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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1485. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [July/August 1808] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Whenever the encouragement of literature is talked of again in the House. I should think a motion for letting Proof-Sheets pass as franks would not be opposed, – xxxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxx, they cannot produce 100 £ a year to the Post Office, – probably not half the sum, – but it is a tax of some weight on the few individuals whom it affects – & a good deal of inconvenience is occasioned to the Printers by waiting for franks, while their presses stand still. Few persons have greater facilities for geting franks than myself, yet the proofs which are without them, & those which are over weight from being damp, or {which are} misdated, do not cost me less than 30/ shillings, a year. – The proofs of Madoc cost me 50s – rather too much out of five & twenty pounds profit.

________

I have by me Bishop Lavingtons tracts concerning the Moravians, – & as I can in great part vouch for the accuracy of his Catholick references there seems no reason to suspect him in xxx the others. [1]  At first these tracts left upon my mind the same impression which has been made upon yours, .. nor have I any doubt that Zinzendorff [2]  was altogether a designing man, & that the absurdities & obscenities charged upon them in their outset are in the main true. But it is so in the beginning of all sects, & it seems to be th a regular part of the process of fanaticism. Devotion borrows its language from carnal love, this is natural xx enough, .. & the consequences are natural enough {also} when one who is more known than enthusiast begins to talk out of Solomons Song to a sister in the spirit. But this sort of leaven soon purges off, – the fermentation ceases, & the liquor first becomes fine, then vapid, – & at last you come to the dregs. Moravianism is in its second stage: its few proselytes fall silently in, led by conviction {solitary} thought & conviction, not hurried on by contagious feelings, – & the main body of its members have been born within the pale of {the} society. They do not live up to the rigours of their institutions in England, – even here however it is certain that they are a respectable & respected people: & as missionaries they are meritorious beyond all others. No people but the Quakers understand how to communicate Xtianity so well & the Quakers are only beginning, whereas the Moravians have for half a century been labouring in the vineyard. Krantz’s Hist. of the what they have done in Greenland [3]  is a most valuable book – there is also a Hist. of their American missions which I want to get. [4]  Among the Hottentots [5]  they are doing much good. – The best account of the society as it exists here, is to be found I believe in a novel called Wanley-Penson, [6]  a great deal concerning their early history in England is to be found in Wesleys Journals. [7]  He was at one time closely connected with them, – but as there could not be two Popes, a seperation unluckily took place. I say unluckily, because Methodism is far the worst system of the two.

Who was it that sent Bligh out to Botany Bay? [8]  – the only place in the world I grant you which is fit for him, – but not fit for him in the capacity in which he went out. If you have not read Collins’s Book, [9]  I recommend you to get it before the business comes on in Parliament. It is unique in its kind, .. the minute history of a colony during the first years of difficulty & distress. There was one man in power there precisely fit for his situation – Governor King: & if it had been possible to induce him to stay here, Governor he ought to have been for life, with discretionary powers. [10]  But really when such a wretch as Bligh is sent out with in such a capacity, if there was any punishment to be inflicted for mismanagement, it ought to fall upon those who appointed him. It was as certain that he would do mischief, as it is that if a spark falls among gunpowder an explosion must follow. – One thing is plain respecting the colony, & that is that no more convicts ought to be sent to the establishments already made. Send them to new settlements, & let the old ones purify, at present the strata of vice is perpetually renewed. Instead of doing this – the fresh convicts should be sent at once to new points along the coast, for new settlements must necessarily consume men, & these are the men who are fit to be consumed.

I wish you were here just at this time, for our floating island has been above water for this week past. I went with Sharp (the River) & Lord Darneley [11]  to see it: & have since repeated my visit. Whether the cause may be a piece of the bottom of the Lake has been forced up, & there it is now is – still kept on a level with the surface. I suppose the phenomenon is connected with our bottom winds, – & possibly – with the mineral springs which are near that end of the Lake.

Are you right in thinking that Sallust has the advantage in subject over Tacitus? [12]  To me it appears that the histories which Sallust relates excite no good feeling, treating only of bad men in bad times, – but that the sufferings of good men in evil days form the most interesting & improving part of human history. I prefer Tacitus to all other historians – infinitely prefer him, because no other historian inculcates so deep & holy a hatred of tyranny. It is from him that I learnt my admiration of the Stoics. [13] 

God bless you

RS.


Notes

* Address: [deletions and re-address in another hand] To/ CW Williams Wynn Esqr M P./ Wynnstay Llangedwin/ Wrexham nr Oswestry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4813D (undated letters)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), II, pp. 345–347, where it is dated 1805. BACK

[1] George Lavington (1684–1762; DNB), The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists, Compar’d (1749–1751) and The Moravians Compared and Detected (1755). BACK

[2] Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf (1700–1760), founder of the Moravian sect. BACK

[3] David Crantz (1723–1777), The History of Greenland: Containing a Description of the Country and its Inhabitants, and particularly, a Relation of the Mission Carried On for Above These Thirty Years by the Unitas Fratrum at New Herrnhuth and Lichtenfels in That Country (1767). BACK

[4] George Henry Loskiel (1740–1814), History of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Indians in North America (1794). BACK

[5] The Khoikhoi native people of Southwestern Africa. BACK

[6] Robert Sadler (dates unknown), Wanley Penson; or, the Melancholy Man (1791). BACK

[7] It was at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate, London, in May 1738, that John Wesley (1703–1791; DNB) underwent a spiritual awakening. This experience, and his subsequent dealings with the Moravians in Germany and England, are described in chapter two of Wesley’s Journals (1740–1789). BACK

[8] William Bligh (1754–1817; DNB), the naval captain who famously endured the mutiny on HMS Bounty in 1789, and further mutinies and acts of insubordination in 1797 and 1804, enjoyed the patronage of the powerful Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820; DNB), President of the Royal Society, who had circumnavigated the globe on the voyage of HMB Endeavour under Captain James Cook (1728–1779; DNB). Banks approved of Bligh because Cook had chosen him as sailing master on his third voyage round the world 1776–1780. Banks’s influence caused Bligh’s appointment, in 1805, to the governorship of New South Wales; Bligh became embroiled in controversy there as he attempted to stamp out corrupt practices and suffered another mutiny on 26 January 1808, being confined to a ship offshore by officers of the New South Wales Corps. BACK

[9] David Collins (1756–1810), An Account of the English Colony of New South Wales (1798–1802). BACK

[10] Philip Gidley King (1758–1808; DNB), governor of Norfolk Island and of New South Wales (1800–1806), in which capacities King stimulated agriculture and faced mutinous challenges from both the convicts and the military in the infant colony. BACK

[11] John Bligh, 4th Earl of Darnley (1767–1831) was the executor of William Bligh’s will; in his later years, the naval captain used the Darnley coats of arms. Southey’s view of the New South Wales events presumably reflects Darnley’s conversation with him. BACK

[12] Gaius Sallustius Crispus (86–34 BC), Roman historian, author of The Conspiracy of Catiline and The Jugurthine War; Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56–117), Roman historian, author of The Annals and The Histories. BACK

[13] Stoicism was a school of Greek philosophy founded in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It taught that strong emotions were the result of errors in judgment, which those possessing wisdom could avoid. BACK

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August 2013