William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth

The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 6: The Later Years: Part III: 1835–1839 (Second Revised Edition)

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1137. W. W. to D. W., M. W., and DORA W.

  • Address: Mrs Wordsworth, Mr Hutchinson's, Brinsop Court, near Hereford, Inghilterra.
  • Postmark: 13 May 1837. Stamp: London.
  • MS. WL.
  • K (—). LY ii. 851.

Rome Saturday 27th or 28th1 April [1837]

My dearest Sister, I begin with you because I wrote to you two sides and a half of close-penned lines from Nice on the 10th of this month, meaning to finish when I had been a day or two at Genoa; but I was prevented by a hundred causes. On Thursday afternoon we arrived at Rome, a Letter posted at Toulon will have told you of my proceedings to that place. The other, which I shall not send gave particulars of our journey to Nice Alps and over part of them to Genoa, so on to Massa then to Lucca and Pisa and by Volterra and Siena to Rome; where I confidently expected at least one Letter but found none. Today is a post day and if I do not hear from Mary I shall be certain there has been some mistake and I shall pass the next month nearly without the hope of tidings from any of you. From Paris I sent by Mr Moxon a double Letter to Miss Fenwick to be forwarded through Mr Stephen to Mary and then to Dora and you; where and how Mary and Dora are I cannot guess. Unluckily I said to Mary that, as Mr Stephen had requested, her Letter might be forwarded to him to save the English postage, whereas if this had not been [ ? ]2 and she had paid the postage to Rome, which must be done, surely I should have heard of you. Now I know not where to address this for a speedy answer, pray dearest Mary write the moment you receive this addressing to pg 394Rome. Hoping the best of you all here let me say that we have both been quite well since I threw off my cold; only as I fully expected my bowels, owing to mistiming, to heat of travelling, over-exertion sometimes or a want of choice in diet, have been rather too torpid but without the slightest inconvenience, only one does not like this to continue, and now that we shall be comparatively at rest for a fortnight or three weeks things will I trust be soon as I could wish.

We are most agreeably lodged in the Piazza d'Espagna, and while we stay here shall live at little expense, nothing at all indeed compared with that of travelling. I have been delighted with a hundred things since we left Toulon but I should be lost if I went into details. Mr Robinson does not return from the office so I have given up all hope of hearing from you. This is a most grievous disappointment, and I fear will sadly interfere with my enjoyment but I must bear it as well as I can. Dearest Dora where and how are you—I know nothing and tomorrow it will be six weeks since we left London. Of all things that I have seen at Rome the inside of St Peter's has most moved me. I have not yet been in the Vatican and have thus far contented myself with rambling under Mr R.'s guidance through the streets of Rome looking at few interiors except the four principal Churches, St Peter's of course being one of them. On Monday we shall go to the Vatican, and there examine the principal pictures, then make little excursions in the neighbourhood to Tivoli, Frascati, Albano, in short to see whatever is thought most worth seeing, and in the 4th week from this time at the latest we shall proceed either to Naples or turn our faces northward to Florence. I speak thus doubtfully because five or six cases of Cholera having appeared lately at Naples the Papal Government which is unusually strict has revived the Quarantine so that though people are free to go from Rome to Naples, they are not free to return. Nevertheless Mr Collins1 the Painter and his family are going there on Monday having time at their command and no fear of the disease; neither have we but depend upon it if the quarantine be not taken off or mitigated, we shall, though to my infinite regret, give up Naples, and do as I have said. How much do I wish that you were all healthy strong and at liberty to pass the ensuing months with us here; nothing can exceed the pg 395interest of Rome but though I have seen the Coliseum the Pantheon and all the other boasted things nothing has in the least approached the impressions I received from the inside of St Peter's.—Mr Francis Hare1 has just called. We have seen Mr and Mrs Ticknor2 and Sismondi3 the Historian, his Wife and her two Sisters old acquaintances of mine, and dearest Sister one of them of yours when we were at Coat-How house, Mr John Wedgwood's near Bristol. They were rejoiced to see me. Miss Mackenzie4 whose sister the Mr Mackenzie who was at Ambleside last summer married and took her name, has been very kind to us. She is an old Friend of Mr Robinson and is a great admirer of dear Chris.5 But I will not trouble you about Persons, and were I to begin with things there would be no end. Notwithstanding a season of unprecedented severity, so severe that not a green leaf is to be seen scarcely or the promise of one, on any deciduous tree till we came near Rome, I have been enchanted with the beauty of the scenery in innumerable places, pg 396though almost in full as many there is a deplorable want of beauty in the surface, where the forms are fine. Speaking of the Apennines in contradistinction to the maritime Alps, for one scarcely can say where one begins and the other ends, I should say that, as far as I have seen, they are both in beauty and grandeur immeasurably inferior, often lumpish in their forms, and oftener still harsh, arid, and ugly on their surface; besides these mountains have an ill habit of sending down torrents so rapidly that the rivers are perpetually changing their beds; and in consequence the vallies, which ought to be green and fertile, are overspread with sand and gravel. But why find fault when much that I have seen is so enchanting. We had scarcely been two hours in Rome when we walked up to the Pincian hill, near our hotel; the sun was just set, but the western sky glowed most beautiful. A great part of the City of modern Rome lay below us, and St Peter's rose on the opposite side; and for dear Sir George Beaumont's sake I will mention that at no great distance from the dome of the church on the line of the glowing horizon was seen one of those broad-topped pines,1 looking like a little cloud in the sky, with a slender stalk to connect it with its native earth. I mention this because a friend of Mr Robinson's whom we had just accidentally met told us that this very tree which I admired so much had been paid for by our dear Friend, that it might stand as long as Nature would allow.Mr Robinson not yet returned so no letters!—God grant that you may all be well. I do not send love and remembrances having so little space but give them to all friends or relatives at Brinsop, at London, at Rydal, at Keswick, at Ambleside, at Brigham and do not forget Dear Wm at Carlisle nor Miss Fenwick wherever she may be, nor the Arnolds; but what does all this avail? Give me credit for thinking and feeling as I ought being so far from you all. Dearest Joanna how are you? and my dearest Sister I trust you do not stick so close to your fire; and Dora are you improving and Mary are you strengthening and how are the Invalids of Brinsop? The other side of the sheet shall be left for Mr R.2 It is pg 397now three o'clock and I am going to Dinner. We walked from 8 till eleven and I shall walk from half-past four to half-past seven. I feel quite strong except that sometimes I have an aching between the shoulders at the back of the neck such dearest Mary as I have heard you complain of. My eyes for them are wonderfully well as this letter written at a sitting will shew, and written after an hour's reading. Write instantly paying postage to Rome and not troubling yourself dearest Mary to send through Mr Stephen. God bless you all ever your affectionate Husband Brother and Father


Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Saturday was the 29th.
Editor’s Note
2 MS. obscure.
Editor’s Note
1 For William Collins, R. A., see MY ii. 490–1. He spent two years in Italy at this time.
Editor’s Note
1 Francis Hare (1786–1842), elder brother of Augustus and Julius Hare and a close friend of Landor, lived in Italy. According to H. C. R.'s MS. Travel Diary (Dr. Williams's Library) it was on 11 May at Hare's table that W. W. saw Baron Bunsen (see L. 1063 above), whom he had already met on other occasions during this visit to Rome, and also Nicholas Wiseman (1802–65), the future Cardinal, at this time rector of the English College.
Editor’s Note
2 George Ticknor, Professor of Spanish at Harvard and one of W. W.'s earliest American visitors (see MY ii. 504), had visited Rydal Mount with his wife on 1–3 Sept. 1835 (see L. 920a above). Thereafter they had travelled extensively on the Continent, arriving in Rome early in 1837; and it was here, on 27 Apr., at Miss Mackenzie's, that they renewed their acquaintance with W. W. They met again at Como, Venice, and Munich. See Life, Letters, and Journals of George Ticknor, i. 432–4; ii. 85–6, 97–9.
Editor’s Note
3 Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi (1773–1842), the Swiss historian, whose Histoire des Républiques italiennes du moyen âge was published in Paris in 16 vols., 1809–18 (English version, 1832). In 1819 he had married Jessie, daughter of John Bartlett Allen of Criselly, Pembroke, and sister-in-law of Sir James Mackintosh. Her sister Louisa had married John Wedgwood (see EY, p. 199), who was now a banker in London; and another sister, Elizabeth, married his younger brother Josiah (see EY, p. 213), who was M.P. for Stoke-on-Trent, 1832–5.
Editor’s Note
4 Frances Mackenzie (d. 1840), younger daughter of Francis Mackenzie, Lord Seaforth: 'a woman of taste and sense, and the friend of artists,' according to H. C. R., who had met her in Rome in 1830. Her elder sister Mary married James Alexander Stewart (see L. 1062 above).
Editor’s Note
5 C. W. jnr. had met her in Rome in 1833.
Editor’s Note
1 See The Pine of Monte Mario at Rome (PW iii. 212, 493–4). The friend of H. C. R.'s, whom W. W. goes on to mention, was the sculptor William Theed, the younger (1804–91). He was a pupil of the doyen of Roman neoclassical sculptors, Bertil Thorwaldsen (1768–1844), whom H. C. R. (and probably W. W.) visited at his studio on 17 May (Sadler, iii. 123).
Editor’s Note
2 H. C. R. added a note to D. W., describing their journey: 'I have been gratified by finding that your brother has not postponed his journey too long—he is not insensible to the beauties that have met us on every side—especially he seems to have been impressed by St. Peter's.'
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