383. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 25 February 1799

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383. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 25 February 1799 ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

If I had not letters written by you of a late date & a frank so late as the 20th the newspapers would have indeed alarmed me. I have seen your name in the Sun, Star & Courier as being on board the Proserpine. [1]  − this is a dreadful circumstance. I also have apprehensions of the same kind for a brother of Edith. lately wrecked on the Spanish coast, & about to return from Porto by way of Dublin. weeks are elapsed since he ought to have been here, & from the continued winds, & the accounts of wrecks innumerable in the Irish Channel, I have <reason for> very serious fears.

I could not help being startled at seeing your name. the probability of your going had before occurred to me, & then I began to think of all the possibilities that you might <have> left London at the latest period. however it is palpably impossible, & yet I shall be glad to see your handwriting.

You ask me about law. in Coke & Blackstone [2]  every passage is familiar to my eyes, to my mind they are not familiar because I have not the opportunity of applying them. for any thing but a Lawyer, my professional knowledge would I believe be great, & as a part of general information I should neither wish or want more. but this is not Lawyers enough. since the weather has broke I am sensibly better, but very different indeed from what I was twelve months ago in bodily strength. at present no person can be more unequal to any kind of application.

I expect to send you my book [3]  tomorrow. it appears to me very odd that people should think me careless of correction after what has been done to Joan of Arc – [4] 

God bless you –

yrs affectionately

R Southey.

Feby. 25. 99.

Have you seen the Inscription for an Oak – & the Wig of the Scarecrow? [5]  there is a story in Plutarchs Morals of Pausanias which will make a fine ballad. [6] 


* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5. Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Postmarks: BRISTOL/ FEB 25 99; FE/ 26/ 99
Endorsements: Feb. 25 1799; Mr. Wynn
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The frigate Proserpine had been wrecked off Heligoland on 31 January 1799. Although the London newspapers had reported the presence of a Mr Williams Wynn on board, Southey had confused his friend with his older brother, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (1772–1840; DNB). The passengers had also included Wynn’s uncle, Thomas Grenville (1755–1846). For an account of the sufferings of the passengers and crew see A Narrative of the Loss of His Majesty’s Ship the Proserpine, James Wallace, Esq. Captain. Compiled by John Wright, First Lieutenant (1799). BACK

[2] Edward Coke (1552–1643; DNB), author of the four-part Institutes of the Laws of England (1628–1644); and William Blackstone (1723–1780; DNB), Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). BACK

[3] Either Poems (1799) or Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1799). BACK

[4] Joan of Arc had been heavily revised for the second edition of 1798. BACK

[5] Southey was being slightly premature: ‘Musings On the Wig of a Scarecrow’ and ‘Inscription Under an Oak’ were published anonymously in the Morning Post on 21 and 27 February 1799, respectively. BACK

[6] Plutarch (AD 46–120), Greek historian; Pausanias (d. 471 BC), a Spartan general haunted by the ghost of a young woman he had murdered. For Southey’s planned poem, see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 163. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2011

People mentioned

Fricker, George (1785–1813) (mentioned 1 time)