1632. Robert Southey to Charles Danvers, [early April-]22 May 1809 *
My dear Charles
You would have heard from me a fortnight ago if I had not been disappointed – the young one has proved a girl – & I believe my main reason for being sorry is that I have lost the pleasure of calling a boy by your name. A few days after her delivery Edith became very unwell, with a return of the same dysenteric symptoms which she had had two months before. she is however now well recovered, & has this evening for the first time, drank tea out of her room.
Seven weeks have past away since the few lines above were written, & in time we have had our share of suffering. Herbert has had the croup & been saved from it, – but last night we lost Emma by a violent bilious attack. – We are as well as can be expected after such a shock, – for nothing could be more unexpected. – I had indeed oftentimes suspected there was something wrong in the childs inside & were we at Bristol, that should have been now ascertained. Enough of this. These losses are but for a time, – this is not the first that we have sustained, & probably will not be the last. Neither I nor my children seem made of very lasting materials, – in fact it is very unlikely that my children should be. It is not altogether a fanciful analogy between a man who cultivates his mental faculties exclusively, & flowers <plants> which are improved by culture in an artificial soil; – they bring forth fine flowers, – but either they do not seed at all, – or the seedlings wither away. I often think of what Dr Jarrold has said of pointers, – the finest of the breed hardly ever grow up.  It is a wise order of nature & such I acknowledge it to be, severely as I am likely to suffer by it.
I am daily expecting to hear of Sir Dominies marriage, which was to take place this month. He will do well at Durham, & has every reason hitherto to think himself a fortunate man.
My History is advanced in the press as far as page 336.  You would have heard that Kehama was compleated,  had it not been for these sad interruptions of sickness, – of which we have had four serious ones since the beginning of the year. As it is I am in the last section but one, – & as soon I can recover heart to set to it again, a very few days will compleat it. Indeed I have expected to have concluded it this week, little thinking how my hand was to be palsied. –
I can hardly tell you how eagerly we expect your coming, – tho at the same time I hardly dare expect any thing, such is my ever-present feeling of the uncertainty of all our hopes & prospects. Yet if it please God that we should meet – & no new calamity intervene xxx we shall have some happy days Charles – There will be two candidates for your back within doors, – the boat is in dock where it used to be, & the cork waistcoat shall be brought out & hung in the sun to sweeten, as soon as we hear you & David are at Liverpool on your way. – I wish we were nearer each other, & half repent that we are not so, yet I have rather sunk here, than cast anchor by choice, for I never had funds that enabled me to look about, & chuse a resting place. Whether I may ever remove is very doubtful. if I do – it will be to Bath in preference to any other place. But I have now broken ground in yonder church yard, – & to a man who has no other freehold – even a family grave is something like a tie.
God bless you Danvers. Do not suppose me more cast down than I really am, I am more sad than sorrowful & more thoughtful than sad.
yours very affectionately
May 22. 1809. Keswick
* Address: To/ Charles Danvers Esqr/ Bristol
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: British Library, Add MS 30928, fols 97–98. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 141–143.
Dating note: the letter was begun ‘a fortnight’ after the birth of Bertha Southey on 27 March and then continued ‘seven weeks’ later, according to internal evidence. BACK