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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1060. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [c. 16 April 1805] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

I have received yours with its inclosure on my return from Wordsworths where I have been since Monday. – the stories that his brother was overcome by his situation are wholly unfounded. No man ever behaved better or more calmly – his last words were when the ship was known to be sinking, & a cry was set up – silence my lads! Silence! – Could the ship have been kept afloat only a quarter of an hour longer not a life would have been lost – they were within a mile of such shoal water that the bottom would have touched & rested. I could tell you much of this miserable affair & much of John Wordsworth xxxx who was a truly admirable man. [1]  but such things xx only occasion pain.

Madoc has reached Keswick. I am sorry to see Snowdon uniformly misspelt – by what unaccountable blunder I know not. It is a beautiful book but I repent having printed it in quarto. By its high price one half the edition is condemned to be furniture in expensive libraries – & the other to xxxx xxxxxx & collect cobwebs in the publishers warehouses. I foresee that I shall get no solid pudding by it. The loss on the first edition will eat up the profits of a second – if the publishers, as I suppose they will, should print a second while the quarto hangs upon hand. However after sixteen years it is something pleasant – as well as something melancholy – to see it as I now do, for the first time in the shape of a book. Many persons will read the book with pleasure – probably no one with more than you, for whatever worth it may have you will feel that had it not been for you it could never possibly have existed. It is easy to quit the pursuit of fortune for fame – but had I been obliged to work for the necessary comforts – xx xxxx xx instead of the superfluities of life – I must have sunk as others have before me – Interrupted – when I did not wish it – for it is twilight – just enough to see that the pen travels straight & I am tired with my walk from Grasmere – & was in a mood for letter writing – but here is a gentleman from Malta with letters from Coleridge.

God bless you –

RS.

Tuesday.


Notes

* Address: C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Chester
Endorsement: May {April} 16 1805
Postmark: [partial, illegible]
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 328–329.
Dating note: Southey dated the letter ‘Tuesday’, but did so hurriedly after being ‘interrupted’. Since he tells Wynn that he has just returned from Grasmere where he had been ‘since Monday’ it seems hardly likely that he had only spent one night there. Wynn endorsed it May 16 then altered it to April. Unfortunately there is no postmark to clarify the confusion. Internal evidence suggests a date after Southey’s last letter to Wynn (11 April 1805), as this states he has not seen a copy of Madoc yet but this letter reports that ‘Madoc has reached Keswick’. The date of the endorsement (and C. C. Southey’s dating) has therefore been retained. BACK

[1] After John Wordsworth (1772–1805), captain of the East Indiaman, the Earl of Abergavenny, went down with his ship on the Shambles rocks off Portland Bill, on 5 February 1805, rumours circulated blaming him for negligence. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013