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)
255. D. W. to MRS. JOHN MARSHALL
- Address: Mrs. John Marshall | Leeds | Yorkshire
- Stamp: Kendal.
- MS. WL. L(—), i. 183 and iii. 392. EL, 467.
[Grasmere] Friday [15th and Sunday 17th] March2 
I summoned up my heart a few days ago and began with courage to write to Mrs Rawson intending also to write to you—but I could not, therefore I desired her to forward the letter to you after she had read it. I cannot rest till I have written, so I choose a time in which my thoughts are calm and settled, and I will endeavour to keep in the grief which gushes out of me so many times in the day. I will tell you wherein my consolation is, and all that I can to comfort your tender heart. My good and dear Friend, your letter was a soothing gift, it drew a flood of tears from us, while we sate round our melancholy fire, and after they had passed away, we were in some sort cheared by your sympathy—it does me good to weep for him: it does me good to find that others weep, and I bless them for it. Enough of this, it is not now the time, if I go on I shall do no better than before.
pg 559Yet I know not what to write—it is with me when I write as when I am walking out in this Vale once so full of joy. I can turn to no object that does not remind me of our loss. I see nothing that he would not have loved with me and enjoyed had he been by my side; and indeed, indeed my consolations rather come to me in gusts of feeling, than are the quiet growth of my Mind. I know it will not always be so—the time will come when the light of the setting Sun upon these mountain tops will be as heretofore a pure joy—not the same gladness, that can never be—but yet a joy even more tender. It will soothe me to know how happy he would have been could he have seen the same beautiful spectacle. I shall have him with me, and yet shall know that he is out of the reach of all sorrow and pain, can never mourn for us—his tender soul was awake to all our feelings—his wishes were intimately connected with our happiness. We know not then what anguish might have been his lot if he had lived longer—he was taken away in the freshness of his manhood, pure he was;—and innocent as a child, I may even say, for among the impure he lived uncontaminated. Never human being was more thoroughly modest, and his courage I need not speak of, it served him in the hour of trial, he was seen "speaking with apparent chearfulness to the first Mate a few minutes before the ship went down", and when nothing more could be done he said "the will of God be done" and I have no doubt when he felt that it was out of his power to save his life, he was as calm as before if some thought of what we should endure did not awaken a pang. Our loss is not to be measured but by those who are acquainted with the nature of our pleasures and have seen how happily we lived together those eight months that he was under our Roof—he loved solitude and he rejoiced in society—he would wander alone among these hills with his fishing-rod, or led on merely by the pleasure of walking, for many hours—or he would walk with William or me, or both of us, and was continually pointing out with a gladness which is seldom seen but in very young people something which perhaps would have escaped our observation, for he had so fine an eye that no distinction was unnoticed by him, and so tender a feeling that he never noticed any thing in vain. Many a time has he called me out in an evening to look at the moon or stars, or a cloudy sky, or this vale in the quiet moonlight—but the stars and moon were his chief delight,—he made of them his companions when he was at Sea, and was never tired of those thoughts which the silence of the night fed in him—then he was so happy by the fire-side, any little business of the house interested him, he loved our cottage, he helped us to furnish it, and pg 560to make the gardens—trees are growing now which he planted. Oh! my dear Jane! I must not go on. I do not in this way perform the task I assigned myself. He was with us when Mr Marshall was here, and as I daresay he has repeated to you since his death, accompanied Mr M to Buttermere—he stayed with us till the 29th of September, having come to us about the end of January.1 During that time Mary Hutchinson now Mary Wordsworth stayed with us six weeks. John used to walk with her every where, and they were exceedingly attached to each other—so my poor Sister mourns with us, not merely as we have lost one of the family who was so dear to William and me, but from tender love of John and an intimate knowledge of his virtues. Her hopes as well as ours were fixed on John—we never thought of him but with hope and comfort, and this is now our sorrow—but at the same [time] it is our best consolation and will in the end be a never-failing source of pleasing contemplations. It is good for us to think upon the virtuous. I trust our hearts will be mended by what we know of his. The Newspapers have given contradictory and unintelligible accounts of the dismal event—this was very harassing to us. We knew that our Brother would do his duty, of this we were confident—that he would not lose his presence of mind, or blunder, or forget, but we wanted to have all cleared up, to know how it was. This as far as concerned ourselves—and then for the sake of the relatives of those poor three hundred who went down with him we were greatly distressed. It cut us to the heart to think that their sorrow should be aggravated by a thought that his errors or weakness, or any other misconduct should have occasioned or encreased the calamity. God be praised we are now satisfied in our own knowledge—we know how it was, and I hope that many of those who have mourned for their friends may have received such information as may have settled their minds also. It is "a memorandum respecting the Loss of the Earl of Abergavenny" by Gilpin one of the Mates which has been transcribed from a pamphlet and sent to us, which has explained to us the manner of the ship's going down. There have been two Narratives published, one of no value at all, the other, though I believe drawn up without much feeling, may in many respects be depended on as it is done by a person high in the India House.2 I do not know the pg 561title but the motto is taken from Clarence's Dream, by which you will know if you have the right one,1 for I wish you to send for it.
I am afraid I have written a letter that will give you pain in the reading for I have been so much affected with the thoughts of my poor Brother as I went along, that I am sure I must have written what will affect you with fresh sorrow—do forgive me—I shall be better—I am better—I have walked out today and had less of anguish than I have ever had in any walk since we have been in our trouble. I nurse the Baby and do what I can, I am even now comforted while I write to you, though I have been often scarcely able to see my paper.
And now again my dearest Jane let me bless you for your letter. Your letter and Mrs Rawsons have given me inexpressible consolation—the consolation which sympathy always affords. I should like very much to see you among your Children. May they live to be blessings to you and each other! I was much affected by your having called your daughter by my name, especially as she has yours also.2 I cannot talk about coming to see you at present, for I cannot think of any separation from my Brother and sister. We do not think we shall stay long at Grasmere. Our house is too small for us and there is no other in the Vale, so we must move at some time, and the sooner it is done the better for us as we now are. We shall most likely go southward, and we will endeavour to take that opportunity of visiting our friends at Halifax and you and Mr Marshall—but we do not talk of change and we shall fin[d] it hard to resolve.
Remember me affectionately to your Mother and Sisters. William joins with me in kindest regards to Mr Marshall. May God bless you, my dear Friend believe me ever your affectionate and faithful friend.
Write to me again I pray you.
My Brother Richard says that there is no reason to think that we shall any of us suffer in our property. This is a great comfort to us for our poor John's sake, who I am sure would have one pleasing pg 562thought on that account when he knew that all he carried out with him would be lost. As for ourselves, we ventured nothing that we could not well have done without, nor would John for the world have taken a single hundred pounds of William's or mine at the hazard of depriving us of our independence. My Brother Richard lent him a considerable Sum, but he could well have born the loss.1 Christopher also, as I have since learnt had lent him all his property, but he would not have suffered from the loss, having a very sufficient income—but all is insured.
I send off this letter on Sunday. I can think of nothing but our Dear Departed Brother, yet I am very tranquil today—I honour him, and love him, and glory in his memory.
Far[ew]ell my dear dear Friend. I shall be very glad to hear from you—tell me about your children. Kiss them all for me, and clasp little Jane Dorothy to your heart. Do you continue to suckle her? Mary has not yet weaned our Dorothy. I know not that there is any thing in this letter that was not in that I wrote to Mrs Rawson. If there be you will not think it any trouble to transcribe it—again God bless you!