William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth

The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 7: The Later Years: Part IV: 1840–1853 (Second Revised Edition)

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pg 5021754. W. W. to SIR JOHN TAYLOR COLERIDGE

  • MS. British Library.
  • K. LY iii. 1187.

2nd Decbr 43.

My dear Mr Justice Coleridge,

Pray accept my thanks for the pains you have taken with the Inscription and excuse the few words I shall have to say upon your remarks.

There are two lakes in the vale of Keswick: both which, along with the lateral Vale of Newlands immediately opposite Southey's study window, will be included in the words, 'Ye vales and hills',1 by every one who is familiar with the neighbourhood.

I quite agree with you that the construction of the lines that particularize his writings is rendered awkward, by so many participles passive, and the more so on account of the transitive verb 'informed'. One of these participles may be got rid of, and I think a better Couplet produced, by this alteration—

  • Or judgments sanctioned in the Patriot's mind
  • By reverence for the rights of all mankind.

As I have entered into particulars as to the character of S's writings, and they are so various, I thought his Historic works ought by no means to be omitted, and therefore, though unwilling to lengthen the Epitaph, I added the following:

  • … Labours of his own,
  • Whether he traced historic truth with zeal
  • For the State's guidance or the Church's weal,
  • Or Fancy, disciplined by studious art,
  • Informed his pen, or wisdom of the heart,
  • Or judgments sanctioned in the Patriot's mind
  • By reverence for the rights of all mankind.

I do not feel with you in respect to the word 'so'2—it refers of pg 503course to the preceding line, and as the reference is to fireside feelings and intimate friends, there appears to me a propriety in an expression inclining to the Colloquial. The Couplet was the dictate of my own feelings, and the construction is accordingly broken and rather dramatic. But too much of this.—If you have any objection to the Couplet as altered be so kind as let me know; if not, on no account trouble yourself to answer this Letter.

'Prematurely'1 I object to as you do. I used the word with reference to that decay of faculties which is not uncommon in advanced life, and which often leads to Dotage—but the word must not be retained.

We regret much to hear that Lady Coleridge is unwell. Pray present to her our best wishes.—

What could induce the Bp. of London to forbid the choral service at St. Mark's?2 It was an execution, I understand, above all praise.

  • ever most faithfully yours,      
  • Wm Wordsworth

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 See PW iv. 278, app. crit. W. W. had altered the opening of the verse epitaph in response to Sir John Coleridge's comment in his letter of 30 Nov.: 'I desiderate some notice of the Lake—in the third line I could almost venture to turn 'ye loved Books' into 'thou loved Lake'—and end the 4th line with shore.' (British Library MSS.)
Editor’s Note
2 The original version of ll. 13–14 read:
  • Friends, Family—ah wherefore touch that string.
  • To them so fondly did the good man cling.
Editor’s Note
1 This word occurred in the alternative epitaph in prose (see L. 1713 above), which was not used.
Editor’s Note
2 Bishop Blomfield's Charge of 1842, in which he recommended strict adherence to the Prayer-Book rubrics, provoked a storm of opposition from both Evangelicals and High-Churchmen. As the Tractarian Movement turned in a Romeward direction, the daily choral service at St. Mark's, with its plainsong chants and intoned prayers, seemed to bear out all his misgivings. See Rainbow, The Choral Revival in the Anglican Church, pp. 48 ff. Writing to her cousin Francis on 1 Feb. 1844, Sara Coleridge referred to Derwent Coleridge's difficulties with his bishop: 'Derwent is very much where he was in regard to the affairs of St. Mark's and the choral service. He has to deal with a Bishop who is disinterested, able, and personally well disposed to him,—but whose habit of mind it is to judge of Christian principle by Christian expediency… To many it seems, and I own myself to be of their opinion, that the choral service, as conducted at St. Mark's, may be objected to on principle: but it is not on such deep ground that the Bishop takes his stand,—so that his arguments appear weak to earnest men, and his authority … is becoming more and more reduced to that of his office rather than that of his personal character and his office together.' (Texas University MSS.). In his Second Letter on the National Society's Training College …, 1844, Derwent Coleridge defended the practices at St. Mark's, and denied that they were contrary to the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer.
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