Dorothy Wordsworth, 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 366179. D. W. and W. W. to SIR WALTER SCOTT

  • Address: Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Abbotsford, near Melross, Scotland. [In M. W.'s hand] [Readdressed to] 39 Castle St. Edinburgh.
  • Postmark: [?17] June 1825.
  • Stamp: (1) Kendal Penny Post. (2) Melrose.
  • Endorsed: Wordsworth and Miss W.
  • MS. National Library of Scotland.
  • LY i. 216.

  • Rydal Mount, near Kendal
  • June 13th, 1825.

My dear Sir Walter,

Accept my best thanks for your speedy reply1 to my questions. On that score my pleasure was great on breaking the seal of your letter, and in reading it I was truly gratified by your kindness towards us, the inmates of Rydal Mount, and by your interesting communications respecting yourself and Family;—Yet we should have been better pleased had you held out hopes that your travels this summer might have led you into Westmorland. Should you, on your return from Dublin, land at Liverpool, this might be; but one can hardly hope you will chuse that route, the Steam-boats of Glasgow bringing you so near home. We had heard of your Son's marriage;2 and, but a few days after you had told us of your intention of going to see him, we had the pleasure of meeting with a record in the newspapers of his gallantry and courage in saving the Life of an individual at the risque of his own—him I saw a Boy in petticoats at Liswayde. For the sake of that remembrance I was the more gratified by this honorable mention of the young man, your Son, though perhaps, when you hear the whole history of the Seward Dispute you will say I have little cause to rely upon my memory as a helper to present gratifications.

And now to the point. A few days before I wrote to you, in conversation with my Brother I chanced to say 'When you and I saw Miss Seward at Lichfield'—nothing doubting; when he exclaimed—'Saw Miss Seward! I never saw her!' Observe, Mrs Wordsworth was present, and she declared that the impression on her mind was that we had called on Miss S. with you. As for myself, never did I seem to recollect any thing more distinctly, except the subject of conversation, which, as the visit was short, could hardly have been important—the room in which we sate—upstairs—not pg 367a large room—Miss Seward's appearance—rather a short woman when I had expected to meet a tall one—disappointed in her beauty—for I had gone with that foolish forgetfulness that Ladies whom we hear spoken of as very handsome do not remain the same during their whole lives—her manners lively—but not extravagantly complimentary, as I had expected they would be—her dress—I think a white gown—certainly a small black Bonnet. We were mortified that our visit was so short; had not time to enter the Cathedral—looked in at the West door—which I think was fastened within by a little Gate, otherwise we should have not seen up the Centre to the painted window or would certainly have gone forward. The whole appearance of the Building struck me much, and this is all I recollect—except wall-flowers growing on the old walls in the town—and a general pleasing effect of antiquity. Your letter finds me with these impressions fixed on the mind, yet my Brother's testimony—so different, and yet so clear—at times made me fancy the whole (as far as relates to the interview with Miss Seward) but a dream—made up of some real dream and of reports and descriptions concerning that celebrated Lady. I now try to believe it so—So it must be. Yet the conclusion is mortifying, and will principally tend to make me doubt my internal testimony respecting past events connected with external objects.

I wish your recollections had been more distinct. We certainly did go to Lichfield—as my Brother will convince you. There are yet one or two questions which I must put to you. Was Miss Seward accustomed to sit in an upstairs Room? Was the Room not a large one? Was the entrance by a Door at the left hand near the head of the Stairs? Now if your answers to the above Queries are discordant with my supposed recollections, the evidence will be conclusive against me, and therefore most satisfactory to my mind; but if on the contrary, Miss Seward did sit in an upstairs room—with a door on the left hand, etc, etc. I may have heard these particulars from some one who had visited her, and I must still be turning to this subject, haunted with a troublesome obscurity and doubt.

I beg your pardon for having taken up so much of the Paper, which I ought to have left for my Brother: but cannot conclude without heartily thanking you and Lady Scott (to whom I beg to be kindly remembered) for your friendly invitation to which my Brother will reply particularly, only I must add that I should be loth to be left at home if a Party were going from Rydal Mount to Abbotsford.—I remain, dear Sir Walter, with great Respect, your obliged Friend,

Dorothy Wordsworth.

pg 368[W. W. writes]

My dear Sir Walter,

There can be no doubt that we went with you as far as Litchfield. There was a talk of our waiting along with you on Miss S.—but it went off, as you say. I remember your saying that Mr Southey would be a much more welcome visitor than either you or me, for she was his enthusiastic admirer. But though I was averse to intruding, the reason why we did not see Miss S. was this: The Post Boy insisted on returning to Tamworth to bait his Horses, and allowed us only ¼ of an hour to stay in Litchfield, to our great disappointment, as we were particularly desirous to inspect the Cathedral, of which, as my Sister says, we had only a glimpse. Your testimony though negative only, and inferential tends to establish the truth of my recollection, which is that we did not see Miss S. You must have seen Tutbury when you had left Lichfield, on your way northward. The Castle stands on a bold situation overlooking the vale of the Dove.—In one point of your Letter your admirable memory has failed: it was not Southey, but Sir Humphrey, then Mr Davy, who went with us from Patterdale to the top of Helvellyn, where he left us and hastened on to the vale of Grasmere. You say you are not so active for Climbing as you then were, I should much regret this did you not add that your health is so excellent. Being very thin I am able as ever to mount Helvellyn, but in many things I am admonished of the Non sum qualis eram; particularly my eyes. I do not require spectacles except for Maps, my sight not being worn as most people of my age find them: but the organ with me is very irritable, and hot rooms, candlelight, and much reading I cannot bear. May you be blest, like your good mother, with power to read as late in life as she could. Thanks for your invitation to my children, who will be proud at some time or other to avail themselves of it. I have but three; one at Oxford; a girl, now, I ought to say a Woman, at home; and a Boy who was some years at the Charterhouse where his health failed, and is now with me preparing for Oxford. Though you overlook my invitation to Westndl which would shew you Southey also, I live in hope of seeing you one day at your own abode of which I have heard much. Most distinctly do I recollect it and the then state of the grounds, as shewn by your delightful pg 369daughter, now Mrs Lockhart;1 in particular the filial pride with which she conducted me to a well, decorated with architectural Fragments from Melross.

With kind remembrances to Lady Scott, in which Mrs W unites,—I remain my dear Sir Walter, most cordially your Friend,

W. Wordsworth

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 See L. 177 above. Scott's reply of early June (WL MSS.) is printed in The Letters of Sir Walter Scott (ed. Grierson), ix. 128.
Editor’s Note
2 Walter Scott, who had married Jane Jobson of Lochore, Fife, on 3 Feb., was now with his regiment in Ireland. On 31 May he was reported to have rescued a young woman from the canal near Portobello, Dublin.
Editor’s Note
1 As D. W. anticipates at the beginning of this letter, Scott did in fact return from his Irish tour by way of Holyhead and the Lakes, and met W. W. and Southey again at the colourful gathering at Storrs Hall on Windermere in August. See L. 187 below.
Editor’s Note
1 Sophia, Scott's eldest daughter, had married J. G. Lockhart in Apr. 1820.
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