327. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 14 June [1798] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

I ran thro London too rapidly to make a second call at Lincolns Inn. I entered it late on Saturday morning & left it by Sundays mail — for the important business of eating is considering at Grays Inn as no breach of the fourth commandment. [1] 

I came down thus speedily because my mother is in all the bustle of quitting one house, & we have not yet found another to remove to. my presence was necessary to look about, & manage her affairs. I am seeking some temporary home in this neighbourhood — where country air, & quietness of mind at last, will I hope yet restore her. her furniture has been sold by auction. there has been much done — & there some weight taken off my mind. —

I find here that Cottle lost Stracheys direction & so sent a copy for him to you.

Is your brothers hurt much? [2]  this is a damnable business in Ireland. an earthquake now — or a pestilence would be of use. or one might send them the plague in a letter. I shall immediately get Bootes Suit at Law [3]  — & go thro Blackstone [4]  again to methodize Coke, referring to Coke as I go. [5]  will not that be a good plan?

this is a burning day — & I have to trudge five miles off about a house — & home again. My brother is returned from Taunton, & again on the sofa with a wound received by in riding: his Uncle has taken to him with much cordiality. he talks of buying a large house & estate in Wales & fixing the family name there. I know not in what part. I find Edith much as I left her. certainly not worse — & I have some hope that the fatigue of moving will be beneficial.

I was with William Taylor at Norwich. the translator of Iphigenia in Tauris. [6]  he read me many of Klopstocks [7]  odes they are very fine. the old man seems to have studied the prophets till he has almost caught their inspired sublimity. among others he gave me a literal version of the poem referred to in Werter. [8]  my time passed very pleasantly there. I saw much of Sayers — whose dramatic sketches [9]  you remember. Shall I copy the ode of Klopstock for you? — I had almost forgotten Florians ballad. [10]  you shall have a translation next week. not that I think it worth translating — but an hour is not ill employed in giving any body pleasure.

have you seen the Oberon? [11]  I hear it is a translation, & gives you the sense of Wieland, [12]  tho it has flattened his spirit. the stanza is bad, as it concludes with one of those awkward quatrains in which the first & last line rhyme — & you expect another to finish.

God bless you

direct for the next ten days to Bath.

yrs truly

Robert Southey.

Thursday 14 June


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr/ 5. Stone Building/ Lincolns Inn/ London
Stamped: BATH
Postmark: B/ JU/ 15/ 98
Endorsement: June 14 1798
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Exodus 20: 8 ‘Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy’. BACK

[2] Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (1772–1840; DNB), Wynn’s elder brother, had raised a home defence force in North East Wales, the Ancient British Fencible Cavalry, in 1794. The regiment served in Ireland in 1797–1798 and gained an unsavoury reputation for its role in suppressing dissent and preparations for revolution. In June 1798 they were involved in fighting the uprising by United Irishmen in Wexford, taking part in the defeat at Tubberneering on 4 June 1798 and the victory at Arklow on 9 June 1798. BACK

[3] Richard Boote (d. 1782), An Historical Treatise of an Action or Suit at Law (1766). BACK

[4] William Blackstone (1723–1780; DNB), Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). BACK

[5] Edward Coke (1552–1643; DNB), Institutes of the Laws of England (1628–1644). BACK

[6] Iphigenia in Tauris, a Tragedy, Written Originally in German by J. W. von Goethe (1793). BACK

[7] Friedrich Klopstock (1724–1803), whose odes Taylor had translated. BACK

[8] Johann von Goethe (1749–1832), Die Leiden des Jungen Werther (1774), Letter X. Charlotte thinks of Klopstock during a thunder storm because his ‘Spring Celebration’ (1759) contains a famous description of such an event. BACK

[9] Frank Sayers (1763–1817; DNB), ‘Dramatic Sketches of Northern Mythology’, included in his Poems (1792), pp. 11–153, the first book Southey bought for himself. BACK

[10] Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian (1755–1794), French novelist and poet. Southey knew his work well, publishing three translations ‘From the French of Florian’ in the Morning Post on 1, 11 and 13 September 1798. BACK

[11] William Sotheby (1757–1833; DNB), Oberon, a Poem. From the German of Wieland (1798). BACK

[12] Christoph Martin Wieland (1733–1813). BACK

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August 2011