1632. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [early April-]22 May 1809

1632. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [early April-]22 May 1809 ⁠* 

My dear Charles

You would have heard from me a fortnight ago if I had not been disappointed – the young one has proved a girl – & I believe my main reason for being sorry is that I have lost the pleasure of calling a boy by your name. A few days after her delivery Edith became very unwell, with a return of the same dysenteric symptoms which she had had two months before. she is however now well recovered, & has this evening for the first time, drank tea out of her room.


Seven weeks have past away since the few lines above were written, & in time we have had our share of suffering. Herbert has had the croup & been saved from it, – but last night we lost Emma by a violent bilious attack. – We are as well as can be expected after such a shock, – for nothing could be more unexpected. – I had indeed oftentimes suspected there was something wrong in the childs inside & were we at Bristol, that should have been now ascertained. Enough of this. These losses are but for a time, – this is not the first that we have sustained, & probably will not be the last. Neither I nor my children seem made of very lasting materials, – in fact it is very unlikely that my children should be. It is not altogether a fanciful analogy between a man who cultivates his mental faculties exclusively, & flowers <plants> which are improved by culture in an artificial soil; – they bring forth fine flowers, – but either they do not seed at all, – or the seedlings wither away. I often think of what Dr Jarrold has said of pointers, – the finest of the breed hardly ever grow up. [1]  It is a wise order of nature & such I acknowledge it to be, severely as I am likely to suffer by it.

I am daily expecting to hear of Sir Dominies marriage, which was to take place this month. He will do well at Durham, & has every reason hitherto to think himself a fortunate man.

My History is advanced in the press as far as page 336. [2]  You would have heard that Kehama was compleated, [3]  had it not been for these sad interruptions of sickness, – of which we have had four serious ones since the beginning of the year. As it is I am in the last section but one, – & as soon I can recover heart to set to it again, a very few days will compleat it. Indeed I have expected to have concluded it this week, little thinking how my hand was to be palsied. –

I can hardly tell you how eagerly we expect your coming, – tho at the same time I hardly dare expect any thing, such is my ever-present feeling of the uncertainty of all our hopes & prospects. Yet if it please God that we should meet – & no new calamity intervene xxx we shall have some happy days Charles – There will be two candidates for your back within doors, – the boat is in dock where it used to be, & the cork waistcoat shall be brought out & hung in the sun to sweeten, as soon as we hear you & David are at Liverpool on your way. – I wish we were nearer each other, & half repent that we are not so, yet I have rather sunk here, than cast anchor by choice, for I never had funds that enabled me to look about, & chuse a resting place. Whether I may ever remove is very doubtful. if I do – it will be to Bath in preference to any other place. But I have now broken ground in yonder church yard, – & to a man who has no other freehold – even a family grave is something like a tie.

God bless you Danvers. Do not suppose me more cast down than I really am, I am more sad than sorrowful & more thoughtful than sad.

yours very affectionately

Robert Southey

May 22. 1809. Keswick


* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928, fols 97–98. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 141–143.
Dating note: the letter was begun ‘a fortnight’ after the birth of Bertha Southey on 27 March and then continued ‘seven weeks’ later, according to internal evidence. BACK

[1] Thomas Jarrold (1770–1853; DNB), a physician who authored Anthropologia or, Dissertations on the Form and Colour of Man: With Incidental Remarks (1808). BACK

[2] The first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil was published in 1810. BACK

[3] The Curse of Kehama (1810). BACK

People mentioned

Southey, Bertha (1809–1877) (mentioned 1 time)
Jardine, David (1794–1860) (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Emma (1808–1809) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)