2779. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 4 May 1816

2779. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 4 May 1816⁠* 

My estimate of human life is more favourable than yours. If death were the termination of our existence then indeed I should wish rather to have been born a beast, or never to have been born at all; – but considering more nothing more certain than that <this> life is a state of preparatory to a higher state of being I am thankful for the happiness which I have enjoyed, – for the blessings which are left me, – & for those to which I look on with sure & certain hope. With me the enjoyments of life have more than counterbalanced its anxieties & its pains: no man can possibly have been happier; & at this moment when I am suffering under the severest loss which could have fallen me, I am richer both in heart & hope than if God had never given me the child whom it hath pleased him to take away. [1]  My heart has been exercised with better feelings during his life, – & is drawn nearer toward heaven by his removal. – I do not recover spirits, – but my health is strength is materially recruited, & I am not unhappy.

I have employed myself with more than ordinary diligence. You will receive portions of my history [2]  in quick succession. I find abundant materials for a third volume, & have therefore determined not to injure a work which has cost me so much labour, by attempting to compress it because forsooth the public would prefer two volumes to three. If I had ever consulted their taste, my reputation would not now have been what it is. You will see that the story of Cardenas is not an episode, – it is the beginning of the great struggle with the Jesuits. [3]  This volume will bring the narrative down to the beginning of the last century & concludeing with an account of the manners in Brazil at that time, – & the state of the country as far as my documents enable me to give it. [4]  The Maranham papers in your Papeis Politicos task my sight dreadfully. [5]  – I have desired Pople to print at the rate of three sheets per week, which in the course of eight or ten weeks will compleat the volume; – & I will not be diverted by any other occupation from proceeding steadily with the third, for a certain portion of every day till it is concluded.

Bedford will this day receive my Carmen Nuptiale [6]  – but I am not certain that it will be printed. There is sufficient excuse for not being silent, & tho the poem would do me great credit I have no desire for its publication, if any of my friends should think it unsuitable, as being too uncourtly. It does not take its colouring from my present circumstances, the conclusion being <is> precisely what it was always intended to xxx be

You see I have not been idle; – indeed at present there is more danger of my occupying myself too much than too little.

Edith is as well as she can be under such a visitation. She now controuls her feelings for my sake, – with as much self-command as she displayed in Herberts presence during the severer time of trial. – But enough of this. The children are well, – the worst symptom of which I am sensible in myself, is that I still feel rather pain than pleasure from <in> their presence, & would therefore shun them, – if it were not a duty to overcome such feelings as soon as possible.

Love to my aunt – to Edward & the younger ones.

God bless you


Keswick 4 May. 1816


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Worting/ near/ Basingstoke/ Hampshire
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ 7 MY 7/ 1816
Seal: black wax, design illegible
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, WC 152. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 180–181 [in part]. BACK

[1] Southey’s son Herbert had died on 17 April 1816. BACK

[2] The History of Brazil (1810–1819), of which Southey was preparing the second volume. BACK

[3] Chapter 25 of the History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, pp. 381–448 dealt with the struggle between Bernardino de Cardenas Ponce (1579–1668), Bishop of Paraguay 1640–1663 and the Jesuits in the 1640s. BACK

[4] Chapter 30 of the History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), II, pp. 632–692. BACK

[5] Possibly the 9 volumes of manuscript material described as ‘Papeis Varias Politicos’ (1674), no. 3852 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] On 2 May 1816 Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865; King of the Belgians 1831–1865) married Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent. Southey celebrated the union in his Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816). BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)