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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2207. Robert Southey to Robert Gooch, 20 January 1813 ⁠* 

Keswick, Jan. 20. 1813.

My dear Gooch,

.     .     .     Wordsworth refers, in more than one of his poems, with a melancholy feeling of regret, to the loss of youthful thoughts and hopes. In the last six weeks he has lost two children – one of them a fine boy of seven years old. [1]  I believe he feels, as I have felt before him, that ‘there is healing in the bitter cup,’ [2]  – that God takes from us those we love as hostages for our faith (if I may so express myself), – and that to those who look to a reunion in a better world, where there shall be no separation, and no mutability except that which results from perpetual progressiveness, the evening becomes more delightful than the morning, and the sunset offers brighter and lovelier visions than those which we build up in the morning clouds, and which disappear before the strength of the day. The older I grow – and I am older in feeling than in years – the more I am sensible of this: there is a precious alchemy in this faith, which transmutes grief into joy, or, rather, it is the true and heavenly euphrasy which clears away the film from our mortal sight, and makes affliction appear what, in reality, it is to the wise and good, – a dispensation of mercy.

God bless you!

Robert Southey


* MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 13–14. BACK

[1] Wordsworth had lost two children in six months. His youngest daughter Catherine died in June 1812, and his son Thomas in December. BACK

[2] Madoc (1805), Part 1, Book 3, line 164; a paraphrase of Matthew 20: 22. BACK

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August 2013