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William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt and Chester L. Shaver (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 1: The Early Years: 1787–1805 (Second Revised Edition)

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163. W. W. to THOMAS POOLE

  • Address: Mr Thomas Poole | Nether Stowey | near Bridgewater | Somerset
  • Stamp: Kendal.
  • MS. Brit. Mus. Sandford, ii. 58. L(—), i. 142. EL, 279.

Grasmere, Kendal, Westmorland [early July 1801]2

My dear Poole

Your long and kind Letter I received some time ago; it gave me the highest pleasure to learn that in the Poems about which alone I was anxious I had pleased you; and your praise was expressed with such discrimination as gave it a high value indeed. On some future occasion I will write to you at length on the subject of your Letter. In the mean time, accept my best thanks for it.

At present I have taken up the pen solely on Coleridges account and must confine my Letter to him and his affairs. I know how much you will be concerned to hear that his health cannot be said to be much better, indeed any better at all. He is apparently quite well one day, and the next the fit comes on him again with as much pg 339violence as ever. These repeated shocks cannot but greatly weaken his constitution; and he is himself afraid that, as the disease (which is now manifestly the gout) keeps much about his stomach, he may be carried off by it with little or no warning. I would hope to God that there is no danger of this; but it is too manifest that the disease is a dangerous one; it is the gout in a habit not strong enough to throw it out to the extremities. At all events, as I have said, his body must be grievously weakened by the repeated attacks under which he is at present labouring. We all here feel deeply persuaded that nothing can do him any effectual good, but a change of climate: and it is on this subject that I have now written to you. The place which he thinks of going to is the Azores: both for the climate, and the Baths which are known to be exceedingly salutary in cases of gout and Rheumatism; and on account of the cheapness of living there, and the little expence in getting thither. But you know well how poor Coleridge is situated with respect to money affairs; indeed it will be impossible for him to accomplish the journey without some assistance.1 He has been confined to his bed one may say, the half of the last ten months: this has rendered it impossible for him to earn any thing, and his sickness has also been expensive. It was the more unfortunate that this sickness should have come upon him, just after an expensive journey, and other expences necessary, previously to his settling in this country. In short: I see it will be utterly out of his power to take this voyage and pass some time there without he can procure a sum amounting at the lowest to 50£. Further, it seems to me absolutely necessary that this sum should be procured in a manner the least burthensome to his feelings possible.2 If the thought of it should hang upon his mind when he is away it will undo or rather prevent all the salutary effects of the climate. I have thought it my duty to mention these circumstances to you as being a person more interested than perhaps any other in what befalls our common Friend. Wade of Bristol is I know, a most excellent and liberal Man, and one who highly values Coleridge, and one whom Coleridge values also greatly, but he has a family, and I have therefore thought it right not to speak to him on the pg 340subject before I had consulted with you. As Coleridge at present does not [wi]sh to take his wife or children with him, I should hope that 50£ might be enough; if she goes, I am sure he will want 100£ or near it. Now it is my opinion, and I dare say will be yours, that the money should be lent to him, in whatever way you think will ultimately hang the least upon his mind. He has mentioned to me a scheme of this sort: viz. that he would write to Godwyn desiring him to call upon some bookseller to request him to advance 100£ upon some work to be written by Coleridge within a certain time, for the repayment of which 100£ Coleridge would request you or some other of his Friends to be security, if the work were not forthcoming at the time appointed. This plan for my own part, though I did not like to say so abruptly to Coleridge, I greatly disapprove, as I am sure it would entangle him in an engagement which it is ten to one he would be unable to fulfil and what is far worse, the engagement while useless in itself would prevent him from doing any thing else.

My dear Poole you will do what you think proper on this statement of facts; if in case of Coleridges death you could afford to lose 50£ or more if necessary, it may perhaps appear proper to you to lend him that sum, unshackled by any conditions, but that he should repay it when he shall be able: if he dies, if he should be unwilling that any debt of his should devolve on his Brothers, then let the debt be cancelled.1 This is what I should propose to him myself, if I could do it with any propriety. See under seal. I therefore need not apologize to you for what I have said. If a larger sum than 50 should be wanted Wade or some other of his friends would be willing to divide the risque or loss among them. I have said this because it would perhaps be fair in itself and would give them pleasure.

Pray be so good as to excuse this Letter. I only half know what I have been writing: a friend came in just as I began, and my sister and he have been talking all the time to my great confusion.


Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2 Writing to Poole on 5 July about his plan to winter in the Azores, S. T. C. said: 'Wordsworth mentioned to me that he meant to write to you. I told him, I should certainly write myself, and was about to state what I meant to say—but he desired me not to do it, that he might write with his opinions unmodified by mine.' Letter 163, which lacks a postmark, was therefore written at about the same time.
Editor’s Note
1 S. T. C. had informed Poole that he would require £30 for the trip, which he would take alone, and £10 towards his wife's support.
Editor’s Note
2 S. T. C. had told Poole: 'To the Wedgewoods I will not apply—it would look like borrowing upon my annuity … . Neither do I apply to you—partly, because I am vexed that I have not yet been able to repay you the 37£, I already owe—and partly, because I know how manifold and vexatious your pecuniary responsibilities already are—and am somewhat too proud willingly to force you to think of me at the time you are thinking of poor———or———.'
Editor’s Note
1 Poole replied on 21 July, writing to S. T. C. instead of W. W. He recommended that S. T. C. borrow from his brothers. Alluding to W. W.'s letter and the requested £50, he stated that he had 'many claims' and offered to lend £20, pointing out that S. T. C. already owed him not £37, but £52.
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