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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1148. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 17 January [1806] ⁠* 

Friday Jany 17

Dear Wynn

I have just received yours with the draft.

Milton’s worst superlative is virtuousest. [1]  Verbal likings or dislikings must ought always to be suspected. [2]  To confess the truth I liked that word beautifullest [3]  so well as actually to interpolate the line as it stands for the sake of using it, – not for the sound of the word (tho to my ears it is nothing unpleasant) but because of the passion, which being so used, it implies. My liking grew from the line in Spenser [4]  – is not your dislike more owing to the unusualness of the word than to any-thing else? – It is to be wished that these regular superlatives were more frequently used, because we want our language has too few long words, & has quite monosyllables enough without the frequent recurrence of most.

I am reviewing Roscoes book, [5]  which improves greatly upon a second & soberer perusal. It has set me longing to see my own first volume in the press, but that day is yet at a distance. [6]  I am far more confident about this work than I have ever felt steadily about any former one. Roscoes book shows me what to avoid in some cases. If he had made xxx xxxx xx it in two parts, civil & literary, there would have been no complaint of the quantity.

I wish you a successful campaign against the domestic enemy. The loss of your chambers is a great evil – you will not easily suit yourself so well.

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: [illegible]
Postmark: FREE/JAN 20/1806
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Adam’s comment on Eve in lines 549–550 of Book VIII of Paradise Lost: ‘what she wills to do or say,/ Seems wisest, vertuousest, discreetest, best’. BACK

[2] This discussion concerns Wynn’s criticisms of Madoc (1805); see Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 10 January [1806], Letter 1145. BACK

[3] ‘my beautifullest girl’ occurs in the twentieth book of the ‘Madoc in Aztlan’ section of Madoc (1805), line 93. The phrase remained in later editions. BACK

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

[5] Southey reviewed William Roscoe, The Life of Pope Leo X, Son of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1805), in the Annual Review for 1805, 4 (1806), 449–467. BACK

[6] Southey’s Letters from England by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish (1807). BACK

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August 2013