2798. Robert Southey to Wade Browne, 26 May 1816*
Keswick. 26 May. 1816
My dear Sir
You will easily excuse me for not having myself informed you of our loss. -  It is the third which we have sustained,  – but the sorrow is now different in kind as well as in degree, the death of an infant seems repaired by the birth of another, & you lose in it more of hope than of actual enjoyment, – yet God knows even then the heart is wounded in its tenderest part. But in our present case, the loss is irreparable. Were there the probability of our having another son I am not sure that I should desire it; – so infinitely unlikely is it that he should resemble Herbert in those moral & intellectual endowments which rendered him all that my heart desired. No father was ever blest with a child more entirely such as he would have prayed for; – & therefore it was that I always apprehended the calamity which has befallen me: I could not help feeling that when a creature of this kind came into the world, it was not likely that he should be suffered to remain in it; he lived in it long enough to know all that was good, – & nothing but <what> was good, – & he is removed before a thought of evil has ever xxxx risen in his heart, or a breath of impurity ever tainted his ears.
For ourselves, I hope we bear the visitation with true submission to the unerring wisdom which has appointed it. In the course of I have lost so many near & dear friends that my thoughts have been long & habitually directed toward the next world, as a point of hope, – as the place where we are to meet again, & where we shall be separated no more. Meantime – tho the very head & flower of all my earthly hopes & happiness is cut off, – I have abundant blessings left: – for each & all of these I am truly thankful, – but of all the blessings which God has given me this child who is removed, is the one which I still prize the most, – most thankful I am that I should have been favoured with such a son, & most happy in the certain assurance that this privation is only for a time. But for this faith it is scarcely possible that we should have supported the blow. – The illness was of six or eight weeks continuance, there was hope till the last, – though from the first in my own mind fear predominated. It was found after death to be an accumulation of matter in the pericardium. – Part of my prayers were granted, – long as the decline was, & total as the decay it was attended with the least possible suffering, – & at the end he fell asleep. – One word more & I will have done with this painful subject – his whole behaviour was in this as in all his life – beautiful.
I thank you my dear Sir, for your very friendly letter. – My tears even now are not without some portion of delight – such is the power of religion -
& believe me
very truly & affectionately yours
* Address: To Wade Browne Esqre/ Ludlow
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 47891. ALS; 3p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 28–30. BACK