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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554. D. W. to JOHN and JANE MARSHALL

  • Address: John Marshall Esqre M.P., Hill Street, London.
  • Postmark: 15 July 1830.
  • Stamp: Kendal Penny Post.
  • Endorsed: 13 July 1830—the Marriage of J. Wordsworth. Congratulations on my Father's retiring from Parliament.
  • MS. WL.
  • LY i. 493.

Rydal Mount July 13th [1830]

My dear Mr Marshall,

As it is possible that parliament may be dissolved before this reaches its destination, I will not run the risque of your having to pay double postage, but my letter will be addressed to your Wife, therefore be so good as to give it to her without having the trouble of reading it yourself.

To Mrs Marshall.

My dear Friend

Your letter of the 27th of last month would not have remained so long unanswered (for we felt ourselves greatly obliged by your early communication of Mr Marshall's important resolve)2 had not I wished at the same time to tell you of an event likely very soon to take place in our family, which until now I have not been at liberty to do in full—and half intelligence is often worse than none at all. Know then that my eldest Nephew, John Wordsworth of Rydal, is engaged to be married to Miss Curwen, the eldest Daughter of pg 298Mr Curwen of Workington and Belle Isle. The acquaintance began some months ago in consequence of John's being, at Moresby, a neighbour of the Curwen Family, but the engagement has not been of very long standing; and the marriage will most likely be before the end of October. During Dora's stay with her Brother she saw a good deal of Miss Curwen, visited several times at Workington Hall, and spent a few days there at one time, and very much did Miss C. and she take to each other. John was then a hearty admirer; but it was not till after his Sister had left him that he ventured to offer himself to the young Lady. She immediately accepted his addresses on condition of parents' approval. This was immediately granted on the side of her parents i.e., as soon as it was made known to them; but before that time John's Father and Mother had discouraged him most decidedly; they disapproving very much of long protracted engagements; and John's present preferment being so small as to render marriage—without first waiting for a better Living—a very imprudent step, unless matters were made easy in another way. On this account, my Brother and Sister (and we all joined in giving such counsel) advised John not to follow up the proposal already made to Miss C. by laying it before her Father. In the meantime, however, she herself had opened out her mind; and both her Father and Mother willingly, nay joyfully, gave their consent—and not only so, Mr Curwen proposed to do every thing in his power to render the accomplishment of the young People's wishes easy to them. About that time Mr Curwen's Family was removing from Workington to Belle Isle; and as soon as possible they came to spend a day with us. Mr Curwen, during his Father's life-time resided at Belle Isle;1 but, strange as it may appear we had never been in his company; for, until the old man's death, he lived quite retired. My Brother had visited him when at Moresby in the Spring; but even he had never had any other intercourse with Mr Curwen; but our Family-meeting at Rydal Mount was really like a meeting of old Friends.

Nothing could be kinder or more affectionate than the manners of both Father and Mother—and, as to their Daughter, we were all charmed with the sweetness of her manners and deportment. A few days after this meeting, Miss Curwen went to London with her Mother; and returned home last Wednesday—and on Friday, her Father and Mother again accompanied her hither, and left her pg 299with us; and we expect she will remain at Rydal Mount till next week. John arrived yesterday, and has procured a substitute for his next Sunday's duty, so we shall probably have his company for about ten days.

Never was there so happy a Creature as he appears to be at this moment. Sincerely do I hope and pray that he may prove worthy of the treasure he has obtained in the affections of as pure minded and amiable a woman as I ever had an opportunity of knowing. Miss Curwen is interesting in appearance rather than pretty or handsome; her manners and address are Lady-like, though perhaps at first even painfully shy; but that shyness soon wears off, though her modesty is always remarkable. She gains daily and hourly on our affections; for she has great good sense, an excellent judgment, and, in every thing she does or says, you can trace the best of dispositions. My Brother and Sister both desired me to write to you today, as being the first day on which I was at liberty to name the Lady destined to be their daughter. They beg that you and Mr Marshall will accept their affectionate regards; and they add that they are assured of your sympathy on this occasion. I ought to add that Mr Curwen's conduct through the whole affair has been the most disinterested (I may say the most generous) that could be imagined. He is quite delighted with the connexion.

Poor Dora is very happy in the prospect of having a Sister, who is disposed to share in all her feelings; and they now are in a state of perfect enjoyment in each other's society. We trust that she will have quite regained her strength before October; for she has lately made rapid advances; but till very lately we have been kept exceedingly anxious and uneasy. She is now able to take short rides on horseback or in the pony-chaise; her looks are improving, and her appetite is not bad, and she has, in fact, now no actual malady to struggle with—unless her still-lingering weakness may be called so.

To turn to the subject of your letter—My dear Friend, I do from the bottom of my heart congratulate you upon Mr Marshall's withdrawing from the very arduous office which he has so honorably and usefully held, though I foresee some present loss to himself in the want of occupation sufficiently interesting during the period of your residence in London. But dear Jane, another parliament would have been too much to look forward to!—health and strength for the fatigues anxieties and late hours of another six or seven years! Besides, while in the country his quietly active mind always finds sufficient employment, and of that kind best suited pg 300both to his early and later habits—and, even in London, when I consider the variety of his tastes, and the multiplicity of his affairs and of his connections, it seems to me that he will have more than enough of salutary employment to satisfy the craving of any mind however active, that has borne the Brunt sixty years. We hear of parliament being dissolved on the 19th. This will set you all at liberty; and I can fancy Mr Marshall the gladdest of the glad on returning to his beautiful home among the mountains, without being subject to a Call of Committees but free to stay in the quiet retirement that you all love so much, till winter storms drive you away; or you are drawn to other quarters by other domestic ties or by private concerns of business or friendship. Heartily shall I rejoice to hear of your safe arrival, with good tidings of the Daughters you will leave behind; and of the Travellers abroad, who I hope are now in complete enjoyment in the romantic country of Switzerland. You have not mentioned that Party in your two last letters; but I conclude all was well when you heard of them. Your account of dear Ellen1 and her Sister Dora was most satisfactory. God grant that they may spend a happy summer together, and free from extreme pain!

We had a note from Patterdale Hall this morning—written in pretty good spirits; but as you may suppose, with longings for the arrival of Husband and Friends. The weather has lately been so bad as to make home the only desireable place; otherwise we should have grieved much at not seeing Mrs W. M.2 during her time of solitude. The two last days have been fine, and will I hope set her to thinking of crossing Kirkstone, and if the Rain keeps off and the cold abates, we venture yet to hope that we may see her. It is long since I heard from Halifax except indirectly, through the Friend of a Lady passing through Ambleside, that Mrs W. Rawson was quite well. On Sunday evening a Mr and Mrs McVicar3 and their two daughters (introduced to my Brother by Bishop Hobart4of New York) informed us that Mr and Mrs Day5 and Georgina Ferguson pg 301had been their Fellow-passengers to Liverpool and that Sarah and Elizabeth Ferguson1 had remained at New York to visit the Falls of Niagara, and would return to England in the Autumn. This American Family interested us exceedingly—Father, Mother, and Daughters—all as agreeable and as well-informed and well-mannered people as ever I saw. You cannot think how much I was pleased on discovering their intimacy with the Days and the Fergusons. They spoke of Mr Day with the highest respect as a man of ten thousand. This Family party had crossed the Atlantic on account of Mr McVicar's health. He is a professor in the College at New York. They are going to Scotland and mean to travel on the Continent as far as Switzerland. They have left six Children at home.

I must not cross any more of my paper or you will not be able to read. Adieu. Believe me ever your affectionate Friend

D. Wordsworth   

What a loss shall I have of Mr Marshall's franks! My love to your Sisters.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2 To resign his seat in Parliament. John Marshall had represented Yorkshire since 1826.
Editor’s Note
1 Belle Isle on Windermere had been acquired by the Curwens during the lifetime of Henry Curwen's father, John Christian Curwen, who had laid out the grounds. The highly unusual mansion, cylindrical in shape, with a dome and lantern, was designed by John Plaw in 1774.
Editor’s Note
1 Jane Marshall's fifth daughter. 'Dora', Ellen's sister, is Jane Dorothea, now Mrs. Temple (see L. 463 above).
Editor’s Note
2 For Mrs. William Marshall, see L. 483 above.
Editor’s Note
3 The Revd. John MacVickar (1787–1868), Professor of Moral Philosophy at Columbia College, New York, and one of the earliest teachers of political economy in the United States. He had visited Coleridge the previous month, and after spending two days at Rydal Mount (10–11 July), went on to see Southey and Scott. He wrote an influential tract Hints on Banking (1827), and a two-part biography of Bishop Hobart (1834–6), and in 1839 wrote the introduction to the New York edition of Coleridge's Aids to Reflection.
Editor’s Note
4 For Bishop Hobart see pt. i, L. 141.
Editor’s Note
5 For John Day and his wife, see L. 463 above.
Editor’s Note
1 Georgina, Sarah, and Elizabeth were the daughters of Samuel Ferguson and had accompanied their uncle and aunt to America. See L. 463 above.
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