955. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 June 1804 

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

955. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 June 1804 ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

I begin to feel like myself again. in London the perpetual bustle & stir & walking & talking, had almost worn me out – & in addition I had a cruel cold which affected head & chest, eyes & nose. here I am at last thank God, safe & sound, & refreshed, tho I still think that it would be but right & proper to take out in afternoon naps the ninety nine hours of sleep lost upon the journey, & by late hours in town.

I did not see you after I had read three tales of the Mabinogion. [1]  Owen has translated them admirably, in so Welsh a syntax & idiom that they convey the full manner of the original. The tales themselves resemble the Arabian Nights in the character of their fictions most remarkably. It is perfectly unaccountable to me whence this resemblance can have originated. If the others be at all equal to these – which there should seem no reason to doubt, you Celts will be able to produce a specimen of far greater genius than we Goths have been willing to give you credit for. Yet it is idle in an Englishman to call him self Goth – we are a mongrel breed, & all the better for the various crosses. I suspect that all dark hair, dark eyes & dark complections indicate a southern origin – that is in general a Roman one. for the Cimbric race [2]  were all fair, & so also were all the Northern invaders, flaxen or carrotty, & our climate is not hot enough to ripen a Danes complection. In two or three generations we should probably bleach a Spaniard, but a red headed Irishman will propagate rankness from generation to generation unless the breed be crosst. If this theory be true we are more of us Romans than has been suspected, or than our language indicates.

If you have an opportunity I wish you would introduce Dapple to Heber – as my Lieutenant – Deputy – or Viceroy in the Specimens [3]  that Heber may lend him what he may want – which will not I think be much. I thought of inclosing to you a note of introduction – but probably Bedford will like a personal introduction better. Or I will write the note – & you can tell Heber to expect it.

The little Edithling goes on well. & has a profile as like mine as an infants can be. We hear that Coleridge has got some appointment at Malta thro Sheridan. [4]  this does not sound likely & yet Sharp says it is true.

I wish you success in your campaign against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, [5]  & the Emperor of the French [6]  – but I wish also that some cessation of hostilities may enable you to escape from Westminster, & Welsh campaigning, that as you introduced me to Snowdon I may in my turn introduce you to Skiddaw.

God bless you –

RS.

Keswick –. June 16. 1804.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] FREE
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp. 278–279. BACK

[1] Southey was reading a translation of the Welsh romances dating from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, collected in fourteenth-century Welsh manuscripts and known as the Mabinogi. Some of these were published in the journal edited by William Owen Pughe, The Cambrian Register (1796, 1799), where they are entitled The Mabinogion, or Juvenile Amusements, being Ancient Welsh Romances. BACK

[2] The Cymbri, an ancient tribe, conjectured by some early nineteenth-century scholars to have descended from the Picts, who supposedly conquered Wales, Cornwall and Britanny after the fall of the Roman empire. BACK

[3] Specimens of the Later English Poets, jointly edited with Bedford, and published with Longman in 1807. BACK

[4] By July 1804 Coleridge was working as the private secretary to Sir Alexander Ball (1757–1809; DNB), the naval officer governing Malta. He became acting public secretary under Ball the following January. Before Coleridge left England on 27 March 1804, in the company of Daniel Stuart, he had by chance met Stuart’s friend Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1757–1809; DNB), leader of the Whig opposition in parliament and acquaintance of the Prime Minister. Stuart then asked Sheridan to use his interest to seek a post in the government of Malta for Coleridge. BACK

[5] William Pitt (1759–1806; DNB) returned to office as Chancellor, the first minister in the government, in April 1804. BACK

[6] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; First Consul 1799–1804; Emperor of the French 1804–1814). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013