William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth

The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 5: The Later Years: Part II: 1829–1834 (Second Revised Edition)

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786. W. W. to THOMAS FORBES KELSALL1

  • Address: Thos Forbes Kelsall Esqre, Fareham, Hampshire.
  • Postmark: 31 Oct. 1833.
  • Stamp: Kendal Penny Post.
  • MS. untraced.
  • The Browning Box, or The Life and Works of Thomas Lovell Beddoes as reflected in Letters by his Friends, ed. H. W. Donner, 1935, p. lxiv. LY ii. 673

[c. 30 Oct. 1833]

Dear Sir,

As I am recovering from a severe inflammation in my eyes you will excuse my employing an Amanuensis, in reply to your letter.—Agreeable to your request the Poem will be sent, not without a wish that you may not be disappointed in the perusal. The circumstances under which Yarrow was revisited by me, viz. in company with Sir W. Scott not more than two or three days before his departure from Abbotsford, forced my thoughts into a more Personal channel than would otherwise have happened, and this perhaps notwithstanding the illustrious character of the Individual and his poetical connection with the scene, may have interfered with the romantic idealization which would naturally have pervaded a Poem upon such a subject.

And now having cordially acceded to your request, let me frankly say—that the Poem2 would have been withheld had it not been for pg 656the assurance you give me, as high as can be given—viz. the honour of an English Gentleman, that you will not suffer a copy to be taken, and will confine the perusal to two or three of your particular friends. The interest which you express in respect to my writings prompts me to name to you, that the reason why I withhold such minor pieces as I have written, is not what some have chosen to say—an over-weening conceit of their being above the taste of my countrymen: it is no such thing—but a humble sense of their not being of sufficient importance for a separate Publication; and a strong ground of apprehension that either my Publisher or myself might be a loser, by giving them to the world. My 4 or 5 last separate publications in verse, were a losing concern to the Trade; and I am not ashamed of saying that I cannot afford to give my Time, my Health and my Money, without something of a prudential reserve. Even the Sale of my collected works, tho' regular, is but trifling—this perhaps will surprize you—and, the state of my reputation considered, is altogether inexplicable, except on the supposition of the interference of the Paris Ed: of which I know the sale has been great—but too much of this into which I have been led from a wish to rid myself of a charge of being ungracious or unjust to those Persons, who like yourself, acknowledge that they have been both gratified and instructed by my endeavours. Is it worth while to add after the confiding spirit in which I have replied to your letter,—coming from a Stranger, that the thought crossed me, before I had finished the perusal of your's that it would be an act of worldly caution not to comply with your request.—Not more than ten days ago I recd from a Stranger a letter which was undoubtedly what is called a hoax, written with an intention, foolish enough heaven knows, of making me stare, and a third Person ridiculous—It would be paying yr letter a poor compliment to suggest that it had anything of that character, but you are aware that encomiastic letters addressed to Public Men from entire Strangers are open to a like suspicion.

  • I am Sir respectfully yours     
  • W Wordsworth  

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 Thomas Forbes Kelsall (d. 1872), a solicitor at Fareham: he was the devoted friend of Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803–49), whom he first met in 1823, and after the poet's death published Death's Jest Book (1850) and his Poems with a memoir. Shortly before his own death, he passed Beddoes's MSS. to Robert Browning. He was a great admirer of W. W.: 'Even in his old age he used to quote by heart long passages from The Excursion, and in 1833 he had the audacity to address Wordsworth, although personally unknown to him, with a request for a copy of Yarrow Revisited, then still unpublished. It is a tribute to the noble personality of Kelsall and a proof of the straightforward tenor of his letter that instead of ignoring the request Wordsworth sent him a copy of the poem together with a letter explaining the singular favour it implied.' (The Browning Box, p. lxiii.) See also next letter.
Editor’s Note
2 According to Donner, the MS. poem is entitled 'Yarrow Revisited Sept. 1833'. At the end of the poem is the following remark: 'The line "for pleasant Baiaes" etc., will require alteration; as it alludes more to what it was in Horace's time than to what it now is.' For pleasant Baiaes was in the final edition altered to For mild Sorrento's, l. 53. Other variations in the MS. are:

l. 51:

For parched Vesuvio's ashy mount

final edn.:

For warm Vesuvio's vine-clad slopes;

l. 70:

Where'er thy path invite thee

final edn.:

Wherever they invite thee.              (See PW iii. 262.)

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