William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt and Alan G. Hill (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 4: The Later Years: Part I: 1821–1828 (Second Revised Edition)

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pg 327164. W. W. to SAMUEL ROGERS

  • Address: To Sam1 Rogers Esqre, St James Place, London.
  • Postmark: 26 Mar. 1825.
  • Stamp: Kendal Penny Post.
  • MS. Sharpe Collection, University College, London.
  • Rogers. K(—). LY i. 187.

[In M. W.'s hand]

Rydal Mount March 23d [1825]

My dear Friend,

I am much obliged by your kindness in taking so much trouble about my Poems, and more especially so by the tone in which you met Mr Murray1 when he was disposed to put on the airs of a Patron. I do not look for much advantage either to Mr M. or to any other Bookseller with whom I may treat; and for still less to myself, but I assure you that I would a thousand times rather that not a verse of mine should ever enter the Press again, than to allow any of them to say that I was to the amount of the strength of a hair dependant upon their countenance, consideration, Patronage, or by whatever term they may dignify their ostentation and selfish vanity. You recollect Dr Johnson's short method of settling precedence at Dilly's,2 'No Sir, Authors above Booksellers.'

I ought to apologize in being so late in my reply—and indeed I scarcely feel justified in troubling even so kind a friend about an affair in which I am myself so indifferent, as far as inclination goes. As long as any portion of the Public seems inclined to call for my Poems, it is my duty to gratify that inclination, and if there be the prospect of pecuniary gain, tho' small, it does not become me to despise it, otherwise I should not face the disagreeable sensations, and injurious, and for the most part unprofitable labours in which the preparing for a new edition always entangles me: the older I grow, the more irksome does this task become—for many reasons which you as a pains-taking Author will easily divine, and with which you can readily sympathize. But to the point.

pg 328I have seen Southey lately; he tells me that Murray can sell more copies of any book that will sell at all, than Longman—but it does not follow from that that in the end an Author will profit more, because Murray sells books considerably lower to the Trade, and advertizes even more expensively than Longman; tho' that seems scarcely possible. Southey's Book of the Church cost £100, advertizing 1st Ed. This is not equal to my little tract of the Lakes, the first Ed. for which I got £9 8. 2 was charged £27 2s. 3 adverg. The 2d Ed: is already charged to me, £30 7. 2. the immense profits are yet to come. Thus my throat is cut; and if we bargain with M. we must have some protection from this deadly weapon. I have little to say; the books are before the Public, only there will be to be added to the Miscellaneous vols. about 60 pages of new matter, and 200, viz the Memorials and Ecc. Sketches not yet incorporated with them and the Ex: to be printed uniform with them in one volume. I mean to divide the Poems into 5 Vols in this way.

1st Vol as at present, to consist of Childhood and Early Youth, Juvenile Pieces, and Poems of the Affections, withdrawing from it the blind Highland Boy (to be added to the Scotch Poems), and Ruth, Laodamia, Her Eyes are wild etc, to be added to those of the Imagination.

2d Vol. to consist of poems of The Fancy and Imn, as now—the Scotch Poems to be subducted and their place supplied as above—with the Ode to Enterprize, and others.

3d Vol. Local Poems—the River Duddon, Scotch Poems, with some new ones—The Continental Memorials and Miscellaneous pieces selected out of the 4 vols—with some additions—Those on the naming of Places, and the Waggoner.

4th Vol. to consist of Sonnets, political and Ecc1, meaning the Sketches and Miscous, with the Thanksgiving and the other political odes.

5th Vol. White Doe—Poems of Sentiment and Reflection, Elegies and Epitaphs, Final Ode etc.

6th Vol. The Excursion.

Now these vols I conjecture will run about 340 pages each, and the 'Excursion' 450. Of the Mis: two vols.—viz: the local Poetry and the Sonnets might perhaps be sold separately to advantage. The others cannot be divided without much injury to their effect upon any reflecting Mind.

As to your considerate proposal of making a Selection of the most admired, or the most popular, even were there not insuperable objections to it in my own feelings, I should be utterly at a loss how pg 329to proceed in that selection. Therefore I must abide by the above arrangement, and throw the management of the business upon your friendship.

I shall not be in Town this year, nor can I foresee, since the loss of Mr Monkhouse, when I shall revisit London; the Place does not suit me on account of the irritability of my eyes—I must look for you and other friends here. Pray come down this Summer—I could let you have a quiet room, this House having lately been added to in a small way.1 Mr M. is not only a loss to his Friends and Kindred but to Society at large, as in all his dealings and transactions he was a Man of perfect integrity and the most refined honour—he was not bright or entertaining, but so gentle and gracious, and so much interested in most of what ought to interest a pure mind, that his company was highly prized by all who knew him intimately. You say nothing of your Sister, nothing of Sharp, but you Londoners have so many notes and letters to write that this must be excused. I often read your Italy, which I like much, though there are quaintnesses and abruptnesses which I think might be softened down, and in the versification I would suggest that with so many Trochaic terminations to the lines, the final pauses in the middle of the verse should be more frequently on firm syllables on that account. With best remembrances from all, ever your obliged Friend,

[signed] Wm Wordsworth   

Pray read what part [you like]2 of the above to Mr Murray; you will then hear what he has to say, and I leave it to you to proceed accordingly.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 On receiving W. W.'s letter of 19 Feb. (L. 160 above), Rogers approached John Murray (1778–1843), but the negotiations were slow to get under way, as he reported in an undated letter of this period: 'I applied instantly to Murray, and for above a month have been expecting his answer. I have called and called about it at least a dozen times; and whenever I get access to him, he promises me a letter in a day or two. When he shakes his head, and expresses his desire to serve you and talks of his respect, his admiration, I assure him that we come to ask no favour and he concludes with saying he is cogitating about your material interest.' (WL MSS.)
Editor’s Note
2 A bookseller to 'whose hospitable and well covered table in the Poultry' Boswell took Johhson to meet Wilkes. (De Selincourt's note.)
Editor’s Note
1 Probably at the rear and on the east side of the building.
Editor’s Note
2 Words dropped out.
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