Jump to Content
Jump to chapter

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)

Find Location in text

Main Text


  • Address: Sir George Beaumont Bart. | Dunmow | Essex
  • Postmark: 1 January 1805. Stamp: Keswick.
  • MS. WL. M(—), i. 304. P, ii. 161. MC(—), i. 77. L(—), i. 172. EL, 423.

  • 25th December 1804
  • Grasmere

My dear Sir George

Long since ought I to have thanked you for your last affectionate Letter; but I knew how indulgent you were and therefore fell, I wont say more easily, but surely with far less pain to myself into my old trick of procrastination. I was deeply sensible of your kindness in inviting me to Grosvenor Square, and then felt and still feel a strong inclination to avail myself of the opportunity of cultivating your friendship and that of Lady Beaumont, and of seeing a little of the world at the same time. But as the wish is strong there are also strong obstacles against it; first, though I have lately been tolerably industrious, I am far behindhand with my appointed work; and next my nervous system is so apt to be deranged by going from home, that I am by no means sure that I should not be so much of a dependent Invalid, I mean a person obliged to manage himself, as pg 517to make it absolutely improper for me to obtrude myself where neither my exertions of mind or body could enable me to be tolerable company. I say nothing of my family because a short absence would be abundantly recompensed by the pleasure of a "sweet return".1 At all events I must express my sincere thanks for your kindness and the pleasure which I received from your Letter breathing throughout such favourable dispositions, I may say, such earnest friendship towards me.

I think we are completely agreed upon the subject of Sir Joshua, that is, we both regret that he did not devote more of his time to the higher branches of the art, and further, I think you join with me in lamenting to a certain degree at least that he did not live more to himself. I have since read the rest of his Discourses, with which I have been greatly pleased, and wish most heartily that I could have an opportunity of seeing in your company your own collection of pictures and some others in town Mr. Angersteens2 for instance, to have pointed out to me some of those finer and peculiar beauties of Painting which I am afraid I shall never have occasions of becoming sufficiently familiar with pictures to discover of myself. There is not a day in my life when I am at home in which that exquisite little drawing of yours of Applethwaite does not not affect me with a sense of harmony and grace which I cannot describe: Mr. Edridge an artist whom you know saw this drawing along with a Mr Duppa3 another artist, who published Heads4 from Raphael and Michael Angelo and they were both most enthusiastic in their praises of it to my great delight. By the bye, I thought Mr Edridge a man of very mild and pleasing manners, and as far as I could judge of delicate feelings, in the province of his art. Duppa is publishing a life of Michael Angelo and I received from him a few days ago two proof sheets of an Appendix which contains the poems of M. A—which I shall read, and translate one or two of them. If I can do it with decent success. I have peeped into the sonnets, and they do not appear at all unworthy of their great Author. You will pg 518be pleased to hear that I have been advancing with my Work: I have written upwards of 2,000 verses during the last ten weeks. I do not know if you are exactly acquainted with the plan of my poetical labours it is twofold, first a Poem to be called, "The Recluse" in which it will be my object to express in verse my most interesting feelings concerning Man, Nature, and society; and next, a Poem (in which I am at present chiefly engaged) on my earlier life or the growth of my own mind taken up upon a large scale; this latter work I expect to have finished before the Month of May; and then I purpose to fall with all my might on the former which is the chief object upon which my thoughts have been fixed these many years. Of this Poem, that of "the Pedlar" which Coleridge read you is part and I may have written of it altogether about 2,000 lines. It will consist, I hope, of about 10 or 12 thousand. May we not hope for the pleasure of seeing you and Lady Beaumont down here next Summer; I flatter myself that Coleridge will then be return'd, and though we would not [on] any account that he should fix himself in this rainy part of England yet perhaps we may have the happiness of meeting all together for a few weeks. We have lately built in our little rocky orchard a little circular Hut lined with moss like a wren's nest, and coated on the outside with heath that stands most charmingly with several views from the different sides of it of the Lake, the Valley, and the Church—sadly spoiled however lately by being whitewashed. The little retreat is most delightful and I am sure you and Lady Beaumont would be highly pleased with it. Coleridge has never seen it what a happiness would it be to us to see him there! and entertain you all next summer in our homely way under its shady thatch. I will copy a dwarf inscription which I wrote for it the other day, before the building was entirely finished which indeed it is not yet.

  •           "No whimsy of the purse is here,
  •           No Pleasure-House forlorn;
  •           Use, Comfort, do this roof endear;
  •           A tributary Shed to chear
  •           The little Cottage that is near,
  •           To help it and adorn.["]1

I hope the young Roscius2 if he go on as he has begun, will pg 519rescue the English theatre from the infamy that has fallen upon it and restore the reign of good sense and Nature. From what you have seen Sir George, how do you think he could manage a Character of Shakespear? Neither Selim nor Douglas requires much power, but even to perform them as he does talents and genius I should think must be necessary. I had very little hope I confess, thinking it very natural that a Theatre which had brought a dog upon the stage as a principal Performer would catch at a wonder whatever shape it might put on. We have had no tidings of Coleridge these several months: He spoke of papers which he had sent by private hands none of which we have received. It must be most criminal neglect somewhere if the Fever be suffered to enter Malta. Farewell, and believe me my dear Sir George your affectionate and sincere Friend,

W. Wordsworth.    

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Paradise Lost, ix. 250 (EL).
Editor’s Note
2 John Julius Angerstein (1735–1823), a wealthy merchant and amateur of the fine arts. Chiefly owing to the advocacy of Sir G. B. his collection was bought to form the nucleus of the National Gallery (EL).
Editor’s Note
3 Richard Duppa (1770–1831), artist and author, studied at Rome and was esteemed an excellent draughtsman. He published A selection of Twelve Heads from the Last Judgment of Michael Angelo (in 1801) and Heads from the Fresco Pictures of Raffaele in the Vatican in 1803. His Life and Letters of M. A. appeared in 1806 (EL). For W. W.'s translations see PW, iii. 14–15.
Editor’s Note
4 For Heads all previous copies of the letter have Hints, but Heads is what W. meant to write (EL).
Editor’s Note
1 Inscription for the Moss-Hut at Dove Cottage (not published until 1887), PW, iv. 372.
Editor’s Note
2 William H. W. Betty (1791–1874), a boy actor, who, after great success in Ireland and the English provinces in 1803–4, appeared at Covent Garden on 1 Dec. 1804 as Selim in John Brown's tragedy of Barbarossa, and on 10 Dec. in Home's Douglas. His Shakespearian parts were Hamlet and Prince Arthur, to which he added Richard III and Macbeth in the following year. The furore he created was so great that at Covent Garden, when he played Selim, the military were called out to preserve order, and when he played Hamlet Pitt adjourned the House of Commons that members might attend the performance. In 1808 he left the stage, reappearing in 1812; but he retired again in 1824 with an ample fortune (EL).
logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out