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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pg 529241. W. W. to WALTER SCOTT

  • Address: Walter Scott Esqr | South Castle Street | Edinburgh
  • Postmark: 19 January 1805.
  • Stamp: Keswick.
  • MS. National Lib. of Scotland. L(—), i. 176. EL, 436.

Grasmere Janry 16th [1805]

Dear Scott,

Your Letter announcing your Border Romance1 as being on its way to my Sister I received Yesterday. The Romance has not arrived yet, but if it have reached Mr Jolliff's2 hands there can be little doubt of its finding its way to Mr Monkhouse and thence to us. My Sister, who most cordially thanks you for your thus kindly remembering her, is very anxious as I am to see a work the Fragments of which gave us so much pleasure.

I received a Letter from you some time ago which I ought to beg your pardon for not having answered before this time; I have no excuse but my trick of procrastination. We were very sorry that we did not see you last summer, and much more so when informed of the melancholy cause which kept you at home.3 May we hope to see you here in the summer coming? If I had written when I ought to have done some weeks ago, I should have had to inform you that Coleridge's and Southey's families were to be dislodged from their residence at Keswick without any probability of finding another in this Country; so that one great motive to your coming hither would have been certainly done away. The occasion was their Landlord having sold the House which Coleridge and S. occupy; but the bargain is off; so that if you could come next summer Southey will almost certainly be at Keswick and I hope Coleridge also; though it will be the duty of all his friends to do their utmost in forcing him from this Country to which he is so much attached; but the rainy climate disagrees with him miserably. When Coleridge has found out a residence better suited to his state of health we shall remove and settle near him; I mention these things in order that you may be prevailed upon to come and see us here, while we are yet such near pg 530neighbours to you, and inhabitants of so beautiful a country which I am sure you would be delighted with, and the more retired beauties of which we could lead you to better than anybody else. Mrs Scott's domestic engagements will I am afraid keep her at home, if not, Mrs Wordsworth and my Sister bid me say that they should be most happy to see her. Our Cottage is so small containing only two bedrooms that we cannot offer her a bed, but the Inn of the Village is near, and the people very attentive and obliging; and a quiet house.

I was very glad to hear of your Farm1 on Tweedside, you will be quite in the district of your own most interesting local feelings, in that charming Country besides, and I was not a little glad it brought you so much nearer to us instead of removing you so much farther from us. I sincerely wish you fortune in your farming labours, good crops, thriving Cattle, and little vexation.

On the other side you will find a few stanzas which I hope, for the subject at least, will give you some pleasure. I wrote them, not without a view of pleasing you, soon after our return from Scotland, though I have been too lazy to send them to you till now. They are in the same sort of metre as the Leader Haughs,2 and I have borrowed the name Burn-mill meadow from that poem, for which I wish you would substitute some other that may really be found in the Vale of Yarrow.3

I only mean the Verses for your own perusal, should you think well enough of them to shew them to any body else, do not part with the Copy out of your own hands.

I conclude with repeating thanks and assuring you that we are most anxious to see The Lay of the Last Minstrel. My Sister and Wife join with me in best remembrances to you and Mrs Scott.

And believe me your sincere Friend

W. Wordsworth   

I ought to have told you above that it is near three months since we heard from Coleridge we are now very anxious about him, but we suppose that the reason of our not hearing from him is, the difficulty thrown in the way of Letters by the pestilential disease which Heaven grant may be kept out of Malta. He was benefited by the Climate when we last heard. Adieu.

pg 531[D. W. writes]

  • 1
  •           From Stirling Castle we had seen
  •           The mazy Forth unravell'd;
  •           Had trod the banks of Clyde and Tay;
  •           And with the Tweed had travelled;
  •           And, when we came to Cloven-ford,
  •           Then said "my winsome Marrow"
  •           "Whate'er betide we'll turn aside
  •           And see the braes of Yarrow."
  • 2
  •           "Let, Yarrow folk, frae Selkirk town,
  •           Who have been buying, selling,
  •           Go back to Yarrow, 'tis their own,
  •           Each Maiden to her dwelling.
  •           On Yarrow's banks let Herons feed;
  •           Hares couch, and Rabbits burrow;
  •           But we will downwads with the Tweed
  •           Nor turn aside to Yarrow.
  • 3
  •           There's Galla-water, Leader haughs,
  •           Both lying right before us;
  •           And Dryburgh where with chiming Tweed
  •           The Lintwhites sing in chorus:
  •           There's pleasant Teviot-dale, a land
  •           Made blythe by plough and harrow;
  •           Why throw away a needful day
  •           To go in search of Yarrow?
  • 4
  •           What's Yarrow but a river bare
  •           That glides the dark hills under?
  •           There are a thousand such elsewhere
  •           As worthy of your wonder."
  •           Strange words they seem'd of slight and scorn;
  •           My True-love sigh'd for sorrow:
  •           And look'd me in the face, to think
  •           I thus could speak of Yarrow.
pg 532
  • 5
  •           "Oh! green, said I, are Yarrow's holms,
  •           And sweet is Yarrow flowing;
  •           Fair is the apple on the rock
  •           But we will leave it growing.
  •           O'er hilly path and open strath
  •           We'll wander Scotland thorough;
  •           But though so near we will not turn
  •           Into the dale of Yarrow.
  • 6
  •           Let Beeves and home bred Kine partake
  •           The sweets of Burn-mill meadow;
  •           The Swan on still Saint Mary's Lake
  •           Float double, Swans and Shadow;
  •           We will not see them, will not go,
  •           To day, nor yet tomorrow;
  •           Enough if in our hearts we know,
  •           There's such a place as Yarrow.
  • 7
  •           Be Yarrow stream unseen, unknown;
  •           It must, or we shall rue it:
  •           We have a vision of our own,
  •           Oh! why should we undo it?
  •           The treasur'd dreams of times long past
  •           We'll keep them winsome Marrow!
  •           For when we're there altho' 'tis fair
  •           'Twill be another Yarrow.
  • 8
  •           If care with freezing years should come,
  •           And wandering seem but folly,
  •           Should we be loth to stir from home,
  •           And yet be melancholy;
  •           Should life be dull, and spirits low,
  •           'Twill soothe us in our sorrow,
  •           That Earth has something yet to show,
  •           The bonny holms of Yarrow!"1

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 The Lay of the Last Minstrel, published in Jan. 1805 (EL).
Editor’s Note
2 Unidentified. There was a bookseller at Carlisle named Jollie. If he is meant, 'Mr Monkhouse' would be John M., of Penrith. If Jolliff was a London bookseller, Monkhouse would be Thomas M.
Editor’s Note
3 Captain Robert Scott, his 'affectionate uncle', died 10 June 1804. Scott had much business to transact as his uncle's executor (see Lockhart, chap. xiii) (EL).
Editor’s Note
1 Scott purchased Ashestiel in the summer of 1804 (EL).
Editor’s Note
2 A poem by the Border minstrel Nicol Burne. Leader Water flows from the north into the Tweed about two miles downstream from Melrose Abbey.
Editor’s Note
3 The valley beginning about three miles west of Selkirk.
Editor’s Note
1 Yarrow Unvisited (pub. 1807). Except for the wording of lines 35 and 44 a few spellings, the text is the same as that printed in PW, iii. 83–85.
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