197. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 29 January [1797] 

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

197. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 29 January [1797] ⁠* 

Sunday. Jany. 29th

I returned last night & your letter arrived this morning. you say the sooner I come the better. I have little to arrange & will be with you the end of the week.

Concerning these skeletons I have displayed a perseverance that would have done honor even to the scientific avidity of Horse Campbell. the weather prevented our journey for a fortnight. we got there however on Friday last. the accounts have been enormously exaggerated. the cavern (a natural one) descends steeply — from the number of human bones it has evidently been a place of burial. from the way in which the sculls lie I believe that the bodies were thrown carelessly down the descent, & left to lie as they fell — another reason for my supposing this is that, tho the cavern xx xxxx {penetrates} 130 feet, there are no bones farther down than a body thrown in would have fallen. no entire skeleton was found — nor did I observe any of the smaller bones. these have mouldered away — & the skulls crumbled with the slightest blow. the droppings of the cavern had encrusted them with stalactydes.

I had been directed to enquire of the clergyman of Blagdon (3 miles from Bxrr Burrington Coombe where the cavern was discovered) for some tidings of a place of burial in his neighbourhood discovered about four years ago. he was dangerously ill & of course I did not intrude upon the family with my questions. I enquired of the villagers — there was something at Nimlett — a sort of an imitation of that at Burrington — one girl said no — it was at Budcomb. we enquired again. it had been at Nimlett: it was built by [MS torn] & had been pulld down for a neighbouring lime ki[MS torn] Budcomb was in our way home. we enquired there at last — a woman in a most wretched state of poverty gave us some information. one of her children showd us the way — we got candle & matches — & set off with firebrands for near half a mile. it was a rudely covered vault thus shaped

[Southey sketches a cross roads]

about ten feet either way. there were many bones. it had been covered with stones — but the mound was low & irregularly shaped — such as gave no reason to imagine a tumulus below.

So much for the dead. — I have received Bedfords book this morning — he has much amended it since I saw the manuscript. [1] 

I am in hourly expectation of receiving the Letters. but will not lose the post in [MS torn]taining this for the parcel.

farewell. I shall see you at the end of the week.

R Southey.

[Southey sketches a man wearing a hat]


Notes

* Address: C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ No 5. Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: AJA/ 30/ 97
Endorsement: Southey/ Jan 29/ 1797
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Grosvenor Charles Bedford’s translation of Musæus (fl. c. early 6th century), The Loves of Hero and Leander (1797). BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009