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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1146. W. W. to M. W.

  • Address: Mrs Wordsworth, Rydal Mount, Kendal, Angleterre. Single Sheet.
  • Postmark: (1) 17 July 1837 (2) 24 July 1837.
  • Stamp: Munchen.
  • MS. WL.
  • K (—). LY ii. 878 (—).

Munich Monday July 17th [1837]

My dearest Mary,

Twelve or thirteen days ago I wrote to you from Salzburg acknowledging the receipt of your most welcome letter. This morning we came hither, and I had the pleasure of finding another from you. I grieve much to learn that Dora's jaws still torment her. Poor Creature what is to become of her? How happy am I on the other hand to learn that you are so well, and my dear Sister is better. Thank her affectionately for the few words she wrote me. Since my last we have had a delightful ramble amongst the Austrian lakes which we have seen completely as we should have done also those of the valley but that the weather broke 4 days ago, and cut short our expedition though we did see three of these latter. At present I consider our Tour finished; and all my thoughts are fixed upon home, where I am most impatient to be; and conscientiously so, for I have hurried over nothing, notwithstanding your frequent hints to the contrary; which have rather hurt me, particularly as there are (as must be the case with all companions in travel) so many things in habit and inclination in which Mr R. and I differ. Upon these I shall not dwell at present, as the only one I care pg 426about is this; he has no home to go to but chambers, and wishes to stay abroad, at least to linger abroad, which I, having the blessing of a home, do not. Again, he takes delight in loitering about towns, gossiping, and attending reading-rooms, and going to coffee-houses; and at table d'hôtes, etc., gabbling German, or any other tongue, all which places and practices are my abomination. In the evenings I cannot read, as the candlelight hurts my eyes, and I have therefore no resource but to go to bed, while I should like exceedingly, when upon our travels, if it were agreeable to him to rise early; but though he will do this, he dislikes it much, so that I don't press it. He sleeps so much at odd times in the day that he does not like going to bed till midnight; and in this, and a hundred other things, our tastes and habits are quite at variance; though nobody can be more obliging in giving up his own; but you must be aware it is very unpleasant in me to require this. In fact, I have very strong reasons for wishing this tour, which I have found so beneficial to my mind, at an end for the sake of my body; for certainly either the diet or some other cause has very much shaken my nerves as this trembling of my hand writing, and the frequent cramps I have had in my hand since I began this page, sufficiently shew. My bowels have latterly been in better order and I have no pain anywhere, but my head is often cloudy and my nerves as I have said are much deranged. I sometimes think that the coffee and beer I take, for I have nearly left off wine, are too much for my nerves. If I dared do so I would leave off beer and wine altogether and coffee also, but milk I know is binding. Excuse all this; not a word of which would have been said had not both you and Dora blamed me so much for hurrying. In fact I have not hurried, but been very patient, considering the tiresome way in which when in towns I have been obliged to spend so many hours. If the state of my nerves and stomach would allow me to write verse I should never want employment, or if my muscular powers were as great as they have been so that I could walk all day long it would be the same, but that time is passed away, and I want the sight of your faces and the sound of your voices, when I can do neither the one nor the other, nor read to beguile the time. Therefore find no more fault, I undertook this journey as a duty, I have gone through with it as such, and except that as far as concerns my health having had a most unsuitable companion in Mr Robinson I have in consequence made many sacrifices of which he was not aware, I have kept duty constantly pg 427in my eyes, and have greatly enriched my mind; and I hope when I get home that I shall find my health not at all worse. So let us all be glad that I have made this upon the whole so delightful journey. I shall have a thousand things to tell you; and if I had ten years before me of such strength as I have had, you would see my future verses animated in a way that would please you all. Now for other and more agreeable things; but I find my handwriting shockingly unsteady.—Yet how can I say agreeable for to tell you the truth I fear that public affairs will now take a wretched course and that the young Queen1 under unwise guidance will abandon herself to the foolish and selfish Whigs. The elections about to be will I fear run much against the conservatives, indeed on these points all my thoughts are gloomy—so no more about them—

How long Mr Robinson will be loitering here I know not. The exterior of the place has for me no interest; but I believe it contains a large collection of works of Art some of which must no doubt be interesting, and tomorrow I shall begin with them—and I hope on the fourth day at the latest, I wish the third, we shall start for Heidelberg where we shall stay I suppose two days at least—All the rest will be straightforward travelling, so that I hope by the end of the third week from this time we shall be in London or perhaps a few days later. I wrote thus far before dinner at 2. From 3 to 5 I tired myself in walking about the place under the guidance of a friend2 of Mr Robinson, I have since been in my room alone. It is now ¼ past 7 and before 9 I shall be in bed, for sheer want of something to do, unless I tire myself with composition3 which I am resolved not to meddle pg 428with. I wish I could single out any part of our tour to give an account of, but we have no adventures, and since we left Venice, have had nothing to see but the fine country we have passed through and the employments of the people and their appearance. Yesterday was Sunday, we passed the greatest part of the day near one of the Bavarian lakes where the Queen Dowager my Co-Sponsor1 has a palace. The scenery compared with most we have seen since we entered the Alps is of a mild character more like our own but very agreeable. The People were all assembled in the little town for Church and I was much amused with their appearance. The women are the most gigantic race I ever saw and they wear a dress which makes them appear very high-shouldered and short-necked (like our Barlow jug2). The men are a fine race, most of them wear bonnets shaped exactly like, and in height the same, as those of our old puritans. Some had a feather, like Hofer's,3 stuck on one side sometimes with a flower but most only a flower in this hat or bonnet, and the flower never in front but almost always directly behind, which has a singular appearance. They pride themselves much upon the quality and workmanship of their stockings; one man's were so elabourately figured that I could not but ask him the price, he told me as much as 7 or 8 shillings, rather six or seven, I expressed my wonder, and he told me he had had those stockings and regularly worn them, I suppose on Sundays and feast days, for twenty years. I employed myself for more than 3 hours in walking about this beautiful valley, and conversing as well as I could with its interesting Inhabitants who have however one great fault, they are extremely fond of beer and drink immense quantities. But if we were to judge from the size and neatness and apparent comfort of their habitations, which however are built almost entirely of wood, from their dress, and pg 429the fertility and beauty of their country they are in an enviable condition.

I shall not send off this Letter till we have left or are on the point of leaving this place. At Heidelberg I shall inquire after Willy's lodgings, but this will be my last letter as I shall be in London I trust within not much more than a week of the time of your receiving this. Write to me by all means at Mr Moxon's through Mr Stephen. How I long to see you dearest Mary and all of you again. As to going to Bath or Brinsop I will do whatever is thought best; I feel that dear Thomas and Mary have strong claims upon me, and if both Dora and I are [we]ll, I hope I shall have courage to go and see them; b[ut I]1 do long to [be at] rest under our own roof! The verses may wait till I send them from London. Mr R. has had today a letter from a Money-friend in London who has a great deal to do with our joint-stock bank. He says many unpleasant things have come out respecting concerns of this kind; but none at all affecting the character of ours; so that if it continues to stand the test of examination and it is under excellent management I doubt not it will not only survive the storm but thrive upon the ruin of others. As you do not mention James I hope his health is restored; pray remember me most kindly to all the servants; Mr Carter also and to all friends. You little know how I love you all.

A man must travel alone, I mean without one of his family, to feel what his family is to him! How often have I wished for James to assist me about the carriage, greasing the wheels, etc a most tedious employment, fastening the baggage, etc., for nothing can exceed the stupidity of these foreigners. Tell him how I wish I had been rich enough to bring him along with me! But I must leave a scrap of paper for another day.—I have no cramp in my fingers since I began to write this afternoon and my hand is steadier, though the writing is execrable. God bless you all.

Thursday morning 20th. It is fixed that we leave this place tomorrow noon. I think we should be four or five days getting to Heidelberg as the German postilions are so slow, and we shall stop at least half a day at Stuttgart at Ulm and Augsburg. So as you know the distance from Heidelberg to Calais you will be able to calculate within 2 or 3 days the time of our arrival in London. I am quite tired of this place, the weather has been very pg 430bad, and after the galleries close which is at 12 o'clock and one, I have nothing to do, and as I cannot speak German my time moves very heavily. The Ticknors are here and I have passed a couple of hours every evening with them. God bless you again.

Mr Robinson would have written on this sheet but unluckily I have left no room for him. He is quite well and strong, and does much better than I do in places like this, where there is no natural beauty and nothing interesting in the architecture,1 the town being new.

[unsigned]

Notes Settings

Notes

Editor’s Note
1 Queen Victoria (b. 1819) had acceded to the throne on the death of William IV on 20 June, and a General Election followed in which the Tories gained 37 seats, but the Whigs still retained office with a majority of 38. Lord Melbourne undertook the delicate task of guide and mentor to the young queen, much to the discomfiture of the Tories.
Editor’s Note
2 Clemens Brentano (1778–1842), the German Romantic poet: 'He rattled about religion in a way that could but half amuse and half disgust W.', H. C. R. recorded in his MS. Travel Diary, 'for B. is a strange mixture of drollery and assumed earnestness in religious matters that amounts to fanaticism.' (Dr. Williams's Library MSS.)
Editor’s Note
3 W. W. was evidently thinking of expanding the first draft of The Cuckoo at Laverna (see previous letter), and had been seeking further information about St. Francis. On 17 July, according to his MS. Travel Diary, H. C. R. introduced W. W. to Johann Joseph von Görres (1776–1848), Professor of History at Munich since 1827, and author of Die Christliche Mystik (1836–42); and some days later they were reading Gorres's pamphlet on St. Francis the troubadour. 'It has a few passages only about St. Francis's power over animals which Wordsworth may make use of.' (Dr Williams's Library MSS.) For another possible influence on the poem, see Alan G. Hill, 'Wordsworth and the Two Faces of Machiavelli', RES xxxi (1980), 285–304.
Editor’s Note
1 As godparent to Edwin Hill Handley's child. See L. 976 above.
Editor’s Note
2 Apparently a type of Staffordshire pottery.
Editor’s Note
3 Andrew Hofer, the Austrian hero, who led the Tyrolese against the French in 1796, and again in 1809 when the French were in alliance with the Bavarians. He was captured and executed in 1810. See PW iii. 129 for W. W.'s tribute to him.
Editor’s Note
1 MS. damaged.
Editor’s Note
1 But in the remaining days of their visit, they saw something of the church revival in Munich, and on 20 July visited the Ludwigskirche where they met Peter von Cornelius (1783– 1867) at work on his fresco of the Last Judgement, surrounded by his pupils. See Sadler, iii. 137.
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