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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1165. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 14 March 1806 ⁠* 

March 14th 1806

My dear Wynn

I have a fine story for you of which all the people in Keswick are at this moment brimfull. There is a man here of some little credit among the people as doing well in the world & being very religious. He keeps a little hole of a shop where he sells sugar & tea & stationary, has about fifty circulating books, besides a few methodistical ones which last he lends gratis to any body who will read them. This mans son has just written him xx what I am about to tell you, from Newcastle as a circumstance {which has} just happened in that neighbourhood. The old methodist believes it, – & half the servants in the town will not be able to sleep tonight in consequence of their terror.

A man of reprobate character was playing at cards so late on Saturday night that somebody warned him to leave off, because, as the Irishman says, it was Sunday morning. The fellow replied he would sit there till the day of judgement & immediately as he had uttered the words – he past away. This is the phrase here for dying, & the very words in which one of our maids has just related the story. Well – there the corpse remained sitting at the table & the candle burning before him, unconsumed; they could not move him from the chair to bury him, nor could they extinguish the candle. – the house has been deserted – as you may well suppose – & there till the day of Judgement he is to remain, – a sitting miracle. It is a very fine story, & I should like to know the pro rise & progress of the latter part of it. That a man may have died suddenly when playing at cards is very likely.

I have noticed so many stories of these judgements as they are called in the newspapers that I begin to suspect the Methodists are following the laudable example of the Saints of former times, & inventing pious lies. One such contingency {indeed} certainly happened at Devizes some thirty years ago. There is a monument there to record it, & the thing was public. But Gordon & Trenchards argument against witchcraft applies to such cases as these. xxx did you ever see it in Catos Letters? [1]  If the Devil had any dealings here it would not be in such a pettyfogging way with a few old women this is the drift of what he says, & it is worth looking at to see how well it is said. And so, if any other argument was necessary against the notion of particular providence than that it derogates from general providence, – that these things are done in a corner would be sufficient. Jupiter chose a fit subject when he xxxx thunderstruck Capaneus [2] 

God bless you

RS

– I have discovered how it is that the Irish have xxxx the cause of the why Irish nature differs from human nature. A chapter in Genesis has been lost in which it was related how before the birth of her last child Eve had fallen a second time into temptation, & eaten a forbidden potatoe. This child was the father of the Paddies, & so they have an original sin of their own.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Whitehall/ London/ private
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ MAR15/ 1806
MS: National Library of Wales MS 4812D
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 366–367. BACK

[1] John Trenchard (1668/9–1723; DNB), landowner and radical Whig, who along with his collaborator Thomas Gordon (d. 1750; DNB), a pamphleteer and classical scholar, worked on various anti-clerical, anti-papist, and anti-corruption publications which became very influential in Britain and America. Trenchard and Gordon submitted letters, usually under the pseudonym of Cato, between 1720 and 1723 to the London Journal and later the British Journal. BACK

[2] Capaneus was an immensely strong mythological warrior who was killed by a bolt of lightning when he scoffed at Jupiter, the Roman king of the Gods. BACK

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August 2013