2790. Robert Southey to Chauncy Hare Townshend [fragment], 16 May 1816

2790. Robert Southey to Chauncy Hare Townshend [fragment], 16 May 1816⁠* 

Keswick, May l6. 1816.

. . . . . . . The loss which I have sustained is, I believe, heavier than any like affliction would have proved to almost any other person, from the circumstance of my dear son’s character, and the peculiar habits of my life. [1]  The joyousness of my disposition has received its death-wound; but there are still so many blessings left me, that I should be most ungrateful did I not feel myself abundantly rich in the only treasures which I have ever coveted. Three months ago, when I looked around, I knew no man so happy as myself, that is, no man who so entirely possessed all that his heart desired, those desires being such as bore the severest scrutiny of wisdom. The difference now is, that what was then the flower of my earthly happiness is now become a prominent object of my heavenly hopes, – that I have this treasure in reversion, instead of actually possessing it; but the reversion is indefeasible, and when it is restored to me it will be for ever; the separation which death makes is but for a time.

These are my habitual feelings, not the offspring of immediate sorrow, for I have felt sorrow ere this, and, I hope, have profited by it.

The Roman Catholics go too far in weaning their hearts from the world, and fall in consequence into the worst practical follies which could result from Manicheism. [2]  We lay up treasure in heaven when we cherish the domestic charities. ‘They sin who tell us love can die,’ [3]  and they also err grievously who suppose that natural affections tend to wean us from God. Far otherwise! They develop virtues, of the existence of which in our own hearts we should else be unconscious; and binding us to each other, they bind us also to our common Parent.

Let me see your poem [4]  when you have finished it, and tell me something more of yourself, where your home is, and where you have been educated. Anything that you may communicate upon this subject will interest me. In my communication with Kirke White, and with poor Dusautoy, I have blamed myself for repressing the expression of interest concerning them, when it has been too late. Perhaps they have thought me cold and distant, than which nothing can be farther from my nature; but may your years be many and prosperous. God bless you!

Your affectionate Friend,



* 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. 177–178 [in part]. BACK

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

[2] Manichaeism was a dualistic religion founded in Persia in the 3rd century AD, which treated the material world as evil and advocated a strictly ascetic life. BACK

[3] The Curse of Kehama (1810), Book 10, line 150. BACK

[4] Unidentified. BACK

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Keswick (mentioned 1 time)