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April 15 1812: Southey to Wynn

On April 15 1812, Robert Southey writes to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn looking back at their friendship and discussing what he will leave behind to support of his family. Southey reveals that the has a life insurance policy of 1,000 on his life. He does not think that his family will make much from his copyrights. Charles  Wynn was a member of parliament for Old Sarum and a good friend of Robert Southey. On April 15, Wynn was speaking in the House of Commons on the motion dealing with corporal punishment in the army.  Of note, is that Wynn indicated that he would vote for the motion for more information to be provided to the House of Commons but not for the abolition of the practice. Southey's letter is reproduced below:

Keswick, April 15, 1812. 
MY DEAR WYNN, 
What a number of recollections crowd upon me when I think of ! Of all our school companions, how very few of them are there whose lots in lif e have proved to be what might have been expected for them. You and Bedford have gone on each in your natural courses, and are to be found just where and what I should have looked to find, if I had waked after a Nourjahad sleep of twenty years. The same thing might be said of me, if my local habitation were not here at the end of the map. I am leading the life which is convenient for me, and following the pursuits to which, from my earliest boyhood, I was so strongly predisposed. A less troubled youth would probably have led to a less happy manhood. I should have thought less and studied less, felt less and suffered less. Now, for all that I have felt and suffered, I know that I am the better ; and God knows that I have yet much to think, and to study, and to do. It is now eighteen years since you and I used to sit till midnight over your claret in Skeleton Corner half your life and almost half mine. During that time we have both of us rather grown than changed, and accident has had as little to do with our circumstances as with our character. 
Your godson, Herbert, who is just old enough to be delighted with the Old Woman of Berkeley, tells me he means, when he is a man, to be a poet like his father. It will be time enough ten years hence, if we live so long, to take thought as to what he shall be; the only care I need take at present, is, what should be done, in case of my death, for the provision of my family. I have insured my life for 1,000. I had calculated upon my copyrights as likely to prove valuable when it would become the humour of the day to regret me; but to my great surprise, I find the booksellers interpret the terms of their taking the risk and sharing the profit as an actual surrender to them of half the property in perpetuity. Townsend, the traveller, who was as much deceived in this case as I have been, was about to try the point with them. I know not what prevented him. This is a flagrant and cruel injustice. If I live, and preserve my health and faculties, I have no doubt of realizing a decent competency in twenty years ; but twenty years is almost as much as my chances of life would be reckoned at in tables of calculation. 
One thing which I will do, whenever I can afford leisure for the task, will be, to write and leave behind me my own Memoirs: they will contain so much of the literary history of the times, as to have a permanent value on that account. This would prove a good post obit, for there can be no doubt I shall be sufficiently talked of when I am gone. 
Such are my ways and means for the future ; but if I should not live to provide more than the very little which is already done, then, indeed, the exertion of some friends would be required. An arrangement might be made with Longman to allow of a subscription edition of my works: this would be productive in proportion to the efforts that were used. I should hope, also, in such a case, that the continuance of my pension might be looked for from either of the present parties in the state, through Perceval, or Canning, or yourself. 
This is a sort of testamentary letter. It is fit there should be one ; and to whom, my dear Wynn, could it so properly be addressed ? By God's blessing, I may yet live to make all necessary provision myself. My means are now improving every year. I am up the hiH of difficulty, and shall very soon get rid of the burthen which has impeded me in the ascent. I have some arrangements with Murray, which are likely to prove more profitable than any former speculations ; and should I succeed in obtaining the office which the old Frenchman fills at present so properly and which is the only thing for which I have the slightest ambition it would soon put me in possession of the utmost I could want or wish for, inasmuch as I could lay by the whole income, and the title would be, in a great degree, productive. 
Hitherto I have been highly favoured. A healthy body, an active mind, and a cheerful heart are the three best boons nature can bestow; and, God be praised, no man ever enjoyed them more perfectly. My skin and bones scarcely know what an ailment is, my mind is ever on the alert, and yet, when its work is done, becomes as tranquil as a baby; and my spirits invincibly  good. Would they have been so, or could I have been what I am, if you had not been for so many years my stay and support? I believe not; yet you had been so long my familiar friend, that I felt no more sense of dependence in receiving my main, and at one time sole, subsistence from you, than if you had been my brother: it was being done to as I would have done. R. S. 

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