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492. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 20 February 1800 ⁠* 

How am I? my dear Wynn – “Sic sum, sum sic”. [1]  it looks well to begin with a bad pun. but I am not well. – I am not amending – nor shall I till a new climate & new scenery, & new associations compleatly change my feelings & perceptions. I am physician & metaphysician enough to know that this can be the only cure. all things considered Lisbon is the best place – but whether my Uncle can conveniently house me I know not – & wait a letter from him. in that case autumn will be the time for the voyage. if not Trieste is the only alternative, & thence to Tuscany – & I must then set off speedily.

When you come from Gloucester, if you have never seen them, take Berkeley & Thornbury Castles in your way to Bristol. you will perceive in the gardens belonging to the former a yew hedge (near the church) completely blackened. this they say at the Castle is occasioned by the smoke from the hot house – but in fact the Devil took the Old Woman that way. [2]  Should you know these castles, the road thro the clothing country will lead you & by no long circuit, thro very peculiar scenery. I will write to Gloucester to give you my direction, for we are about to move our lodgings.

Today I have received a proposal from a Bookseller, [3]  which I shall reject. to write for him – as a school book – a sketch of a general history of Poetry. the Price sixty pounds. I reject it because of German Italian & French poetry I have not enough knowledge – & because I am not disposed to acknowledge any work of which the design & execution do not satisfy my own judgement. a more modest title – as – Historical Essays upon Poetry – & a more respectable form – as an octavo not for schools – would have induced me to accept an acceptable offer.

I have done nothing lately except the lazy work of reviewing bad books.

You will Tintern think Tintern beautiful – but the noise of forges makes a miserable discord in a scene which ought to be so tranquil. if were you were at leisure I should like to go farther into South Wales with you – but the season is unfriendly & it is not worth while to drag along dirty roads for the sake of seeing the wet & brown meadows & leafless woods of winter.

God bless you.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey.

Kingsdown. Bristol. Feby 20. 1800


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5. Stone Buildings/ Lincolns Inn / London
Postmark: B FEB 21/ 1800
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. 97–99; Adolfo Cabral (ed.), Robert Southey: Journals of a Residence in Portugal 1800–1801 and a Visit to France 1838 (Oxford, 1960), p. 65 [in part]. BACK

[1] The Latin translates as ‘I am so, so I am’. BACK

[2] ‘A Ballad Shewing How an Old Woman Rode Double and Who Rode Before Her’, Poems, 2 vols (Bristol, 1799), II, pp. [143]–160. BACK

[3] Richard Phillips (1767–1840; DNB). BACK

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August 2011