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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568. W. W. to WILLIAM ROWAN HAMILTON

  • MS. untraced.
  • Mem. (—). Grosart. Hamilton. K (—). LY i. 510.

  • Lowther Castle, Sunday Mor[ning]
  • [26 Sept. 1830]

My dear Mr Hamilton,

I profit by the frank in which the letter for your sister will be enclosed, to thank you for yours of the 11th, and the accompanying spirited and elegant verses.5 You ask many questions, kindly testifying thereby the interest you take in us and our neighbourhood. Most probably some of them are answered in my daughter's pg 325letter to Miss E. H.1 I will, however, myself reply to one or two at the risk of repeating what she may have said: 1st Mrs Hemans has not sent us any tidings of her movements and intentions since she left us, so I am unable to tell you whether she means to settle in Edinburgh or London.2 She said she would write as soon as she could procure a frank; that accommodation is, I suppose, more rare in Scotland than at this season in our neighbourhood. I assure you the weather has been so unfavourable to out-door amusements since you left us (not but that we have had a sprinkling of fine and bright days), that little or no progress has been made in the game of the Graces, and I fear that amusement must be deferred till next summer, if we or anybody else are to see another. Mr Barber has dined with us once, and my sister and Mrs Marshall, of Halsteads, have seen his palace and grounds, but I cannot report upon the general state of his temper. I believe he continues to be enchanted, as far as decayed health will allow, with a Mr Cooper,3 a clergyman who has just come to the living of Hawkshead (about five miles from Ambleside). Did I tell you that Professor Wilson, with his two sons and daughter, have been, and probably still are, at Elleray? He heads the gaieties of the neighbourhood, and has presided as steward at two regattas. Do these employments come under your notions of action opposed to contemplation? Why should they not? Whatever the high moralists may say, the political economists will, I conclude, approve them as setting capital afloat, and giving an impulse to manufacture and handicrafts—not to speak of the improvement which may come thence to navigation and nautical science. I have dined twice along with my brother (who left us some time ago) in the Professor's company—at Mrs Watson's, widow of the Bp,4 at Calgarth, and at Mr Bolton's. Poor Mr B.! he must have been greatly shocked at the fatal accident that put an end to his friend Huskisson's5 earthly career. There is another acquaintance of mine also recently gone—a person for whom I never had any love, but with whom I had for a short time pg 326a good deal of intimacy—I mean Hazlitt, whose death1 you may have seen announced in the papers. He was a man of extraordinary acuteness, but perverse as Lord Byron himself, whose life by Galt I have been skimming since I came here. Galt2 affects to be very profound, though [lie]3 is in fact a very shallow fellow,—and perhaps the most illogical writer that these illogical days have produced. His 'buts' and his 'therefores' are singularly misapplied, singularly even for this unthinking age. He accuses Mr Southey of pursuing Lord B—with rancour. I should like a reference to what Mr S—has written of Lord B—, to ascertain whether this charge be well founded. I trust it is not, both from what I know of my friend, and from the aversion which Mr G—has expressed towards the Lakers, whom in the plenitude of his ignorance he is pleased to speak of as a class or school of Poets.

Now for a word on the serious part of your letter. Your views of action and contemplation are, I think, just. If you can lay your hands upon Mr Coleridge's 'Friend', you will find some remarks of mine upon a letter signed, if I recollect right, 'Mathetes',4 which was written by Professor Wilson, in which, if I am not mistaken, sentiments like yours are expressed; at all events, I am sure that I have long retained those opinions, and have frequently expressed them either by letter or otherwise. One thing, however, is not to be forgotten concerning active life—that a personal independence must be provided for—and in some cases more is required, ability to assist our friends, relations, and natural dependents. The party are at breakfast, and I must close this wretched scrawl, which pray excuse.

  • Ever faithfully yours,     
  • Wm Wordsworth  

pg 327Pray continue to write at your leisure. How could I have forgot so long to thank you for your obliging present,1 which I shall value on every account?

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Notes

Editor’s Note
5 Farewell Verses to William Wordsworth, At the Close of a Visit to Ryda Mount in 1830 (Hamilton, i. 369).
Editor’s Note
1 Eliza Hamilton.
Editor’s Note
2 Mrs. Hemans finally settled in Dublin (see L. 546 above).
Editor’s Note
4 i.e. Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff (see EY, p. 662).
Editor’s Note
5 William Huskisson (see also pt. i, L. 330), statesman and 'Canningite': Treasurer of the Navy and President of the Board of Trade, 1823–7, and Colonial Secretary under Goderich and Wellington, until he resigned (1828) over the question of the redistribution of the disenfranchised seats of East Retford and Penryn. As M.P. for Liverpool (since 1823), he attended the opening of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway on 15 Sept. 1830: catching sight of Wellington he started to meet him, and fell on the rails in front of an oncoming engine: the train ran over his leg, and he died a few hours later.
Editor’s Note
1 Hazlitt died on 18 Sept. 1830 at his lodgings in Frith St., London.
Editor’s Note
2 John Galt (1779–1839), Scottish novelist: his Annals of the Parish appeared in 1821, The Entail in 1823, and the Life of Byron in 1830.
Editor’s Note
3 Word dropped out.
Editor’s Note
4 See Reply to 'Mathetes' (Prose Works, ii. 3 ff.) and MY i. 378, 381, 388. In his letter of 11 Sept. (Hamilton, i. 395) Hamilton had written: 'I adopt here the common distinction of phrase between thought and action, and cannot quite avoid being influenced by the common opinion, which prefers the latter to the former, and condemns as even criminal the abandonment of action for thought. But is not thought, in truth, the highest action? And if anyone, endeavouring to be impartial, conscientiously believes that he has power of original thought, that he can discover new fountains, however small, at which the minds of men may drink and be refreshed, does not that person, in devoting himself to such a search, in following with entire submission the guidance of his inward light, and seeking to accomplish the task assigned to him from within, fulfil his highest duty, not to himself only, but to other men?'
Editor’s Note
1 A presentation copy of one of Hamilton's recent works, the first supplement of his Essay on Systems of Rays, published in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, vol. xvi (July 1830).
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