William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt and Chester L. Shaver (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 1: The Early Years: 1787–1805 (Second Revised Edition)

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109. W. W. to JOSIAH WEDGWOOD

  • Address: Josiah Wedgwood Esqr | Stoke | [near] Cobham | Surrey England
  • Readdressed: Etruria | Staffordshire
  • Postmark: (1) [?] February 1799; (2) Foreign Office, 7 March 1799.
  • MS. Wedgwood Mus. Hitherto unpublished.

Goslar February 5th 1799

Dear Sir,

I have received, as you probably have been already informed, the value of forty pound sterling from Mr Krause2 of Brunswick. pg 249I do not think I shall have occasion to give you any more trouble of this kind. I have written to request of my Brother to pay into your hands all the money which he has received belonging to me. I fear I have overdrawn my ability at least fifteen pounds; if so I must remain your debtor till the end of the summer. Knowing as I do your goodness I should not have taken this liberty had I not been going into Upper Saxony, where I should have had no further means of supplying myself, and though it is probable that we are going to make rather a tour than a residence yet I was unwilling to be driven into port by sheer lack of provisions.

We have had a pleasant residence at Goslar where we have been for eighteen weeks. Our progress in the language has been very, very far short of what it would have been, had we been richer. The practice of taking people en pension is a thing almost unknown in Germany, and consequently, a price is demanded far above our calculations and our means; on this account that time which I expected would have been the most profitable has with respect to attaining the language been utterly useless, as we have been compelled to be together alone at meal-times &c, &c. Goslar is a venerable, (venerable I mean as to its external appearance) decayed city. It is situated at the foot of some small mountains, on the edge of the Harts forest. It was once the residence of Emperors, and it is now the residence of Grocers and Linen-drapers who are, I say it with a feeling of sorrow, a wretched race; the flesh, blood, and bone of their minds being nothing but knavery and low falshood. We have met with one dear and kind creature, but he is so miserably deaf that we could only play with him games of cross-purposes, and he likewise labours under a common German infirmity, the loss of teeth, so that with bad German, bad English, bad French, bad hearing, and bad utterance you will imagine we have had very pretty dialogues but the creature is all kindness and benevolence, and I shall never forget him. On Sunday Morning we set off to Nordhausen. Our present plan is to return to Hamburgh when the mild weather comes on, whence we shall shortly set sail for England unless we meet with some opportunity of learning the language more favorable than we have reason to expect. I mean by learning the language not merely the knowing that "Liebe" is German for "love", and "darum" for "therefore" &c but the having your mind in such a state that the several German idioms and phrases without any act of thought or consideration shall immediately excite feelings analogous to those which are excited in the breasts of the natives. Unless our minds are in this state, what we call knowledge pg 250of languages is a wretched self-delusion; words are a mere dead letter in the mind. I have received two very kind letters from Mr Krause with most obliging offers of civility. I hope to have the pleasure of making my personal acknowledgements to him on my return to Hamburgh. I remain, with sentiments of great respect and esteem,

  • Yours affectionately   
  • Wm Wordsworth  

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Editor’s Note
2 A business associate of Philip and Otto von Axen.
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