645. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 28 December 1801-1 January 1802 *
My dear Harry
Your bird arrived duly – & your letter after it. it my Mother was too ill too enjoy it – she has been one day better – one day worse – just able to rise from her bed & sit up an hour in the evening. your prescription – I wish she were well enough to need it! – for this last fortnight we have been retarding the progress of a diarrhœa by opium. still it continues – she has been at time delirious – she is more drowsy than only the opium would make her – her appetite wholly gone. there exists but a possibility of her recovery. happily there is no pain whatever.
I am glad you are not here. our home is now a comfortless one. & Edith is herself so very unwell – that instead of being a nurse to the sick – I daily apprehend that she herself will need attendance. withall her spirits are dreadfully depressed – the more so for the effort made to subdue them in my mothers presence – . Mrs Lovell is here – we should else be wretchedly situated. our servant too is attentive.
Did you not receive a letter of some length which I wrote about a month ago  –? in which I proposed to you a course of romance-reading thro the whole Paladin story in all its branchings? –
Burnett is fortunate. he goes to Lord Stanhope  as tutor to two boys with a salary of 200£, living in the house. I have my fears lest he should not keep the situation – for the eldest son (near sixteen) has once quitted his fathers house – many tutors have left the place – or been found unfit for it – & Lord S. is a man of peculiarities & warm temper.
I am doing little. Corry does not employ me – but he takes up my times – he is very civil – so after gossipping away a year in his company we doubtless shall seperate. I have many interruptions at home – & what is worse an interrupted mind. thro the day an incessant anxiety for my Mother & thro the night an alarm at every stirring in her room. poor Tom knows not of her illness – & in all human probability his first news will be of her departure. It is well Harry that you are not here. – I myself continue well & feel no evil from the climate. the weather has been favorable. yet my ties to this country are being daily loosened – one goes after another. – the old leaves are dropping from the family tree – & I see no bud upon its branches! –
My books grow dearer to me – I cling to them with a comfortless feeling that it is the only safe attachment – that they are the friends whom there is no danger of losing – who must survive me––
God bless you –
Monday 28. Dec. 1801.
My Mother has long had a superstition that she should die next year – because she was born in 52 – married in 72 – widowed in 92 – these forebodings are out of the reach of reason – & they defy medicine
Jany. 1. 1802. I have delayed & delayed. expecting some alteration in my Mother. she is a little better – very very little – but yet better.
 Burnett had just been appointed tutor to the two younger sons of Charles (‘Citizen’) Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753-1816; DNB), radical politician and inventor. The two boys in question were Charles Stanhope (1785-1809) and James Stanhope (1788-1825). The eldest son was Philip Henry Stanhope, later 4th Earl Stanhope (1781-1855; DNB), radical Tory politician. In 1801 he fled the strict regime at his father’s house to study in Germany. BACK