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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1145. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 10 January [1806] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

I have never seen the Life of Gryffydd ab Cynan, [1]  & shall be much obliged to you to take it up to town – there is also another book which I should be very glad to go thro leisurely, – Powells small edition of Giraldus [2]  which if I do not forget is among the old books at Wynnstay.

I am gratified to see by the obnoxious phrases with how searching an eye you have inspected Madoc. [3]  Mast-tower-top – is a clumsy phrase – it is in the first draught of the poem & was meant to express that at the mast head there was a tower or turret. It shall be made intelligible. [4]  I do not remember where merry make occurs – if it stand as a verb it is accurate – if as a substantive it must out. [5]  The quoth I & quoth he were meant as a sort of echo – & may be amiss. [6]  The query certainly bad. [7]  beautifullest is genuine English [8] 

‘Help to adorn my beautifullest bride

is a line of Spensers in his Epithalamium [9]  which is one of the finest poems in any language. – kingcraft [10]  – is it amiss? slivering  [11]  expresses what no other word can do, & is a true English word as well as a Dutch one – but the whole passage is suspicious, – & indeed all the book {section} except the beginning & the end must be thoroughly corrected.

I hope all that goes before will be sufficient to acquit me of pertinacity, for I cannot admit the redundant the as faulty. It is neither more nor less than using an anapaest instead of an iambic. – which is done by xxxxx xxx all our best blank verse writers quite as often as I have done it, – & indeed without it blank verse gets on the strut, – as in Akenside [12]  – or become monotonous – as in Rowe & Thomson. [13]  I do not know any principle of versification which is more certain than this.

If my Welsh names are inharmonious it is from ignorance – I read them thus

Bōda & Brēnda & Aēlgўvařel (Aēlgŭvārle)

Gwȳnon & Cēlўnin (Kēlŭnĭn) & Gwȳnŏdўl

& this way I read them to Owen & Edward Williams, [14]  without who found no fault. x Bard Williams understands English measure, & yet he did not object.

About similies I am quite doubtful & inclined against them. For the proposed change of story at the conclusion I wish you to see think whether the circumstances are good in themselves, supposing that the execution will be as good as that of the present part – which it is reasonable to suppose.

I believe there were no large paper copies of the Lay – because of the second edition I know the only difference in presentation copies was {is} that they are on better paper – xxx I have one of these. [15]  Wordsworth has one of the first – differing in nothing from those which are for sale.

God bless you


Friday Jany 10.


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Stamped: [partial] KES
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Historia Gruffud vab Kenan: a Welsh text of the early thirteenth century based on a Latin work, now lost, containing the near contemporary biography of Gruffudd ap Cynan (1054/5–1137), King of Gwynedd. BACK

[2] Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146– c. 1223; DNB), or Gerald of Wales, produced poems, letters, lives of the saints, polemical works and treatises, amounting to about ten volumes in modern printed editions. His Itinerarium Cambriae and Descriptio Cambriae were published in an abridged edition in 1585 by David Powell (1549/52–1598; DNB). BACK

[3] Southey’s Madoc (1805). BACK

[4] The phrase did appear in the published poem, in the fourth book of the ‘Madoc in Wales’ section (‘The Voyage’), line 22. See volume 2 of Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004). BACK

[5] ‘It is the giddy people’s merry-make’, line 99 of the first book of the ‘Madoc in Wales’ section of Madoc (1805), was altered to ‘It is the giddy people merry-making’ in all subsequent editions. BACK

[6] Lines 189–190 of the third book of the ‘Madoc in Wales’ section of Madoc (1805), ‘Now God forbid, quoth I. Now God forbid / Quoth he’. The phrase remained in later editions. BACK

[7] ‘again did he renew / The query’. Lines 199–200 of the sixth book of the ‘Madoc in Wales’ section. The phrase remained in later editions. BACK

[8] ‘my beautifullest girl’ occurs in the twentieth book of the ‘Madoc in Aztlan’ section of the poem, line 93. The phrase remained in later editions. BACK

[9] Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599; DNB), Epithalamion (1595), line 105. BACK

[10] The word appears in line 55 of the ninth book of the ‘Madoc in Wales’ section of the poem. It remained in later editions. BACK

[11] Line 119 of book XVI of the ‘Madoc in Aztlan’ section. It remained in later editions. BACK

[12] Mark Akenside (1721–1770; DNB), poet and physician. BACK

[13] Nicholas Rowe (1674–1718), poet and playwright; James Thomson (1700–1748), author of The Seasons (1730). BACK

[14] Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) (1747–1826; DNB), influential Welsh antiquarian, poet, collector and literary forger, who published a great many manuscripts in order to preserve Welsh literature and cultural traditions. BACK

[15] Walter Scott’s, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, was published by Longman in 1805 to instant success, leading to a second edition within the same year. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013