December 5 1812: Burial of Thomas Wordsworth

On December 5 1812, William and Mary Wordsworth bury Thomas Wordsworth, their six year old son, who died on the first of December. Wordsworth wrote on December 2nd to his friend Robert Southey to tell him of the death. The letter begins clinically before giving way to great emotion:   
Symptoms of the measles appeared upon my Son Thomas last Thursday; he was most favorable held till Tuesday, between ten and eleven at that hour was particularly lightsome and comfortable; without any assignable cause a sudden change took place, an inflammation had commenced on the lungs which it was impossible to check and the sweet Innocent yielded up his soul to God before six in the evening. He did not appear to suffer much in body, but I fear something in mind as he was of an age to have thought much upon death a subject to which his mind was daily led by the grave of his Sister....
For myself dear Southey I dare not say in what state of mind I am; I loved the Boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me - yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it. God comfort and save you and all our friends and us all from a repetition of such trials. - O Southey feel for me! If you are not afraid of the complaint, I ought to have said if you have had it come over to us! [1]
Thomas was the second child of William and Mary Wordsworth to die this year. They had five children. Thomas' sister Catherine had died on June 4, a few months before her fourth birthday. Thomas was buried in the north-east corner of Grasmere churchyard, beside his sister, near the river and under the hawthorn tree. The grief of his parents is indescribable. 


1. Juliet Barker, Wordsworth: A Life (New York, Harper Collins,2000), page 310. The description of the burial site is taken from Juliet Barker's description of the burial of Catherine at page 307. I have combined parts of the letter to Southey found here and that found at page of 310 of Juliet Barker's biography.

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