The days of Queen Mary  appear to
suit me well. my characters are these. Sir Walter a young
man of strong affections & high & quick feelings a
convert to the reformed religion. A man somewhat elder,
inflexibly honest − but like
Cranmer  one that would burn an
Anabaptist, − & suffer at the stake himself. A cousin of
Sir Walters, his next heir, a bigotted Catholic, so bigotted
as not to confess to himself that one motive for accusing
his cousin is to get at his estate. Mary (I use any name)
one who has from childhood been betrothed to Walter, a
Catholic, perfectly good − & the Confessor of Walter
& Mary, a good & pious man, loving them both as his
children. my sketch thus divides itself into the five
|| 1. The discovery of Walters
principles to Mary & the Confessor.
||2. The arrest of Gilbert his friend,
& Walters danger when he has betrayed his
opinions to his cousin.
||3. The burning of Gilbert.
||4. Walters consent to temporize &
||5. His arrest − trial − condemnation.
& the Queens death.
The progress of Walters mind gives a fine opportunity for
dramatic effect. he is at first uneasy, made more
enthusiastic by Gilberts danger & heroism, yet half
wishing he could be contented with ignorance. worked up by
Gilberts death to almost the desire of martyrdom. yielding
to affection − & in the hour of danger set discovering the patient
courage of a Christian. I feel as tho I could develope this
For stage effect I see one fine place.
Gilbert is burnt opposite Marys house. she sees the
procession from her window − & Walter attending his
friend. the Te Deum is heard. the light of the stake seen
thro the window − & Mary & the Confessor pray
together for the soul of the heretic. − Some effect may be
produced by Marys singing the evening hymn.
I expect a good dungeon scene between Gilbert
& the Confessor. the Confessor intreating him not to
drive Walter to the stake – & Gilbert inflexible in
braving death & thinking it the duty of all who believe
in the reformation to profess it & suffer, rather than
There is a something markd in every
character. the Confessor was of Glastonbury & had seen
the Abbot  executed. he had felt
persecution − & he abhors it. strip Popery of its tricks
& it is a fine religion − it seems made for human
feelings − to supply all their cravings. in Mary it should
be very interesting.
Now are these
feelings <is the story> such as a modern
audience would sympathize with? this is my doubt. the
catastrophe is faulty. Q. Marys death is an accident, &
it is clumsy to let chance decide it. Would a Lord
Chamberlain  construe the story into a libel upon
state severity? I have no inclination to fling away my time,
& these doubts occur to me. On the other hand the story
suits me, I feel equal to it, & hardly expect to make
another so new to the stage & capable of such powerful
I wish I had Froissart.  it is laborious to read the French,
the type is so difficult that one cannot pass the eye down a
page to see at once what it contains. & it is endless to
go thro old folios in any other manner.
Captain Bells vision is in Aubreys
Miscellanies also.  it looks like a lie I am
not a disbeliever in these things, but that story is not
among the credible ones. it is a curious subject the existence <truth> of
supernatural warnings & appearances, I mean some day to
state the pro & con in the M Magazine & invite
controversy, for it is has never been fairly &
reasonably examined. I lean to belief myself.
The Ballads are printed as far as the
beginning of the Old Lady.  in small poems, I am not fond of
correcting − upon a great work like Joan of Arc or Madoc I
have even Dutch industry. I have an odd thought for a
ballad. a grotesque being − a little man who can extend his
limbs to any length − put up his hand to count the eagles
eggs − crane up his neck to the top-tower window − open his
mouth & swallow any body, which is to be the
pray buy me the ghost book. I shall hardly be satisfied till
I have got a ballad as good as Lenora.  I
have two or three stories of secondary merit to work
Let me hear from you – & if you should
meet with a ghost, a witch of a devil − pray send them to
me. for these last few days I have been well enough to leave
off my ether.
Tuesday 15 Jany. 1799.
* Address: To/ C. W. Williams Wynn Esqr/ Wynnstay/ Wrexham/
MS: National Library of Wales, MS
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.),
Selections from the Letters of Robert
Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), I, pp.
 Mary I (1516–1558; reigned
1553–1558; DNB). Her reign saw a
determined attempt to return England to Catholicism and
persecute Protestants. For the plan of Southey’s ‘The
Days of Queen Mary’, see Common-Place
Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series
(London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 190–192. BACK
Cranmer (1489–1556; DNB), Archbishop of
Canterbury (1533–1555). BACK
Whiting (d. 1539; DNB), the last Abbot of
Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset. He was executed on a
charge of treason. BACK
chief official of the Royal Household who also held the
post of licenser of plays in the City of London and
 Jean Froissart (c. 1337–c.
1410), author of Chronicles
 John Aubrey (1626–1697; DNB),
Miscellanies upon Various Subjects
(London, 1696), pp. 78–82 relates Henry Bell’s (fl.
1640s–1650s) account of how he was visited in his sleep
by an apparition, a white-haired old man who commanded
him to translate Martin Luther’s (1483–1546) Dris
Martini Lutheri Colloquia Mensalia: or … Divine
Discourses at his Table. Bell’s translation
was published in 1652. BACK
Poems (1799) was at press
and was printed up to the beginning of ‘A Ballad Shewing
How an Old Woman Rode Double and Who Rode Before Her’,
i.e. Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II,
p. . BACK
Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood
Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 193.
Southey did not write a poem on this subject. BACK
 Gottfried August Bürger’s
(1748–1794) ballad ‘Lenore’ (1773). Its numerous
translators included William Taylor; see Monthly
Magazine, 1 (March 1796), 135–137. BACK