2796. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 23 May 1816

2796. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 23 May 1816⁠* 

Keswick. 23 May 1816

My dear Cottle

I know not whether the papers may have informed you of the severe affliction with which we have been visited, – the death of my son [1]  – a boy who was in all things after my own heart. You will be gratified to hear however that this sorrow produces in both our cases that beneficial purpose for which such visitations are appointed; & in subtr subtracting so large a portion of our earthly happiness fixes our hearts & hopes with more earnestness on the life to come. Nothing else, I am well assured, could have supported me, tho I have no ordinary share of fortitude. But I knew where to look for consolation, & am finding it where only it can be found. – See my dear Cottle the xxxxxx <instability> of human enjoyments! – You have read the Proem to my Pilgrimage, – & before the book was published the child of whom I had there spoken with such heart-felt delight was in the grave! [2] 

But of this enough. We have many blessings left, – abundant ones – & of this (which was indeed the flower of all our blessings) – we are only deprived for a time, & that time must needs be short.

I write now to remind you that we expect you & your sister [3]  at the ensuing holydays, according to your promise. You will find that time has made some alteration in us both, – & perhaps the last two months more than the ten years preceeding. Nevertheless we are still capable of rejoicing with our friends, – & your presence will bring back old feelings with the recollection of old times.

I desired Longman would send you the Pilgrimage, – & you will probably receive another small memento of me [4]  before your xxx start for the North.

To enter this country from the best point & see things in the right way (in a mountainous country this is of great consequence) you should cross the sands from Lancaster, see Furness Abbey on your way, & go from Ulverstone by Conistone Lake to Ambleside, – or better still to the Ferry upon Windermere, & cross to Bowness. There is nothing formidable in the Ferry.

Ediths kindest love to Miss Cottle. We reckon upon seeing you both, & you must not disappoint us.

God bless you my dear old friend

Yrs very affectionately

Robert Southey.


* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Brunswick Square/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Endorsement: About the death/ of his son./ May 23d – 1816 -
MS: Berg Collection, New York Public Library. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

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

[2] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). ‘Proem’, stanza 15, lines 3–4: ‘The father, teacher, playmate, was again/ Come to his only and his studious boy’, describing Southey’s joyful homecoming in December 1815 after his journey to the Low Countries. BACK

[3] Probably Mary Cottle, though Cottle had two other living sisters: Ann and Sarah. BACK

[4] A copy of The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale (1816). BACK

People mentioned

Cottle family (mentioned 1 time)
Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)
Southey, Herbert (1806–1816) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Furness Abbey (mentioned 1 time)
Ambleside (mentioned 1 time)
Keswick (mentioned 1 time)