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

245. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 9 August 1797 ⁠* 

I am sorry you were not chaired. you would have been within reach & I would have gone some distance to have seen the inauguration.

I have only seen the former parts of the Pursuits of Literature. [1]  the author appeared to me to have the malevolence of Gifford [2]  without his wit. the lines on Darwin [3]  were however uncommonly good. if he has wiped me with civility he will serve the book, & the advertisement makes amends for the censure.

I have now gone thro Blackstone [4]  often & attentively, so repeatedly reperusing the more important parts, that I think I know the book well. nor does farther study of it now appear necessary or useful. Bedford you see has given up. he should have considered more before he began, but situated as he is, I think him right in abandoning a study for which he has not time.

I have got learnt much military knowledge from a history of Edward 3rd. by old Joshua Barnes, [5]  who, Bentley said, knew as much Greek as an Athenian cobbler. [6]  did you ever see the book? it is a large folio, so minute as almost to make me amends for the want of Froissard: [7]  & I expect to be very accurate in my costume, but if this merit be not pointed out by explanatory notes it will be lost, for the Reviews did not discover my blunders — witness the “bannerd lion” [8]  — & the throwing the spear [9]  in the 7th book. with your permission when I return to London, I will have the proof sheets sent up under cover to your Senatorship: which will enable me to give it a last revisal, & to insert notes from books to which I cannot have access here.

A man may read Hume [10]  without knowing what sort of animals his ancestors were. Was it not you that first read the English history in Holinshed? [11] 

I have something to add about the battle of Azincour. [12]  the importance of the event & the brevity of the book, when the machinery is cut off, requiring it. the battle of Patay, [13]  as the concluding action of the poem, xx must have more of the previous solemnity of th a pitched battle. I wish much to alter the beginning on account of the miracle, but see no way of doing it. I cannot discover what name has been improved into Glacidas: it is better than an English name — but I should like the real one. Gladdisdale is Sir William Glansdale in Shakespear. [14] 

That blockhead Chapelain [15]  has no notes, nor did I find in him a single xxx incident which I had not known before. he has however set me right right in the length of march from Chinon to Orleans. I wish I had seen that city. can you tell me if the Loire be a wide stream there (as I take it to be) & if there are not islands in the rivers there? there were six great streets in it, that met in the middle; I find from Chapelain that Rheims was built in the same manner, & conclude {conceive} it to have been the customary way of building towns.

The Anglesey militia here have published rather an Irish reason why all attempts upon their loyalty will be useless — because they do not understand English. One of the Pagets [16]  is their Major. he makes his servant carry a chair down to the beach that he may sit down to undress & dress when he bathes, (the beach is a mile & half from his house) & he has the man to wipe him. I would give one of my ears to know as much Welsh & about Anglesey as one of these soldiers. Are there any remains of the old palace of Powys? I am taking Madoc to the court of Owain Cyveilioc. [17] 

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

Wednesday. August 9. 1797.


Notes

* Address: For/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5. Stone Buildings. Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: RINGWOOD
Postmarks: AU/ 10/ 97; FREE/ AU/ 10/ 97
Endorsement: August 9/ 1797
MS: National Library of Wales, MS. 4811D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Thomas James Mathias (1753/4–1835; DNB), The Pursuits of Literature, or What You Will. A Satirical Poem in Dialogue. With Notes. Part the Second (1796). BACK

[2] The satirist William Gifford (1756–1826; DNB). BACK

[3] Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802; DNB), satirised in Thomas James Mathias, The Pursuits of Literature, or What You Will. A Satirical Poem in Dialogue. With Notes. Part the Second (London, 1796), p. 7. BACK

[4] William Blackstone (1723–1780; DNB), Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). BACK

[5] Joshua Barnes (1654–1712; DNB), scholar, antiquary and author of The History of That Most Victorious Monarch Edward III (1688), which Southey used for the second edition of Joan of Arc (1798). BACK

[6] A bon-mot widely attributed to the classical scholar Richard Bentley (1662–1742; DNB). BACK

[7] Jean Froissart (c. 1337–c. 1410), Le Premier (-Quart) Volume De Messire Jehan Froissart Lequel Traicte de Choses Vingts de Memoire Advenues Tant es Pays de France, Angleterre, Flandres, Espaigne que Escoce, ets Aus Tres Lieux Circonvoisins (1530), was used by Southey for the second edition of Joan of Arc (1798). BACK

[8] Robert Southey, Joan of Arc, An Epic Poem (Bristol and London, 1796), p. 11. BACK

[9] Robert Southey, Joan of Arc, An Epic Poem (Bristol and London, 1796), p. 120. BACK

[10] David Hume (1711–1776; DNB), History of England, (1754–1762). BACK

[11] Raphael Holinshed (c.1525–1580?; DNB), Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1577). BACK

[12] The English victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415. BACK

[13] A French victory over the English in 1429. BACK

[14] A character in the first part of Henry VI. BACK

[15] Jean Chapelain (1595–1674), La Pucelle ou la France Délivrée (1756). BACK

[16] Unidentified, but possibly a male relative of Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey (1768–1854; DNB), soldier and politician. BACK

[17] The poet and Prince of Powys, Owain Cyveilioc (c. 1130–c. 1197). BACK

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March 2009