2758. Robert Southey to John May, 17 April 1816

2758. Robert Southey to John May, 17 April 1816⁠* 

April 17. 1816.

My dear Friend,

If you have seen Harry of late, you will anticipate the intelligence which a black seal announces. It has pleased God to visit me with the severest of all afflictions, by removing my son, – my only son, – who was the very flower and crown of all my happiness; for never was man blest with a child more entirely after his own heart’s desire. [1]  “The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [2] 

I am very thankful for having had him during ten years. During those years he has been the joy of my life; and my deepest pleasure hereafter will be in the sure and certain hope that this separation is only for a time. I feel, also, that the removal is for his good; that he was perfectly fit for a better scene of existence: he had learnt all of good that this world could teach him, – all kind affections, all good feelings, all generous hopes; and he is gone before the world has sullied his pure spirits, without a spot or stain, never having known a thought of evil, never having felt a single affliction. His life has been past in love, and he has fallen asleep to wake in immortality.

In this frame of mind, you will believe that I am as composed and as resigned as becomes a man and a Christian; but I am fully aware that in this place I shall never be able to overcome the recollections which must everywhere haunt me. My morning walks, my summer excursions on the lake, &c. &c., – all are associated with him, who was my constant companion. I will therefore, if it be possible, remove from Cumberland. My lease expires in twelve months from this time. I wish to be near London, and, if it may be, near you. Harry will talk to you about this.

Edith has supported herself through this long and severe trial with exemplary fortitude. I trust God will support her now. For myself, it is a relief to know that the worst is over. For full five weeks I have never known an hour’s peace of mind, perpetually dreading this; and even when I gave way to the hopes with which others flattered me, it was hoping against belief. His whole demeanour was, like his whole life, almost beyond belief for calmness, collectedness, and obedience.

Pray for us, my dear friend, that we may be supported in our affliction. My heart is strong, and I can answer for controlling all outward excess of grief; but I pray that my health may not fail me. I have many ties to life, and am duly mindful of them at this hour.

God bless you. Yours most affectionately,



* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856)
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections From the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 21–23. BACK

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

[2] Job 1: 21. BACK

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