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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

999. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 7 December 1804 ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

I fear I have lost my brother in this unhappy affair of the Galatea [1]  – indeed it seems so certain that there is barely hope enough left to torment me, & to give me a second shock when it shall be destroyed.

When you were here you were talking how time draws closer the ties natural ties. I have been very unfortunate in mine. There is now not one person left with whom I can {who can} talk with me of my childhood, – not one who nurst me in infancy, or played with me in my fathers house. What a desolating feeling thought is this! to have so many feelings & recollections which no being on earth can participate.

No man was ever more contented with his lot than I am, for few have ever had more enjoyments, & none had ever better or worthier hopes. Life therefore is sufficiently dear to me, & long life most desirable, that I may accomplish all which I design. But yet I could be well content that the next century were over, & my part fairly at an end, having been gone well thro. to the xxx Just as at school one wished the school days over, tho we were happy enough there, because we expected more happiness & more liberty when we were to be our own masters, how we might lie as much later in the morning as we pleased, have no bounds & no exercises; – just so do I wish that my exercise were over, that that ugly chrysalis state were passed thro which we must all come, & that I had just burst my shell & got into the new world whe with my wings upon my shoulders, or some inherent power like the wishing cap – which would annihilate space all the inconveniences of space.

Restoration of all that was ever beloved is to form one of the main blessings of finer happiness in heaven, according to your Bards, or mine I may say for I have a claim to be affiliated by them. I do think it very probable that their system as it appears in the Triads, [2]  is the patriarchal belief – in other words the real & true faith – either revealed to the first inhabitants of this orb if there were a new creation for it, or brought with them from some other if they were exploded to colonize here this. I have made too little use of this in Madoc, not having then thought of it or felt it enough. The system of progressive existence seems of all others the most benevolent, & all that we do understand is so wise & so good, & all that we do or do not so perfectly & overwhelmingly wonderful, that the most benevolent system is the most probable.

I could write you a long letter upon this – but I did not begin to write with this object. – Whenever any thing distresses me I fly to hard employment, as many fly to the bottle; – what I meant to write about was to trouble you, as thus. In the first Vol. of the Cambrian Register [3]  is that poem which Gray has rhymed [4]  & I have versified – the battle of Tally-God knows what. I want to print the literal translation in the notes [5]  & trusted that the book might be found at Edinburgh where however it is not; nor do I know where my own copy is. My only alternative is to beg that you will have the goodness to employ ten minutes in transcribing it, adding the authors name, & direct it to H. H. Southey to the care of Mr Guthrie Bookseller, Edinburgh. – for the press is waiting for it. It is at the end of the volume, & you will know it, if by nothing else by the remarkable phrase ‘long burthens of the flood’ applied to ships.

God bless you –

RS.

Friday. Dec. 7. 1804.


Notes

* Address: [deletions and readdress in another hand] To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M. P./ Lincolns Inn/ London. Wynnstay Wrexham
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] FREE/ DEC/ 1804
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. 292–294. BACK

[1] Thomas Southey’s ship, HMS Galatea, a fifth-rate 32-gun frigate, had, on 14 August 1804, made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission, 65 were killed or wounded, and Southey suspected that his brother was among the dead. Thomas was the first lieutenant, but was absent from the raid because he had been placed under arrest. Charles Hayman (d. 1804) was made first lieutenant in his stead and died in the attack. BACK

[2] Welsh sayings collected in groups of three lines, the earliest of which predate Saxon times. Preserved in different versions, partly in the fourteenth century White Book of Rhydderch and Red Book of Hergest, the triads were associated with bardic recitation. They include stories of King Arthur and of Llywarch Hen (whom Southey would discuss in his 1829 text Sir Thomas More: or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society). Southey cited the triads in the preface to Madoc (1805) from the translation of Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg; 1747–1826; DNB) in his Poems, Lyric and Pastoral (1794). BACK

[3] The Cambrian Register, the journal edited by William Owen Pughe. BACK

[4] Thomas Gray (1716–1771; DNB), ‘The Triumphs of Owen’, Poems (1768), pp. 97–105. BACK

[5] Southey noted in a manuscript draft of Madoc ‘I have in this song compressed a poem by Gwalchmai the Bard of Owain Gwynedd, upon the battle of Tal-y-Voel. the same (I believe) which Gray has rendered. a literal translation is in the Cambrian Register for 1795. Page 408’. Gray’s poem, ‘The Triumphs of Owen’, was published in the Cambrian Register, 1 (1795), 407–408. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), II, pp. 389, 591. BACK

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August 2013