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718. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 14 September [1802] ⁠* 

Dear Wynn

I have been to Taunton & slept two nights in my Uncles house. he was very civil – powdered his wig which is only done on Sundays – changed his vest & moved into the best parlour. I found a strange man living a comfortless life. his dress shabby – his manners boorish. a strong understanding wasted – & good feelings habitually suppressed till they have been almost destroyed. he keeps no company & his establishment is almost miserly. there is plenty – but every where a meanness – the pride of wealth, & the passion of accumulation eternally counteracting each other. before I went down his phrase respecting me was that I was a damned shrewd fellow – he now thinks me not long for this world – & says – my voice is gone already. he himself I think is nearer the end of his lease. He never said he was glad to see me – never uttered a hint respecting my views in life nor those of any of his family – never said he should be glad to see me again – but when Tom & I left him followed us to the door – shook us heartily by the hand, & wished us a pleasant tower. he is proud of Tom, wants him to make an appearance in the world – knows he has only a Lieutenants half pay – & yet has not the heart to give him a single guinea. I talked with him – laughd with him & made him laugh – he pushd the bottle – loaded my plate with fruit – broached his best beer for me –, still it was not comfortable – I heard the click of the clock – & the hum of the gnats at evening, & the crumbling of a wood fire – & a man never hears those sounds if he is enjoying himself. the ice however is broke. if his property takes the legal course [1]  I shall have enough – if he makes Tom his heir there is enough for both. Ld Somerville [2]  had been long looking out for that inheritance – but now he has foolishly quarrelled with the old man – & so the only rival is removed. the chance of the reversion from that quarter is greater than you allow – for he is not a hale man. I heard at Lisbon that the seeds of consumption were in him. he is a good man & a useful man – & his death would be a loss to the community. I only wish it may be his humour to continue single.

I thank you for your letter & shall look upon {you} as godfather elect to my first boy. I thank you too for the request in one of your late letters to be entrusted with what papers I may leave. Will you let me prefix one page to Madoc that shall bear your name & the arms of Rodri? [3]  a few words will express a great deal – & I have long xx thought of such a page with pleasure & pride.

The Cid [4]  is fairly transcribed. where shall I send it? Elmsleys address is to the care of Mr Sam. Macknight. W. S. Edinburgh. [5]  my Keswick scheme is destroyed [6]  – & the world all before me. Tom wants a walk into Wales – & I am going with him down the South Coast – a house there would suit me for climate – for oeconomy – & for the language – in which I should greatly forward myself – & breed up an interpreter in little Margaret xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx till we find one of course we stay where we are.

God bless you.

R S.


Tuesday 14 Sept.

Kingsdown


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ Wynnstay/ Wrexham
Endorsement: Sept. 14/ 1802
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 285-286. BACK

[1] John Southey was childless; his rightful heirs were therefore Robert Southey and his three younger brothers (Tom, Henry Herbert and Edward), the surviving children of John’s younger brother, Robert Southey Senior. BACK

[2] John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord Somerville (1765-1819; DNB), agriculturist and leading importer of merino sheep. He was Southey’s third cousin and died unmarried. Southey did not inherit any of his property. BACK

[3] Madoc (1805) was dedicated to Wynn and the title page had an illustration of the alleged coat of arms of Rodri, Prince of Gwynedd (c. 1135-1195), from whom Wynn claimed descent. BACK

[4] Southey was transcribing material relating to Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (c. 1040-1099), a Castilian aristocrat and military commander, whose exploits were the subject of numerous poems and tales. Southey’s English translation and compilation of three of these was published in 1808 as The Chronicle of the Cid. BACK

[5] The lawyer and Writer to the Signet Samuel Macknight (1757-1807), second son of the Scottish biblical scholar James Macknight (1721-1800; DNB). BACK

[6] Southey had become worried that there was not enough room at Greta Hall in Keswick; see Coleridge to Robert Southey, 2 September 1802, E.L. Griggs (ed.), Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 6 vols (1956-1971), II, p. 859. BACK

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August 2011