Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1751. Robert Southey to William Peachy, 27 February 1810 ⁠* 

Keswick. Feby. 27. 1810.

My dear Sir

You should have heard from me sooner if I could sooner have satisfied myself, but these things are better left undone, unless they are done well, & the power of doing them well cometh, like wind, when it listeth. [1] 

Sacred to the Memory

of

Emma . . . .

Daughter of . . . . Chartres Esqr

&

Wife of Lt Colonel Peachy

Who xxxx died in the Island of Madeira

. . . . 1809

Aged .. years [2] 

Here in the fruitful vales of Somerset
Was Emma born, & here the Maiden grew
To the sweet season of her womanhood,
Beloved & lovely, like a flower whose leaf
And bud & blossom, all are beautiful.
Her virgin years were past in peacefulness;
And when in prosperous wedlock she was given,
Among the Cumbrian mountains far away
She had her summer bower. Twas like a sight
Of old romance to see her when she plied
Her little skiff on Derwents glassy lake,
Under the gorgeous evenings glowing sky.
But soon a wasting malady began
To prey upon her, frequent in attack,
Yet with its intervals of calm that mockd
The hopes of anxious love, & most of all
The sufferer, self-deceivd. During those days
Of treacherous respite, many a time hath he
Who leaves this record of his friend, drawn back
Into the shadow, from her social board,
Because amid her smiles & innocent mirth
There was the bloom of death upon her cheek.
And at that aweful thought, a heavier grief
Opprest his heart, than when the tidings came
That all her sufferings over, she was laid
To rest amid Madeiras orange groves.
O gentle Emma! over lovelier form
Than thine, Earth never clos’d, nor eer did Heaven
Receive a purer spirit from the World!

Robert Southey.

This is longer than I could wish, tho I have laboured hard in shortening it since it was written. Excepting this fault I am well satisfied with it, & this is a fault only as it respects the stone cutter.

I have long thought of writing a poem upon this Lake, – should it ever be executed the best part will be upon the same subject as [MS torn] inscription. – Many indeed is the verse which I should have addressed to Mrs P. if I had had heart to do it, – but the thought of her death was ever before my eyes

believe me my dear Sir

yrs very truly,

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: To/ Lt Colonel Peachy/ with – Chartres Esqr/ Linchfield/ Taunton
MS: Beinecke Library, GEN MSS 298, Series I, Box 1, folder 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth’, John, 3: 8. BACK

[2] Published as ‘Inscription XVIII’ in Minor Poems, 3 vols (London, 1815), II, pp. 131–132. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013