2768. Robert Southey to William Wordsworth, 22 April 1816

2768. Robert Southey to William Wordsworth, 22 April 1816⁠* 

Monday, April 22. 1816.

My dear Wordsworth,

You were right respecting the nature of my support under this affliction; [1]  there is but one source of consolation, and of that source I have drunk largely. When you shall see how I had spoken of my happiness but a few weeks ago, you will read with tears of sorrow what I wrote with tears of joy. And little did I think how soon and how literally another part of this mournful poem was to be fulfilled, when I said in it –

‘To earth I should have sunk in my despair,
Had I not claspt the Cross, and been supported there.’ [2] 

I thank God for the strength with which we have borne this trial. It is not possible for woman to have acted with more fortitude than Edith has done through the whole sharp suffering; she has rather set an example than followed it. My bodily frame is much shaken. A little time and care will recruit it, and the mind is sound. I am fully sensible of the blessings which are left me, which far exceed those of most men. I pray for continued life that I may fulfil my duties towards those whom I love. I employ myself, and I look forward to the end with faith and with hope, as one whose treasure is laid up in Heaven; and where the treasure is, there will the heart be also.

At present it would rather do me hurt than good to see you. I am perfectly calm and in full self-possession; but I know my own weakness as well as my strength, and the wholesomest regimen for a mind like mine, is assiduous application to pursuits which call forth enough of its powers to occupy without exhausting it. It is well for me that I can do this. I take regular exercise and am very careful of myself.

Many will feel for me, but none can tell what I have lost: the head and flower of my earthly happiness is cut off. But I am not unhappy.

God bless you!



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 167–168. BACK

[1] The death of Southey’s son, Herbert, on 17 April 1816. BACK

[2] A slight misquotation from Southey’s The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part Two, Book 3, ‘The Sacred Mountain’, stanza 43, lines 5–6. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)