3256. Robert Southey to Elton Hamond, 2 March 1819

3256. Robert Southey to Elton Hamond, 2 March 1819 ⁠* 

Keswick. 2 March. 1819.

Your letter, [1]  my dear Sir, affects me greatly. It xxx represents a state of mind into which I also should have fallen had it not been for that support, which you are not disposed to think necessary for the soul of man. I too identified my own hopes with hopes for mankind, & at the price of any self-sacrifice would have promoted the good of my fellow creatures. I too have been disappointed, – in being undeceived; but having learnt to temper hope with patience, & when I lift up my spirit to its Creator & Redeemer – to say, not with the lips alone but with the heart, thy will be done, [2] x xx I feel that whatever afflictions I have endured have been dispensed to me in mercy, & am thank deeply & devoutly thankful for what I am & what I am to be when I shall burst my shell.

O Sir! religion is the one thing needful, – without it no one can be truly happy <(do you not feel this?)> with it no one can be entirely miserable. Without it, this whole frame of things <world> would be a mystery too dreadful to be borne. Xxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx our best affections & our noblest desires a mere juggle & a curse, – & it were better indeed to be nothing than the things we are. I am no bigot, – I believe that men will be judged by their actions & intentions, not their creeds. I am a Christian, & so will Turk, Jew & Gentile be in Heaven, if they have lived well according to the light which was vouchsafed them. I do not fear that there will be a great gulph between you & me in the world which we must both enter, but if I could persuade you to look on towards that world with the eyes of faith, a change would be operated in all your views & feelings, & hope & joy & love would be with you to your last breath, – x universal love, – love for mankind, & for the Universal Father into whose hands you are about to render up your spirit.

That the natural world by its perfect order displays evident marks of design, I think you would readily admit; – for it is so palpable that it can only be disputed from perverseness or affectation. Is it not reasonable to bel suppose that the moral order of things should in like manner be coherent & harmonious? – It is so if there be a state of retribution after death. If that be granted every thing becomes intelligible, just, beautiful & good. Xxx xxxx happxxxxx xxxxx Would you not from the sense of fitness & of justice wish that it should be so? And is there not enough of Wisdom & of Power apparent in the creation to authorize us in inferring, that whatever upon the grand scale would be best, therefore must be? Pursue this feeling, – & it will lead you to the Cross of Christ.

I never xxxx fear to avow my belief that warnings from the other world are sometimes communicated to us in this, & that absurd as the stories of apparitions generally are, they are not always false, – but that the spirits of the dead have sometimes been permitted <to> appear. I believe this because I cannot refuse my assent to the evidence which exists of such things, & to the universal consent of all men, who have not learnt to think otherwise. Perhaps you will not despise this opinion as a mere superstition when I say that Kant, the profoundest thinker of modern ages, came by the severest reasoning to the same conclusion. [3]  But if these things are, there is a State after death; – & if there be a State after death, it is reasonable to presume that such things should be.

You will receive this as it is meant. It is hastily & earnestly written, – in perfect sincerity, – in the fullness of my heart. Would to God that it might find the way to yours! In case of your recovery, it would reconcile you to life & open to you sources of happiness to which you are a stranger.

But whether your lot be for life or death – dear Sir –

God bless you.

Robert Southey.


* Address: For/ N.D./ Kendal Tavern/ Fleet Street/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 5 MR 5/ 1819
Seal: red wax, design illegible
Endorsement: David/ 10/ (II) Southey to Elton Hammond.
MS: Dr Williams’s Library, London, Crabb Robinson MSS. ALS; 4p. An autograph copy (or possibly draft) is in British Library, Add MS 47891.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), V, pp. 11–13; Thomas Sadler (ed.), Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson, 3rd edn, 2 vols (London, 1872), I, pp. 344–345. BACK

[1] Probably Hamond’s letter of 27 February 1819; a copy is in Dr Williams’s Library. BACK

[2] The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6: 10. BACK

[3] Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Träume eines Geistersehers, Erläutert Durch Träume der Metaphysik (1766). Southey may have been reading Kant at this time as he debated Kant’s ideas on progress in society extensively in Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols (London, 1829), II, pp. 408–426. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)