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William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt and Chester L. Shaver (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 1: The Early Years: 1787–1805 (Second Revised Edition)

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36. W. W. to WILLIAM MATHEWS

  • Address: Mr Mathews | Mr Mathews | No. 18 Strand | London
  • Postmark: 20 February 1794.
  • Stamp: Halifax.
  • MS. Brit. Mus. M(—), i. 82. P(—), iii. 233. L, i. 57. EL, 108.

  • My address Mr. Rawson's,
  • Mill-house, near Halifax
  • Febry 17 [1794]

Dear Mathews,

I am overjoyed to hear from you again, and to perceive that your regard for me is undiminished. I quitted Keswick some time since, and have been moving backwards1 and forwards which prevented me receiving your very kind letter as I ought to have done. I am now staying with a gentleman who married a relation of mine, with whom my Sister was brought up; my sister is under the same roof with me, and indeed it was to see her that I came into this country. When I received your letter in France informing me of your engagement, and of the prospect of your making a voyage up the Mediterranean, I flattered myself that you would always have reason to look back with pleasure on the time when you undertook pg 112that office; and in my letter in answer (which I dispatched by return of post though you have never received it)1 I spoke with great confidence of the probability that this might be a method of securing you an Independence. I am sorry to have been disappointed; but I find it easy to conceive that with such characters your situation was a most painful one. I approve much of your change of profession,2 all professions I think are attended with great inconveniences, but that of the priesthood with the most. Tell me on what terms you now study, or how you mean to practise.

You have learned from Myers3 that, since I had the pleasure of seeing you, I have been do[ing] nothing and still continue to be doing nothing. What is to become of me I know not: I cannot bow down my mind to take orders, and as for the law I have neither strength of mind purse or constitution, to engage in that pursuit. It gives me great pleasure to hear you speak in such affectionate terms of our former conversations, such language adds to the desire which the recollection of those enjoyments inspires me with of repeating them. I am happy to hear that you are master of Spanish and Portuguese.4 Of Spanish I have read none these three years and little Italian, but of French I esteem myself a tolerable master. My Italian studies I am going to resume immediately, as it is my intention to instruct my sister in that language.

Have you heard anything of Terrot? where is he, and what doing?5 If you write to him remember me affectionately to him. I know [not] when I am likely to see you, as I am uncertain when pg 113I shall be in London, nor do I think it worth while to take my master's degree next summer.1 As an honour you know it is nothing, and in a pecuniary light it would be of no use to me, on the contrary, it would cost me a good deal of money. Pray give my best love to Myers, and in your next, which I shall expect as soon as you have leisure, favour me with his address, and I will write to him. I need not dwell on the pleasure I should have in meeting you, in reading with you the composition of which you speak, in giving a second birth to [our] former conversations. What rema[rks do] you make on the Portuguese? in what state is knowledge with them? and have the principles of free government any advocate there? or is Liberty a sound of which they have never heard? Are they so debased by superstition as we are told, or are they improving in anything? I should wish much to hear of those things, and to know what made the most impression upon you whilst amongst them. Adieu. Pray write to me soon, I regret much having received your letter so late as I did. Be assured that I shall always think of you, with tenderness and affection.

W. Wordsworth.  

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 He was at Whitehaven, Christmas 1793 (EL).
Editor’s Note
1 When W. W. wrote to Mathews from Blois on 19 May 1792 (Letter 23), he hoped for an early reply. As his letter would have required five days to reach London, Mathews's answer could not have been sent before 24 May and would not have arrived at Blois until 29 May. Since W. W. replied at once, his undelivered letter should have got to London not later than 5 June. Perhaps Mathews had already gone abroad by that date; in any case he was not in England when An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches were published on 29 Jan. 1793 (Letter 40).
Editor’s Note
2 Mathews had been admitted at the Middle Temple on 9 Nov. 1793.
Editor’s Note
3 In July 1788, at the end of his first year at St. John's College, Cambridge, John Myers was admitted at Gray's Inn. From Jan. 1791, when he graduated B.A., until 26 Nov. 1796, when he was called to the Bar, he appears to have been a law student in London, where, as W. W.'s remark suggests, W. W. saw him in 1793 on his return from France. Myers took his M.A. in 1794, but, as far as is known, was never ordained. By 1798 he was a barrister on the home circuit, with chambers at 1 Holborn Court, Gray's Inn. If he was living at Gray's Inn when this letter was written, it is odd that W. W. should not have known his address.
Editor’s Note
4 According to his brother Charles, Mathews had 'an absolute thirst for languages'. When he was a schoolboy, he got up at four or five to study Italian and Spanish; and by the time he was 20 he could speak or read Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French as well.
Editor’s Note
5 Some time in 1794 he became curate of Sculcoates, Yorks.
Editor’s Note
1 Ordinarily the M.A. could not be taken until three years had elapsed after the conferring of the B.A.
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