2810. Robert Southey to John May, 12 June 1816

2810. Robert Southey to John May, 12 June 1816⁠* 

My dear friend

I have not written to you for some weeks, – time passes on, & the lapse of two months may perhaps enable me now xx to judge what permanent effect this late affliction [1]  will produce upon my habitual state of mind. It will be long before I shall cease to xx be sensible of the change in the business of the day, – in my relaxations, my pleasures, hopes, plans & prospects; – very long I fear will it be before a sense of that change will cease to be my latest thought at night, & my earliest in the morning. Yet I am certainly resigned to this privation – & this I say not in the spirit with which mere philosophy teaches us to bear that which is inevitable, but with a Christian xx conviction that this early removal is a blessing to him who is removed. – We read of persons who have suddenly become grey from violent emotions of grief or fear. I feel in some degree as if I had past at once from boyhood to the decline of life: I had never ceased to be a boy in chearfulness till now: – all those elastic spirits are gone, – nor is it in the nature of things that they should return; – I am still capable of enjoyment, & trust that there is much in store for me, – but there is an end of that hilarity which I possessed more uninterruptedly & in a greater degree than any person with whom I was ever acquainted.

You advised me to write down my recollections of Herbert while they were fresh. – I dare not undertake the task. Something akin to it, but in a different form, & with a more extensive purpose I have begun; [2]  – but my eyes & my head suffer too much in the occupation for me to pursue it as yet; – & as these effects cannot be concealed I must avoid, as much as possible, all that would produce them. This believe me, is an effort of forbearance, for my heart is very much set upon compleating what I have planned.

The effect upon Edith will be as lasting as upon myself, – but she had not the same exuberance of spirits to lose, & therefore it will be less perceptible. The self–command which she has exercised has been truly exemplary, & commands my highest esteem.

Your god-daughter, thank God, is well. Her daily lesson will long be a melancholy task on my part, – since it must now be <is> a solitary one. She is now so far advanced xx that I can make some of her exercises of xxx use, – & set her to translate passages for my notes, xxx from French, Latin, Spanish or Portugueze. Of course this is not done without some assistance, & some correction, – still while she improves herself, she is assisting me, – & the pleasure that this gives me is worth a great deal. She is a good girl, with a ready comprehension, quick feelings, a tender heart, & an excellent disposition. I pray God that her life may be spared, to make me happy while I live, & some one who may be worthy of her when it shall be time for her to contract other ties & other duties.

I suppose you will receive my ‘Lay’ [3]  in a few days.

God bless you my dear friend. Remember us to Mrs May & believe me

yours most affectionately

Robert Southey.

Remember us to John Coleridge. I heartily wish he would come into this country.

Keswick. 12 June. 1816.


* Address: To/ John May Esqre–/ Richmond/ Surry
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmarks: E/ 15 JU 15/ 1816; 10 o’Clock/ JU. 15/ 1816 F.N.n
Watermark: J Dickinson & Co/ 1811
Endorsement: No. 190 [written over ‘191’ or ‘194’] 1816/ Robert Southey/ Keswick 12th June/ recd. 15th do./ ansd. 26th do
MS: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 187–189; Charles Ramos (ed.), The Letters of Robert Southey to John May: 1797–1838 (Austin, Texas, 1976), pp. 151–153. BACK

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

[2] Probably a reference to Southey’s unfinished poem, ‘Consolation’. Sections were published after his death as ‘Fragmentary Thoughts Occasioned by his Son’s Death’ in Oliver Newman: A New-England Tale (Unfinished): With Other Poetical Remains (London, 1845), pp. 93–95, and ‘Additional Fragment, Occasioned by the Death of his Son’, Poetical Works of Robert Southey. Complete in One Volume (London, 1850), p. 815. BACK

[3] Southey’s poem The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale, published in June 1816. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)