1035. Robert Southey to William Wordsworth, [c. 10 February 1805]

1035. Robert Southey to William Wordsworth, [c. 10 February 1805] ⁠* 

Dear Wordsworth – I scarcely know what to say to you after this thunderstroke [1]  – nor whether I ought to say anything. Only – whenever you feel or fancy yourself in a state to derive any advantage from company – I will come over to you – or do you come here. It has been my custom when in affliction to force myself to mental exertion, a difficult thing, but possible, – but it made my sleep dreadful. – for grief, as far as it is a bodily feeling, like disease will have its course.

It is some consolation that destructive as this dreadful event has been, its circumstances were less horrible than those which usually precede such a fate.

My own brother has had a fearful escape. his Captain brought him to a Court martial –& so prevented him from being in the action – & the Lieutenant who took his place – fell. [2]  It shocked me to learn since that this poor fellow was the only son of a widow, & had gone to the West Indies in the hope of making money enough to marry the woman to whom he was engaged. – Tom has been appointed to another ship [3]  – the yellow fever had halved xxx its crew before he got on board, & since he has during the month he has been there they have buried sixty. death & calamity every where.

Come to me or send for me whenever you think society will not be impertinent.

God comfort you & your sister!



* Address: To/ Mr Wordsworth/ Grasmere/ to be delivered as soon possible
Seal: red wax; partial
MS: Wordsworth Trust, WL MS A Southey. ALS; 2p.
Dating note: John Wordsworth’s ship was sunk on 5 February 1805. Southey says in his letter to Wynn dated ‘Saturday’ [9 February 1805] that he has just heard ‘this evening’ about the shipwreck, so this letter must have been written shortly after that date, when Southey had heard that Wordsworth knew of the tragedy. Wordsworth replied to Southey’s letter on 12 February 1805, inviting him to come to his house. BACK

[1] William’s brother John Wordsworth (1772–1805), captain of the East Indiaman, the Earl of Abergavenny, went down with his ship on the Shambles rocks off Portland Bill, on 5 February 1805. BACK

[2] On 14 August 1804, the boats of Thomas Southey’s ship HMS Galatea made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British sloop of war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe. Of the 90 men sent on the mission 65 were killed or wounded. Southey had suspected that Thomas was among the dead, having read in the newspapers that the first lieutenant had been killed. Thomas had been placed under arrest, and was subsequently court-martialled. Lieutenant Charles Hayman (d. 1804), his replacement on the raid, died. BACK

[3] After his court martial, Thomas was made lieutenant of HMS Amelia, where his captain was William Charles Fahie (1763–1833). BACK

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