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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

972. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, [started before and continued on] 2 August 1804 ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

As I told you [1]  two sheets were printed off before Ld C.s. [2]  comments arrived. this nights post brought a third proof with them – & in consequence I altered the ‘he hymnd,’ & the ‘days no more’. [3]  the other passages objected to had been previously erased – except that exp phrase the Enlarger, which being Welsh was of course proper – Much in the former part of what he criticises had been altered or omitted – not all however – nor should I have assented to all his remarks. It is I who am of the old school – not Lord C. I am of the school of Homer & the age of Elizabeth – not of Virgil & the age of George 2nd. [4] 

The first book – or rather the two first sections as it is now divided are certainly in a lower key than most parts of the poem, tho the whole first part resembles more the Odyssey than the Iliad. The second part you shall speedily judge by yourself. If you wish it I will certainly send Ld C. certain extracts – but should rather decline it, lest I should either be obliged to declare a wider difference of opinion than would please him, or else to alter against my own judgement. Still if you wish it, send me his address that I may not blunder into any errors of etiquette, & he shall have another book about Erilyab. [5] 

Your censure of poor White is rather of a harder character than I expected. what there is of a melancholy disposition in him is easily accounted for by his situation. I can pardon his vanity. it is a long while before a man learns his ignorance. But he certainly possesses genius & there is something in that so unamalgamable with calvinism that I certainly hope he may be more useful to the world than he expects to be himself. He has a better chance at Cambridge than at Oxford. it is certainly a better university, & mathematics may perhaps teach him to require some little proof before he assents to anything.

____

This has long been unfinished – meantime the printer has got thro nine Sheets & I have just compleated the insertions. We must now as speedily as may be determine how to manage your arms. If Rodris bearings be the same as yours the best plan will be a design for his monument – with the shield there – & the legend Rodri ab Owain Gwynedli [6]  – & so that tells the descent. Or would it be possible to make a family tree grow picturesquely out of a grave, & suspend your shield from the top? [7] 

My brother Tom hopes he has made a good prize in the West Indies. if the ship (from Hambro [8] ) be condemned as they expect, it will double his half pay. I am very much obliged to Dickinson [9]  for shipping off Edward. what a dreadful mortality at Antigua. 120 from the Carysfort dead in less than a week! [10]  & yet the Sailors make light of it – & call the burial ground Pompeys Parlour from the name of the negro who keeps it!

I have tried my hand at an Exordium [11]  & not succeeded in wording it as yet. the plan is good – combining the old minstrel form Listen Lordings – with the Ille ego – or rather – the Lo I the man, of Spenser.

Come listen to my lay – for I am he &c –

When I please myself better you shall see it – & this will show you the design – I mean to speak of Joan of Arc & Thalaba [12]  – & set forth the subject of Madoc concluding as in a Roundeau as it begins – Come listen to my lay!

My better pieces in the Anthology are to be collected in a separate little volume & will probably sell. [13] 

God bless you

RS.

August 2. 1804.

My plaguey Diabetes is at me again. As it is high Laking season it would be no bad speculation to turn Water Maker to Lodore. It a[MS obscured] me & weakens me. I am about to try hard exercise & plentiful pers[MS obscured] & set off this day for a walk of threescore miles under a boiling sun.


Notes

* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Lincolns Inn / London./ C Wn Wms Wynn Esqr. M. P./ Ruthin Denbighshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ AUG 10/ 1804; FREE/ AUG 19/ 1804
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] See Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 16 July 1804, Letter 965. BACK

[2] John Joshua Proby, 1st Earl of Carysfort (1751–1828; DNB): judge, diplomat, Whig politician and poet, who was the author of Dramatic and Narrative Poems (1810). BACK

[3] The poem Madoc, which Southey had written in 1797–1799 and since then had been intermittently revising. It was completed in October 1804 and published in 1805. For the changes Southey made to his manuscripts of Madoc, see Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), II. BACK

[4] Elizabeth I (1533–1603, Queen of England and Ireland 1558–1603; DNB); George II (1683–1760, King of Great Britain 1727–1760; DNB). BACK

[5] The queen of the tribe of Hoamen American Indians in Madoc (1805). BACK

[6] Rhodri (1135?–1195), son of Owain Gwynedd (c. 1100–1170; DNB) and brother of Dafydd (died 1203), from whom Wynn claimed descent. BACK

[7] Southey intended the titlepage of Madoc (1805) to pay tribute to Wynn, his patron, by depicting his family coat of arms, thus illustrating Wynn’s supposed descent from Madoc’s brother Rhodri. The titlepage, however, does not show Rhodri’s monument but rather a trophée of Wynn’s shield, a harp and an unidentified stringed instrument, a sword, a bow with arrows, an Indian bonnet, and an opened book of music. BACK

[8] Hamburg. BACK

[9] William Dickinson (1771–1837), Southey’s fellow pupil at Westminster School, who later went on to Christ Church, Oxford (BA 1793, MA 1795). He was Civil Lord of the Admiralty 1804–1806. BACK

[10] HMS Carysfort was a 28-gun Coventry-class sixth rate ship of the Royal Navy, which sailed to the West Indies in 1804; the crew was afflicted by yellow fever. BACK

[11] Madoc was published in 1805 with the following exordium:

Come, listen to a tale of times of old!
Come, for ye know me! I am he who sung
The Maid of Arc; I am he who framed
Of Thalaba the wild & wonderous song.
Come, listen to my lay, & ye shall hear
How Madoc from the shores of Britain spread
The adventurous sail, explored the ocean ways,
And quelled Barbarian power, & overthrew
The bloody altars of idolatry,
And planted in its fanes triumphantly
The Cross of Christ. Come, listen to my lay.
See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), II, p. 8. BACK

[12] Southey’s poems, Joan of Arc (1796) and Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). BACK

[13] The Annual Anthology 1799 and 1800; Southey’s contributions to these volumes were to be republished in his Metrical Tales and Other Poems (1805). BACK

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August 2013