Dorothy 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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pg 402192. D. W. to MRS. THOMAS CLARKSON

  • Address: Mrs. Clarkson at Mr. Wm. Buck's | Bury | Suffolk
  • Postmark: 14 October 1803.
  • MS. Brit. Mus. L(—), i. 150. EL, 334.

Grasmere. Sunday Oct. 9th [1803]

My dear Friend,

It is a fortnight this day1 since we returned home after our absence from Mary and the Babe of six weeks—a long long absence it seemed to be, though we were very happy during our tour, particularly the last month, for at first we were but half weaned from home and had not learnt the way of enjoying ourselves—We seemed to consider the whole Tour as a business to be by us performed for some good end or other, but when we had fairly got forward the rambling disposition came upon us and we were sorry to turn back again or rather we wished to go forward. We had a joyful meeting. Mary, though thin was quite well, and John had thrived and grown to our very hearts contentment. We have received your two letters, I cannot express what joy and thankfulness we all felt at the reading of your last which is now about ten days ago, and your husband who left us yesterday morning tells us that he has had later news of you that was equally satisfactory. My dear Friend I thought of you very much while we were in Scotland, and wished and vowed to write to you many and many a time. Perhaps Mary may have told you that it was my intention to write while we were on the Tour. So indeed it was and I was even bold enough to hope that I should send you long and entertaining accounts of what we saw and what we did, that might enliven you in your absence from your dear home. I blame myself very much that I never once should have written one word to you NB. your letters addressed to me copied by Joanna and sent by Mary on the Tour I did not receive.2 Long letters it was out of my power to write unless I had had a thousand times more activity and strength than I am mistress of, for I was always tired when I reached the Inn at night and glad to put my Body in the state to receive all possible enjoyment of the few comforts a Scotch Inn affords. I was glad to lay my legs up and loll in indolence before the fire. I am happy to tell you that Mr Clarkson seemed to be very well when he was with us, though I believe he had been sadly over tired by the pg 403Smyths1 who I find are as active as Race horses and as full of spirits as young kittens. William had met him at Ambleside on Monday with the whole party. William had gone to volunteer his services with the greatest part of the Men of Grasmere—alas! alas! Mary and I have no other hope than that they will not be called upon out of these quiet far off places except in the case of the French being successful after their landing, and in that case what matter? We may all go together. But we wanted him to wait till the Body of the people should be called. For my part I thought much of the inconvenience and fatigue of going to be exercised twice or thrice a week, however if he really enters into it heart and soul and likes it, that will do him good, and surely there never was a more determined hater of the French nor one more willing to do his utmost to destroy them if they really do come. We do not know at present whether the Grasmere Volunteers are all to be accepted or not, nor any thing about the time and place of their being exercised. Wm returned home at about ten o'clock, left Mr Clarkson at Ambleside, and the next morning we received a Note from him requesting to borrow our horse for a journey to Muncaster2 along with Mr Smyth. Mr C arrived here from Muncaster at about four o'clock on Friday afternoon. We could not prevail upon him to stay longer than till he had breakfasted yesterday, but he has promised to come and spend a few days with us just before he goes to Bury. We were sorry to hear that this would not be till the beginning of next month for I daresay you will be almost heart-sick with long wishing and waiting. He was anxious to get forward with his book which had been kept back by his visitors. Joanna Hutchinson is still with us. She was to have left us yesterday and John Monkhouse brought a whiskey on Saturday afternoon to carry her to Penrith, but poor creature! she was far too ill to go. She has never been in strong health since she came to Grasmere, or indeed, perhaps all her life, not in strong health but she has had continual head-aches, with tooth-ache, and many symptoms of nervous diseases since she came to Grasmere and on Friday evening she had a hysteric and a fainting fit, attended with many dreadful sensations that made us think of pg 404you. Of course John Monkhouse took his Gig back without her, and we hope to be able to send her back to Penrith, when she does go, in health and strength. William rode over to Keswick yesterday morning to consult Mr Edmundson,1 who has sent her some medicine. She is better today but looks very ill and is very weak. Sara wrote in bad spirits the last time we heard from her, they had just received a Notice from Mr Langley to quit their Farm. You know how much they were all attached to Gallow Hill, so as you will suppose the mere leaving the place will be a great trouble to Sara, but as it was not Tom's intention to remain there after he could get a larger Farm, this is not the cause of her distress. They have no other farm to go to, and she feels in consequence of being dismissed from their home in this way by a Landlord who had the character of never dismissing a Tenant without some good reason that they have no certain abiding place, and in short that every thing is unstable in this world. We are anxious for another letter from her, that we may know whether Tom has formed any plans, or has any expect[ation of] getting another farm. What is most provoking [is] that Mrs Langley wants this Farm into her own hands merely for a little Rural place to carry her fine Ladies to drink tea at, because they admired it, and she admired it, and before Tom Hutchinson took it nobody thought anything about it and he has made all the improvements, and in short made it the place it is. We had intended while we have our Carriage,2 to have gone to Gallow Hill next spring. If they get a farm no doubt we shall go wherever they are, but this is very uncertain. William is not yet returned from Keswick. It is almost 8 o'clock and we are expecting him every minute. The little Darling is asleep upstairs upon the Bed brought into the sitting room for poor Joanna, and the three are sitting together. I have a nice fire in the little parlour. My dear Friend I wish you were sitting in the Chair beside me3 and I would tell you all about our Scotch Tour, and we would talk about little Johnny and all our comforts. We have indeed reason to thank God for having bestowed such a Blessing upon us, he is as fine and healthy a Babe as ever was in Grasmere I verily believe, and has a most noble countenance, with as sweet smiles and as pretty ways as any Babe of his age. He has got a blue striped Frock on today sent him by Bell Addison4 and very bonny he looks in it with his little bare pg 405head! he is in short Coats and without cap. Would that you could see the hair growing upon his dear little head. You cannot think how bonny the bare head looks when he is sucking! His Mother has plenty of milk for him, but she is thin. I wish she was fatter, however she makes no complaints, though indeed neither she nor the child were well last week, or rather looked well for John never was cross, but today he looks more healthy than ever and Mary looks well too. We have not seen Coleridge since our return. He is taking a violent medicine in the hope of bringing his disease to a fit of the Gout. M. would tell you that we parted with him at Loch Lomond.1 He performed miracles after we left him in the way of walking2 which proves an uncommon strength somewhere, but he is often dreadfully ill. William's health was very much amended by our Tour and much we both enjoyed ourselves. I was never so well scarcely in my life till I over fatigued myself with walking, having left the gig to make an excursion on foot and I was not as well as I could have wished at my return, but I now am perfectly well though I had a bad attack on Friday of my old complaint. I had intended telling you about Scotland but I have no room. Every Body asks do you like the Scotch or the English Lakes better? A question [I do no]t like to answer. There [is no] comparison to be made where everything is so different, except a part of Loch Lomond which is like Ulswater, but there is certainly nothing so beautiful in Scotland as parts of this country. Notwithstanding this if any Body should make the same journey that we did, having had fine weather, and not have received a very high pleasure, I should say it was their fault.

I am very glad of Tom's having had the measles. God bless you both.

You must be very patient in reading this or you will never be able to get through with it. I am very glad to hear such good news of Tom, kindest Love to him. Tell him about John. Best Respects to all your Friends. God bless you for ever. Do write.

D. W.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Sunday, 25 Sept.
Editor’s Note
2 After 'receive' she struck out 'I mean the original letters'.
Editor’s Note
1 William Smith (1756–1835), M.P. for Norwich since 5 July 1802, his wife (b. Frances Coape; m. 12 Jan. 1781), and their children. On 1 Jan. 1804 Thomas Wilkinson wrote: 'I have had a good deal of the company of William Smith … . He … laboured more than any other member except Wilberforce for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. He is at Eusemere with his wife, and four sons, and four daughters … . His wife and daughters have been here many months, but he goes back and forward to Parliament.'
Editor’s Note
2 Muncaster Castle, about a mile east of Ravenglass, on the Cumberland coast.
Editor’s Note
1 John Edmundson (1760–30 Sept. 1823), surgeon.
Editor’s Note
2 The jaunting car which had been bought for the tour of Scotland.
Editor’s Note
3 MS. you.
Editor’s Note
4 Isabella (bapt. 2 Feb. 1784–12 May 1807), daughter of Henry Addison (1754–bur. 2 Oct. 1793), attorney at law, of Penrith, and his wife Jane Hindson (bapt. 1 May 1754–8 Jan. 1837). She married John Monkhouse in 1806. Her brother Richard (bapt. 14 Feb. 1785) became R. W.'s partner.
Editor’s Note
1 Rheumatic from exposure to continual rain, S. T. C. had left W. W. and D. W. at Arrochar on 29 Aug. and had returned to Keswick on 15 Sept.
Editor’s Note
2 Between 31 Aug. and the afternoon of 2 Sept. he walked forty-five miles from the head of Loch Lomond to Ballachulish by way of Glen Coe.
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