2801. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, [fragment], [c. May 1816]

2801. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, [fragment], [c. May 1816]⁠* 

My dear Lightfoot

I thank you for your letter. You may remember that in my youth I had a good deal of such practical philosophy as may be learnt from Epictetus; [1]  – it has often stood me in good stead; – it affords strength, but no consolation, – consolation can be found only in religion, – & there I find it. My dear Lightfoot it is now full two & twenty years since you & I shook hands at our last parting, – in all likelihood the separation between my son [2]  & me will not be for so long a time, – in the common course of nature it cannot possibly be much longer, – & I may be summoned to rejoin him before the year – yea before the passing day, or the passing hour be gone. Death has so often entered my doors that he & I have long been familiar. The loss of five brothers & sisters (four of whom I remember well) [3]  – of my father & mother, of a female cousin who grew up with me & lived with me, – of two daughters, [4]  – & of several friends, – among them two of the dearest friends that ever man possesst [5]  – had very much weaned my heart from this world, – or more properly speaking had fixed its thoughts & desires upon a better state wherein there shall be no such separation, – before this last & severest affliction. – xxx Still it would be senseless & ungrateful to the greatest degree if I were not to feel & acknowledge the abundant blessings that still possessing – especially believing – trusting – knowing as I do in the full assurance of satisfied reason & settled faith, that the treasure which has been taken from me now, is laid up in Heaven, – there to be repossessed with ample increase.

Whenever I see Crediton I must journey into the West for that xxxxx sole purpose. My last ties with my native city were cut up by the roots two years ago, by the death of one of my best & dearest friends, & I shall never have heart to enter it again. Will you not give me one of your summer holydays, – & visit not only an old friend, but a part of England which is most worth visiting, – & which attracts visitors from all parts?

I was a great traveller last year, – from Waterloo my journey extended to Namur, Huy, Liege, Spa & Aix-la Chapelle. From thence we turned back by way of Maestrecht, Tongres, Tirlemont, & Louvain to Brussels: thence to Antwerp, Ghent, Courtray, Menin, Ypres, Bergues, Dunkirk & Calais, – a six weeks journey, travelling leisurely. At Aix la Chapelle we were delayed five days by my daughters illness, – the scarlet fever, happily the attack was subdued, – but I have never past a more anxious time, & the people of the Hotel were the most unfeeling wretches I ever met with in the course of my life.

[remainder of MS missing]


* MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d.110. AL; 2p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 179–180 [in part; dated ‘May 1816’].
Note on MS: only the first leaf of this letter survives. BACK

[1] Epictetus (c. AD 55–135), Greek Stoic philosopher: ‘there are few characters that I contemplate with more reverence than the slave Epictetus. his book was <once> for some months my pocket companion’, Robert Southey to John May, 15 August 1797, The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. Part One, Letter 247. BACK

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

[3] Southey’s siblings who died as children: John Cannon (1773–1774); Eliza, Louisa (1780–1782), John (b. 1782) and Margaretta (1787–1788). BACK