On December 6, 1812 William Wordsworth writes to a friend about the death of his son Thomas:
Nothing... can sustain us under our affliction but reliance in God's Goodness and a firm belief that it is for our Good, as we cannot doubt it was for his, that he should be removed from this sinful and troublesome world. He was too good for us; we did not deserve such a blessing - and we must endeavour to correct and amend every thing that is wrong in us and our bitter sorrow will in time become sweet and kindly, and never such, at no moment such, as we should wish to part with -
The ordeal for William and Mary Wordsworth would continue for the next month as his three other children also contracted measles - the disease that took Thomas. The children would survive but death stalked them that month. It was only much later that William would compose the epitaph to be engraved on his son's tombstone. It would echo the letter written on December 6:
Six months to six years added he remain'd
Upon this sinful earth, by sin unstain'd,
O, blessed Lord, whose mercy then remov'd
A child that every eye that look'd on lov'd,
Support us; teach us calmly to resign
What we possess'd and now is wholly Thine.
Juliet Barker, Wordsworth: A Life (New York, Harper Collins,2000), page 310.