were defeated at Waterloo on 18 June 1815. BACK

[4] In order to visit Wade Browne. BACK

[5] Roderick, the Last of the Goths. Originally published in 1814, it had gone into a second and a third edition in 1815. BACK

[6] The duodecimo fourth edition of Madoc, published in 1815. BACK

[7] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). Southey did not carry out his intention to include parts of his Journal. BACK

[8] A committee had been set up by Wynn’s fellow Welshmen to commission a huge silver vase to commemorate the safe return from the battle of Waterloo (18 July 1815) of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Southey was asked to write an inscription to be engraved on the vase, but failed to do so; see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 5 September 1815 (Letter 2652) and 15 December 1815 (Letter 2682). BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013