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William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth

The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 5: The Later Years: Part II: 1829–1834 (Second Revised Edition)

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pg 198498. W. W. to ROBERT SOUTHEY

MS. WL transcript. Hitherto unpublished.

[late Jan. 1830]

My dear S,

Mr Townsend,1 your present neighbour, is, I believe, the author of the late series of Blackwood's Articles upon me and my writings. From what I have seen and heard of this work I infer Mr T. may find it less disagreeable to give verbal answer through you to the question whether it is his or not than a written one to myself, and you perhaps will have no objection to ask him. If you are the least unwilling to do so pray content yourself with enclosing this note to him.2 Had Mr T. been a stranger to me, I should not have condescended to make the Enquiry, nor thought I had a right to make it; but as we have been upon terms of friendly tho' not frequent intercourse for many years, and it is not unlikely we may meet again, I wish to have the best possible assurance upon the point, for my particular and general guidance as to whom I may converse with in future and under what limitations.

  • Ever faithfully yours    
  • Wm Wordsworth     

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Editor’s Note
1 Chauncy Hare Townshend (see pt. i, L. 4) had recently published 'An Essay on the theory and the writings of Wordsworth' in Blackwood's Magazine, xxvi (Sept.-Dec. 1829), 453–63, 593–609, 774–88, 894–910. His aim was to show 'that Wordsworth's genius is overrated by his partisans'' and 'that it is underrated by his detractors', and he was particularly critical of the excessive adulation offered to the poet by his disciples. 'A praying Quaker, a preaching Whitfieldian, is nothing to a spouting Wordsworthian.' In the course of a lengthy examination of Wordsworth's theory and practice as a poet, Townshend singled out the Ode: Intimations of Immortality and The Excursion for condemnation, and while acknowledging Wordsworth's grandeur and descriptive power, he concluded that he was not one of our greatest writers, though one of 'the band of true poets'. See next letter, L. 503 below, and SH, p. 367.
Editor’s Note
2 Southey replied on 7 Feb. enclosing a copy of the covering letter he sent with W. W.'s to Townshend: 'When you read the enclosed note from Mr W. to me, and know also that he considers the papers in Blackwood as containing much scoffing, much literary misrepresentation, and personal disparagement,—you will readily believe that few circumstances in which I am not directly implicated could have given me so much uneasiness.' (WL MSS.)
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