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William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt and Mary Moorman (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 2: The Middle Years: Part I: 1806–1811 (Second Revised Edition)

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155. W. W. to DANIEL STUART1

  • Address: Daniel Stuart Esqre, 36 Brompton Row, Knightsbridge, London.
  • Postmark: May 6 1809.
  • Stamp: Kendal.
  • MS. British Museum.
  • S. MY i. 372, p. 296.

[May 3 1809]

My dear Sir,

I have just been reading an old Magazine where I find that Benjamin Flower was fined £100 and imprisoned in Newgate four months (as Gilbert Wakefield was in Dorsetshire Gaol four years) for a libel, as it was termed, upon the Bishop of Llandaff2 that is, no doubt, for having spoken, of the Right Reverend, Truth with honest intentions. This has made me look to myself, and therefore I beg that, if my Pamphlet be not published, you would take the trouble of reading it over to see whether it may not be made a handle for exercising upon my Person a like act of injustice. If any such passages occur let the leaf be cancelled—as to the expense, that I disregard in a case like this. To prevent an hiatus in the sheet, such words may be substituted, to eke out the matter, as you or Mr. De Quincey may think proper. The passage from which most is to be apprehended, according to the best of my recollection and judgement, is where I say (alluding to Wellesley and pg 328Dalrymple) 'what greater punishment could befall men "than to have brought upon themselves the unremovable contempt and hatred of their Countrymen?"' This is no doubt a Truth, at least holds good of all their countrymen who have either sense or patriotism. We see from the events which have taken place at Oporto and at Lisbon; we see that victory after victory in the field turns to no account if the affections of the People are alienated by Tyranny. There would have been little occasion for General Beresford's proclamations, and those of the Portuguese Government complaining of reports to the prejudice of the English if it had not been for D. and W's cursed Conventions. But since it has pleased his Majesty's Ministers, to their infinite disgrace, to send Wellesley back to Portugal, and since he is now at the head of a British Army it may be said that the Truth which I have uttered, in the above passage had better be suppressed or softened down. I think so myself but submitting to your greater experience and better judgement. I have not much fear for any other passage but should thank you to look over the sheets with this view.

I am much obliged to you for your offer about promoting the circulation. I find, from Coleridge, that the Printers accuse Mr. de Quincey and myself of being the cause of the delay of the publication, by the chopping and changing that has taken place. As for myself, the charge gives me no concern; whatever harm has been occasioned by the delay cannot now be remedied. Mr. de Quincey will be happy [to] lay before you his opinion of the causes of the delay.

Lord Bacon, in his Advertizment concerning Church Controversies, writes thus: 'Indeed, bitter and earnest writing must not hastily be condemned; for men cannot contend coldly, and without affection, about things which they hold dear and precious. A politic man may write from his brain, without touch and sense of his heart; as in a speculation that appertaineth not unto him, but a feeling Christian will express in his words a character of love or hate.' Substitute the word Patriot for Christian and the position is equally true, and even more so, inasmuch as we are less liable to be misled about moral duties than points of doctrine.—I am, my dear Sir, yours very sincerely,

Wm. Wordsworth

Pray excuse my having employed Miss Hutchinson as my amanuensis, my own penmanship being so wretched.

W. W

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 The letter is in the handwriting of Sara Hutchinson.
Editor’s Note
2 In 1798 Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, wrote an Address to the People of Great Britain in defence of Pitt and the French War. Benjamin Flower (1755– 1829), who in the Cambridge Intelligencer had denounced the war as absurd and wicked, was in 1799 sentenced for alleged libel on Watson to six months in Newgate and a fine of £100; Gilbert Wakefield (1756–1801), the friend of Fox, Lord Holland, and Erskine, and a strong opponent of the war, wrote a violent attack on Watson, and in May 1799 was sentenced to two years imprisonment in Dorchester gaol. (Note by de Selincourt.)
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