Dorothy 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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  • Address: Mrs. Clarkson, Bury St. Edmond's, Suffolk.
  • Postmark: E. Jan 26 1807.
  • Stamp: Ashby de la Zouch.
  • MS. British Museum.
  • K (—). MY i. 291 p. 107.

Coleorton January 20th [1807]

My dear Friend,

I will not dwell upon our uneasiness and anxiety at your long silence;—perhaps (and I will try to keep out all fears that it is not so) you have been kept from writing by Christmas festivities and the fatigues following upon them. I know very well, on looking back, that when we have been most anxious there has been the least reason for it, as when the Smiths were with you lately; and trusting that you may have no worse tale to tell now I only beg that you will write as soon as possible. I wish Coleridge had written to you, not because there is any need of that to testify his affectionate remembrance of you but for his own sake that it would be a sign of his going on as he ought to do. Poor soul! he is sadly deficient in moral courage; having yet several letters of painful duty to write, pg 125he does not feel himself happy enough or rather free enough to set about those of pure pleasure and friendship. He says he will write to-day to Mrs Coleridge his letter of final arrangement,1 but I shall not depend upon him till I see the letter sealed up and directed. Hartley is a delightful Boy, thoroughly sweet-tempered and happy, and just the same restless, whirling, self-sufficing creature that he was when you saw him last. Poor thing! he has been so much accustomed to move about after his own fancies that we find some trouble in checking him, that is, making him keep silent and still in the sitting room, and never having done any offices for others or for himself, except putting on his cloaths, he is absolutely in a dream when you tell him to do the simplest thing—his Books, his Slate, his Pencils, he drops them just where he finds them no longer useful. My dear Friend, I often am reminded of your dear Tom when I see Hartley playing without a companion—how I wish we could have them together! I think they would be of great use to each other, being of dispositions so opposite, yet both good-tempered and active and so near in age. Sara H. and I often talk of going to Bury. Is there any Road but by London? At any rate William intends taking Sara to London and the journey thence for him and her would be nothing; but as I am not to be of the London party because we cannot leave Mary alone for any long time, and because too, I have seen London, I dare not look forward with confidence to going to Bury. We hear nothing of a house in the North of England; I do not see that any is likely to be vacant, except Mr. Jackson's2 in case the Southeys do not give up their intention of leaving it, and that Mrs. Coleridge removes South ward! For my part, I shall be reconciled to it by necessity, but pleasant as the situation of that house is I never liked it, and I have always thought that I had rather live in any other part of the Lake Country than so near to Keswick as that house. At any rate, we shall go into the north next summer; and probably cram ourselves for a few months into our own cottage, and before winter surely we may find a place out. Our young ones have completely got over the hooping-cough, but little Thomas is at present poorly with cutting his teeth. Dorothy is grown hardy and a delightful lively creature: she is far less trouble than John was at her age. As to your old Friend honest John (who, by the bye remembers you very well and how he used to go and see you) I must say that at times he is very wilful and unmanageable, which makes him dangerous from his exceeding strength. Whenever he is disposed to quarrel with pg 126his Sister (which is not seldom) he uses blows, and not contented with his own heavy hand when he is very angry he takes up whatever is nearest to him, stool, chair, table, stick, or even poker. Yet he has a sweet temper, and certainly the most delightful smile I ever saw. Dorothy looks exceedingly lively and has great variety in her countenance, but the expression of John's is far richer. You remember his dear Uncle John's smile—Johnny's reminds me of it, that is in the quantity of effect which it produces; but it is very different. Little Thomas, God bless him, is neither boastful nor boasted of, but he wins his way silently into all hearts—he has a quiet sensible, grave smile, yet full of light which fixes in his pretty blue eyes, and while he smiles he points his tongue and puts it out upon his under lip—we call it a serpent tongue, it moves about, and changes so prettily. John's used to occupy the whole Den of his mouth, and his Father called it the Dragon of Wantley. Thomas is thin, and I think will never be fat as a Baby, the time of action and struggling now being come on. I wish he were weaned, for Mary has often sad nights with him, and I cannot but think that the child would thrive as well without the breast. We had a letter from Grasmere about a week ago: they have had no fidlers this Christmas, a doleful piece of news to us, seeming to tell of change and the passing away of good times; I hope, however, that it is only accidental, as one of the fidlers had lamed his hand, and the other was attending his duty as a Dancing Master. Peggy Ashburner and old Molly and all neighbours are as well as usual, thinking much of us. Our old servant, Molly Dawson, lives with Mrs. Lloyd. We wish we could have her again at our return as we intend to keep two women servants, our family with Coleridge and the Boys will be so large. Molly would gladly have come with us hither, but we thought ourselves bound in honour to another. I am sorry that poor Miss Malin is so ill. Remember me respectfully to your Father and give our kindest love to dear Mr. Clark-son and Tom. I leave the scrap of paper below for Mary. God bless you, my dear Friend. Believe me ever faithfully yours.

D. Wordsworth.   

Basil Montagu is not yet arrived.

[Postscript by M. W.]

God bless you my dear Mrs. Clarkson! I take up the pen merely to let you see my hand-writing, for Dorothy has I dare say, told you how we are all going on and everything about us that is pg 127interesting, and of our anxiety concerning your health and I trust you do not need such testimony of your being at all times in my thoughts. I do most earnestly wish we could see you and yours. O that we could by some magic power convey you and Tom here for a few weeks, or what seems to be more practicable, I wish that we could manage to see you in your own home. Some of us must contrive this—but I fear it is a pleasure that will not fall to my lot; these cross roads are sadly against us.

Dear little Hartley is just returned from Ashby (which place is two miles distant) he went for a ride, along with Sir George B.'s Bailiff, and right proud he is sweet fellow of his great feats in horsemanship. Sara will write to you soon—best love to Mr. C. and my friend [Tom] affectionately yours

M. Wordsworth.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 i.e. about their separation.
Editor’s Note
2 i.e. Greta Hall, Keswick.
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