2780. Robert Southey to Neville White, 4 May 1816

2780. Robert Southey to Neville White, 4 May 1816⁠* 

Keswick, May 4. 1816.

My dear Neville,

Thank you for your letter. I have had the prayers and the sympathy of many good men, and perhaps never child was lamented by so many persons of ripe years, unconnected with him by ties of consanguinity. But those of my friends who knew him loved him for his own sake, and many there are who grieve at his loss for mine. [1]  I dare not pursue this subject. My health is better, my spirits are not. I employ myself as much as possible; but there must be intervals of employment, and the moment that my mind is off duty, it recurs to the change which has taken place: that change, I fear, will long be the first thought when I wake in the morning, and the last when I lie down at night. Yet, Neville, I feel and acknowledge the uses of this affliction. Perhaps I was too happy; perhaps my affections were fastened by too many roots to this world; perhaps this precarious life was too dear to me.

Edith sets me the example of suppressing her own feelings for the sake of mine. We have many blessings left, – abundant ones, for which to be thankful. I know, too, to repine because Herbert is removed, would be as selfish as it would be sinful. Yea, I believe that, in my present frame of mind, I could lay my children upon the altar, like Abraham, [2]  and say, “Thy will be done.” [3]  This I trust will continue, when the depressing effects of grief shall have passed away. I hope in time to recover some portion of my constitutional cheerfulness, but never to lose that feeling with which I look on to eternity. I always knew the instability of earthly happiness; this woeful experience will make me contemplate more habitually and more ardently that happiness which is subject neither to chance nor change.

Do not suppose that I am indulging in tears, or giving way to painful recollections. On the contrary, I make proper exertions, and employ myself assiduously for as great a portion of the day as is compatible with health. For the first week I did as much every day as would at other times have seemed the full and overflowing produce of three. This, of course, I could not continue, but at the time it was salutary. God bless you, my dear Neville!

Yours most affectionately,

R. Southey.


* 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. 182–183. BACK

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

[2] Genesis 22, tells how Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his only son Isaac to God. BACK

[3] The Lord’s Prayer; Matthew 6: 10; and Luke 11: 2. BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 2 times)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)