William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth

The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 6: The Later Years: Part III: 1835–1839 (Second Revised Edition)

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pg 7221341. W. W. to JOHN PEACE

  • MS. WL transcript.1
  • Mem (—). Grosart (—). K (—). LY ii. 984 (—).

Rydal Mount, Aug. 30, 1839.

My dear Sir,

… It was not a little provoking that I had not the pleasure of shaking you by the hand at Oxford when you did me the honour of coming so far to 'join in the shout'.2 I was told by a Fellow of University College3 that he never witnessed such an outburst of enthusiasm in that place, except upon the occasions of the visits of the Duke of Wellington,—one unexpected. My nephew,4 Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, was present, as well as my son William, who, I am happy to say, is much better in health than when you saw him in Oxford. He is here, and desires to be kindly remembered to you.

Now for a word about [? the portrait] of Coleridge.5 I told his Nephew and Son-in-law Mr H. N. Coleridge, what I had seen, and how very highly the picture must be valued by all judicious persons who remembered what the original was at the time of life when it was taken: I said further that I had recommended to the Possessor, Mr Wade, either to leave it pg 723directly to some public Body, say Jesus Coll. Cambridge, or the Library at Bristol, the place with which C. has been a good deal connected, and in which it was actually painted—either to do this at once, or to bequeath it to anyone of Mr C's nearest connexions, for his, or her, lifetime, upon condition that it should afterwards pass to some repository where it might be publickly seen, and preserved from the changes of fortune to which all private families are subject. With this opinion so expressed to Mr Wade, Mr H. N. Coleridge did not seem displeased; and this is all that I have done in the matter, having to regret that during my short and hurried visit to Cambridge, since I saw you, it did not occur to me to inquire at Jesus College whether it might be placed there with advantage, as I cannot but think the Master and Fellows would be proud to possess it. It is true that Coleridge did not remain long enough at Cambridge to take a degree; but he distinguished himself there by gaining a University Prize for a Greek Ode,1 and was known as a man of great genius, and extraordinary attainments. You would naturally wish the Portrait to remain at Bristol, a city in which it has so long been, and I justly appreciate your feeling, but all things considered, I cannot but incline to Jesus College in preference to any other, and this leaning I am sure you will excuse …

  • faithfully yours,        
  • Wm Wordsworth   

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 One of a number of copies made by Susan Wordsworth for C. W. jnr. when he was gathering materials for Mem.
Editor’s Note
2 Peace had written on 12 Aug.: 'Indulge me my dear Sir by permitting me to thank you once more for those heart-mending volumes from which I have for many years drawn less benefit than I ought, but enough to make me your perpetual debtor.' And he added his own recollections of the Oxford Commemoration for M. W.'s benefit: 'It was overpowering … That which he received, thundering as it was, had not to my ear an uproarious character; it had a beautiful tone about it; just such as one would expect to characterize or burst from the central heart of the best men of England at the best period of their lives…. It was a blessed thing my dear Madam that it fell to the lot of the congenial and heavenly-minded John Keble to avouch before that audience, not few, that the highest praise which Christian life may utter belonged to the Christian Poet who stood before them.' (WL MSS.)
Editor’s Note
3 Frederick Faber.
Editor’s Note
4 C. W.'s son, John.
Editor’s Note
5 Washington Allston's portrait of Coleridge (see Griggs, vi. 1029–30), painted at Bristol in 1814 for Josiah Wade (see EY, pp. 230–1; MY i. 80, ii. 133), acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1864, and now on permanent loan to Dove Cottage, Grasmere. A replica is at Jesus College, Cambridge.
Editor’s Note
1 See Griggs, i. 34. The text of Coleridge's Greek Prize Ode on the Slave Trade, which won the Browne Gold Medal in 1792, is given in J. D. Campbell, The Poetical Works of Coleridge, 1893, p. 476.
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