1428. Robert Southey to [Anna] Seward, 13 February 1808 *
Keswick. Feby. 13. 1808.
On Tuesday evening last, I had a daughter born, – every thing, thanks be to God – is as well as could be wished, & tomorrow I set my face southward & depart from home. My habits have long been so domestic & so uniform that to set out upon any journey seems a more formidable undertaking, & is a more unpleasant one than it ought to be. I have however company to lighten the wearisomeness of the way as far as Staffordshire. My brother Thomas goes with me to Penkridge, where after halting a day or two at Teddesley, we seperate, – he for Bristol & I for Litchfield on my London road. xxxx xxxxx xxxxx As we travel slowly for the sake of saving fatigue, seeing where we go, & beating up the quarters of one or two old acquaintance, it may be nearly a fortnight before I reach Litchfield, – but I will write from Penkridge, & tell you on what day I shall be at your door. Had it not been for the sad knowledge that you are an invalid I think I should have made for Litchfield first, & ventured to show you my brother. He is three years younger than me, but made older in appearance & in constitution by fifteen years hard service in the navy. In the action between the Mars & L’Hercule,  – the most memorable that was fought between two single ships during the last war, he distinguished himself, & earned his Lieutenants commission. We had reason to hope he would be promoted under Mr Grenvilles reign at the admiralty;  – that hope is over, & length of service in the navy <only> lessens the chance of reward. I could say much upon the state of that navy, which is now the only bulwark of liberty if it were not for his sake. But however wholesome & important the advice, the adviser would never be forgiven, – & I pay more regard to his interests than I would do to my own. You would have been well pleased with him, – he has all the best parts of the sailor-character, & his own good heart has preserved him from all the bad ones.
I am too busy in preparing for a two months absence, & too much occupied with thinking about it, to have either leisure or spirits for writing as I wished & meant to have done. My eldest girl clings to me & says don’t go, – my little boy will lead his nursemaid tomorrow to my study door, & find no one there to show him the pictures. – I had need think of Litchfield & of what I shall see there with more respect than the shrine <altar> of St Chad,  – to counteract a melancholy which I never yield to. This thought would be a chearful one were you in health; – yet I shall find <you> with a young heart, & an intellect to which time has only given strength; with all that is immortal about you fresh & vigorous – the oracle still what it was, – whatever be the state of the shrine –