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

256. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 12 September [1797] ⁠* 

Tuesday. 12 Sept.

I do not suspect Dapple of being your anonymous adviser. the hand is certainly very similar to his — so much so as to make me think when I opened your letter that the enclosed was from him. But he could not have written with such plenitude of inanity. nothing disgusts me so much as the affectation of xxxxxxx fine language. Godwins Enquirer [1]  is a sad example. if a writer has a plain thing to express let him express it plainly, & if he ought to write at all the ideas will elevate the language — he may rest assured that his language will not elevate the idea.

I am somewhat sorry that you should think I thought your criticisms peremptory, because my own replies were so. Of the lines &c (particularly in the opening of the third Book, where they were very awkward) it would be endless to transmit you the innumerable alterations. the “Was not a man” I must I believe concede — as I believe my predilection for it is but a prejudice. bravelier is not my coinage — I remember it in Drayton [2]  — there is no reason why the adverb should not admit of {degrees of} comparison, & I am almost certain that in some language it does — but my grammars are not with me, & I have not grammatical knowledge enough to say what language it is. You point out in the Burgundy part — the two passages which I feel are the weakest. the insertion of a few lines in each will remedy it. the Snowdrop I cannot give up. [3]  the sentence finishes more fully with it — & in a matter of mere opinion I of course prefer my own — even were it single.

Holinshed & Froissart [4]  will soon be accessible to me. if you find any thing in the other chroniclers worthy of a note I shall of course be thankful for it. My Mother is with me — she came for change of air & is infinitely better. we return with her this week — so your next must be to Westgate Buildings. the Coke [5]  has not yet arrived — I have twice written for it — & shall expect to find it at Bath.

xxxx I doubted not that you would agree with me in thinking very highly of quaint old Quarles. you shall see his Argalus & Parthenia [6]  when we meet, it is more ridiculous than his Emblems, but often very fine & never tame.

I much want the latter books of Amadis, subsequent to those which Tressan [7]  has abridged & prior to Amadis of Greece: you know my great attachment to the old romances. I know the Portugueze Palmerin. it has fine parts but deserves not the praise of Cervantes. [8] 

the lines on Brissot end with — “wept by the good ye fell.  [9]  Muir is out [10]  but the simily remains in a compressed state. I have inserted some lines on the first introduction of Talbot. Do you know that the English burnt the Maids first herald because she had no authority to send one? — I despair of adapting this to my story.

have you the Clovis of Desmarests? if so I should be very glad of the extract rel describing the descent of the holy oil. [11] 

You will find the large copies of my Poems with Bedford. I have written Richards’s [12]  name in one — & there is one without a name, which, if you think proper, you will give Ld Carysfort. I think it would be rather foolish myself, to send him a second edition so little different from the first but you will use your own judgement.

In my next I will send you some of my insertions. now I am somewhat weak of eye — being just returned from a walk of 33 miles, in which I have been pickled with sea spray, washed fresh with the rain — half buried in a sand shower which would not have disgraced thx Arabia — & if after all — driven back by such squalls {prevented} by tempestuous weather from crossing an arm of the sea not more than a quarter of a mile, so that we would not get at Corfe the object of the expedition. we embarkd in a good wind but were driven back. I am somewhat tired. God bless you.

When do you leave Wales? I would your countrymen encouraged researches into their antiquities somewhat more. I want more Welsh poetry than is got-atable — particularly that of Gwalchmai & Owain Cyveilioc. [13] 

yrs affectionately.


Notes

* Address: To/ Charles Watkin Williams Wynn Esqr/ Wynnstay/ near Wrexham/ Denbighshire
Stamped: CHRIST/ CHURCH
Postmark: SE/ 14/ 97
Watermark: Crest
Endorsement: Sept 6/ 97 [Southey’s dating of the letter, and its postmark, confirm that it is incorrectly endorsed.]
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 146–147. BACK

[1] William Godwin, The Enquirer. Reflections on Education, Manners and Literature in a Series of Essays (1797). BACK

[2] Southey’s use of ‘bravelier’ in Joan of Arc, An Epic Poem (Bristol and London, 1796), pp. 70, 223, was derived from Michael Drayton (1563–1631; DNB), ‘The Battle of Agincourt’; see The Works of Michael Drayton, Esq, 4 vols (London, 1753), I, p. 55. BACK

[3] Southey had mentioned the snowdrop in Joan of Arc, An Epic Poem (Bristol and London, 1796), pp. 107, 362. BACK

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

[5] Edward Coke (1552–1643; DNB), Commentarie upon Littleton (1628), the first part of his four part Institutes of the Laws of England (1628–1644). BACK

[6] Francis Quarles (1592–1644; DNB), Argalus and Parthenia (1629), a romance derived from Philip Sidney’s (1554–1586; DNB) Arcadia (1590–1593). BACK

[7] Louis-Élisabeth de la Vergne, Comte de Tressan (1705–1783), who in 1779 published an abridgement of the romance Amadis of Gaul. BACK

[8] Southey mistakenly believed that the romance Palmerin of England had Portuguese origins and argued this case in his own translation, which appeared in 1807. In the sixth chapter of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Don Quixote (1605–1615), the curate declares: ‘let this Palm of England be cared for and preserved, as a thing singular in its kind, and let a casket be made for it, like that which Alexander found among the spoils of Darius, and destined to keep in it the work of Homer’. BACK

[9] Robert Southey, Joan of Arc, An Epic Poem (Bristol and London, 1796), p. 94. BACK

[10] The description of the transported political reformer, Thomas Muir (1765–1799; DNB), as a ‘virtuous exile’, Joan of Arc, An Epic Poem (Bristol and London, 1796), p. 94, was removed by Southey from the second edition of his poem. Muir had escaped from Botany Bay in February 1796 and eventually made his way to France. BACK

[11] Jean Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin (1596–1676), Clovis, ou La France Chrestienne (Paris, 1657), pp. 411–412. Southey made use of this extract in Joan of Arc, 2nd edn, 2 vols (Bristol, 1798), I, pp. 197–198. BACK

[12] Probably Sir Richard Richards (1752–1823; DNB), an eminent lawyer in Chancery. BACK

[13] The legendary Welsh hero Gwalchmai, and the poet and Prince of Powys, Owain Cyveilioc (c. 1130–c.1197). BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009