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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1257. W. W. to WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE

  • Endorsed: June. W. Wordsworth.
  • MS. British Library.
  • K (—). LY ii. 949.

  • Rydal Mount
  • Monday [25 June 1838]

My dear Mr Gladstone,

Your decision was most judicious, and I thank you sincerely and cordially both for your exertions on this occasion and through the whole business, and for your kind letter.2

The cause is at once so just, and the measure so expedient, that I have not a doubt of the principle being carried, provided those who understand the question (which they cannot do, without pg 611being sensible of its importance) support it with due zeal, in, and out of Parliament. If you can point out any way in which I can be useful, I should be happy to do my best. You are perhaps aware of the reasons why Sir R. Peel withholds his support; he was so obliging as to state them in a letter to me. Perhaps it would be as well, however, if I should briefly give them. His difficulties are three.

First, if we grant extension of right to authors, says he, how can it be withheld from applicants for Patents? 2nd, how can the originality of a work be defined so as to discriminate it from a Plagiarism? and lastly, how can we prevent works being reprinted in countries over which we have no jurisdiction?

I answered these several objections as well as I could, and satisfactorily as I thought; but not, I fear, to Sir R.'s conviction. All these hesitations arise out of that want of due confidence in the principles of justice, which is the bane of all practised Politicians.

Thanks for your animated stanzas from Manzoni.1 I have often heard of the Ode, but it never fell in my way. You have puzzled me about a new sonnet of mine in the Quarterly,2 I presume the last number; what could it be, and how could it get there? I have lately written 13 new ones, which will appear in the edition of the whole of my sonnets in one volume which Moxon is about to publish; but none of these were ever given by me to any writer in that Review or any other.

I hope that your attendance in Parliament is not too much for your health. Many urgent applications are made to me to sign the Petition that went from Kendal and the neighbourhood, in favour of immediate abolition of negro apprenticeship—I refused to do so, and am sure I shall never regret that resolution. pg 612Your own speech1 was masterly. Ever yours with high respect and gratefully,

W. Wordsworth  

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Notes

Editor’s Note
2 Gladstone had written on the 21st, at the same time as Talfourd, to announce the withdrawal of the Copyright Bill for the present session (see L. 1251 above). But he was optimistic about getting the Bill through eventually: '… You have at present from the divisions which have taken place an admirable parliamentary position from which to commence operations when we next meet …' (British Library MSS.)
Editor’s Note
1 Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873), author of I Promessi Sposi, 1825–7, and Gli Inni Sacri, 1812–22, a series of hymns for the festivals of the Christian year. But the reference here is almost certainly not to one of these, but to Il Cinque Maggio, Manzoni's Ode on the death of Napoleon, a favourite poem of Gladstone's which he translated into English.
Editor’s Note
2 An article in the Quarterly Review, lxii (June 1838), 131–61, on 'Art and Artists in England' has the following note: 'The following Sonnet on Napoleon at St. Helena in Sir R. Peel's Collection is not in our copy of Wordsworth's poems, and may be new to many of our readers: "Haydon! let worthier judges"' (etc., as in PW iii. 51). The sonnet was written in 1831 and published in 1832. The author of the article was Lord Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere (see pt. ii, L. 459).
Editor’s Note
1 When slavery was abolished in 1833, a system of Negro apprenticeship had been set up in its place (see pt. ii, L. 755), which it was now proving increasingly difficult to uphold. In the debate on 30 Mar. 1838 on the Second Reading of a Bill to abolish the system altogether, Gladstone spoke for 50 minutes in defence of the original arrangement made with the planters, arguing that the system had on the whole worked well, and that it would be disastrous for the Negroes themselves if it was suddenly brought to an end without adequate preliminary preparation of West Indian society for the change. He compared the lot of the Negro apprentices favourably with that of British factory children, and accused supporters of the Bill of turning a blind eye on slavery at home, when economic considerations led them to do so.
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