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: Revd. Francis Wrangham | Hunmanby | near Bridlington | Yorkshire
  • Endorsed: Send Copy of Lat. Juvenal [in Wrangham's hand].
  • Postmark: 27 February 1797.
  • Stamp: Crewkhern.
  • MS. Huntington Lib. L, i. 92. EL, 156.

[Racedown, c. 25 Feb. 1797]2

  •     1But whence this gall this lengthened face of woe3
  •     2We were no saints at twenty,—be it so
  •     3Yet happy they who in lifes later scene
  •     4Need only blush for what they once have been
  •     5Who pushed by thoughtless youth to deeds of shame
  •     6Mid such bad daring sought a cowards name
  •     7I grant that not in parents hearts alone
  •     8A striplings years may for his faults atone
  •     9So would I plead for York—but long disgrace
  •     10And Moore and Partridge4 stare me in the face
  •     pg 17311Alas twas other cause than lack of years
  •     12That moistened Dunkirk's sand with blood and tears1
  •     13Else had Morality beheld her line
  •     14With Guards and Uhlans2 run along the Rhine
  •     15Religion hailed her creeds by war restored
  •     16And Truth had blest the logic of his sword
  •     ____________________________________________________________
  •     17Were such your servant Percy!3 (be it tried
  •     18Between ourselves! the noble laid aside)
  •     19Now would you be content with bare release
  •     20From such a desperate breaker of the peace?
  •     21Your friend the country Justice scarce would fail
  •     22To give a hint of whips and the carts tail
  •     23Or should you even stop short of Woolwich docks4
  •     24Would less suffice than Bridewell and the stocks.
  •     25But ye who make our manners laws and sence
  •     26Self-judged can with such discipline dispence,
  •     27And at your will what in a groom were base
  •     28Shall stick new splendour on his gartered grace5
  •     29The theme is fruitful nor can sorrow find
  •     30Shame of such dye but worse remains behind6
  •     31My Lord can muster (all but honour spent)
  •     32From his wife's Faro-bank a decent rent
  •     33The glittering rabble housed to [       ] and swear
  •     34Swindle and rob7—is no informer there
  •     pg 17435Or is the painted staffs avenging host
  •     36By sixpenny sedition shops engrossed
  •     37Or rather skulking for the common weal
  •     38Round fire-side treason parties en famille
  •     39How throngs the crowd to yon theatric school
  •     40To see an english lord enact a fool1
  •     41What wonder?—on my soul 'twould split a tub
  •     42To see the arch grimace of Marquis Scrub:
  •     43Nor safe the petticoats of dames that hear
  •     44The box resound on Viscount Buffo's ear.
  •     45But heres a thought which well our mirth may cross
  •     46That Smithfield should sustain so vast a loss
  •     47That spite of the defrauded Kitchen's prayers
  •     48Scrub lives a genuine Marquess above stairs.2
  •     49And they who feed with this Patrician wit
  •     50Mirth that to aching ribs will not submit
  •     51Good honest souls!—if right my judgement lies
  •     52Though very happy are not very wise
  •     53Unless resolved in mercy to the law
  •     54Their legislative licence to withdraw
  •     55And on a frugal plan without more words
  •     56[                                                ]
  •     57But whence yon swarm that loads the westren bridge3
  •     58Crams through the arch and bellys oer the ridge
  •     59—His Grace's watermen in open race
  •     60Are called to try their prowess with his Grace
  •     61Could aught4 but Envy now his pride rebuke?
  •     62—The cry is six to one upon the Duke.
  •     63St Stephen's5 distanced onward see him strive
  •     64Slap-dash, tail foremonst, as his arms shall drive.
  •     65With shouts the assembled people rend the skies.
  •     66—His Grace and his protection win the prize.6
  •     pg 17567—Now Norfolk set thy heralds to their tools
  •     68Marshal forth-with a pair of oars in gules.1
  •     69—Though yet the star some hearts at court may charm
  •     70The nobler badge shall glitter on his arm.
  •     71Enough—on these inferiour things
  •     72A single word on Kings and Sons of Kings
  •     73—Were Kings a free born work—a peoples choice
  •     74Would More or Henry boast the general voice?2
  •     75What fool besotted as we are by names
  •     76Could pause between a Raleigh and a James?3
  •     77How did Buchanan waste the Sage's lore!
  •     78—Not virtuous Seneca on Nero more.4
  •     79A leprous stain! ere half his thread was spun
  •     80Ripe for the block that might have spared his son
  •     81For never did the uxorious martyr seek
  •     82Food for sick passion in a minions cheek
  •     83To patient senates quibble by the hour
  •     84And prove with endless puns a monarch's power
  •     85Or whet his kingly faculties to chase
  •     86Legions of devils through a key-hole's space5
  •     87—What arts had better claim with wrath to warm
  •     88A Pyms brave heart or stir a Hamdens arm.6
  •     89But why for [       ] rake a distant age
  •     90Or spend upon the dead the muses rage
  •     91The nations hope7 shall shew the present time
  •     92As rich in folly as the past in crime
  •     93Do arts like these a royal mind evince!
  •     94Are these the studies that beseem a prince?
  •     95Wedged in with blacklegs at a boxers show
  •     96To shout with transport oer a knock-down blow
  •     pg 17697Mid knots of grooms the council of his state
  •     98To scheme and counterscheme for purse and plate.
  •     99Thy ancient honours when shalt thou resume
  •     100Oh shame is this thy service boastful plume
  •     101Go modern Prince at Henrys tomb1 proclaim
  •     102Thy rival triumphs—thy Newmarket fame
  •     103There hang thy trophies—bid the jockey's vest
  •     104The whip the cap and spurs thy praise attest
  •     105And let that heir of Glorys endless day
  •     106Edward the flower of chivalry survey
  •     107(Fit token of thy reverence and love)
  •     108The boxers armour the dishonoured Glove2

I have either lost or mislaid my Juvenal,3 therefore I cannot quote his words, what follows about Cicero might be parallelized by some lines about Andrew Marvel and Arpinas Alius i—e another Yorkshireman by Captain Cooke but most successfully by Drake.4 This you will at once perceive. The Decii may perhaps do as follows.

  •     109When Calais heard (while Famine and Disease
  •     110To stern Plantagenet5 resigned her keys)
  •     111That victims yet were wanting to assuage
  •     112A baffled conquerors deeply searching rage
  •     113Six which themselves must single from a train
  •     114All brothers, long endeared by kindred pain
  •     115Who then through rows of weeping comrades went
  •     116And self-devoted sought the monarch's tent
  •     117Six simple burghers—To the rope that tyed
  •     118Your vassal necks how poor the garter's pride!
  •     119Plebeian hands the [      ] mace have wrenched
  •     120From sovereigns deep in pedigree intrenched
  •     121Let grandeur tell thee whither now is flown
  •     122The brightest jewel of a George's throne
  •     123Blush Pride to see a farmer's wife produce
  •     124The first of genuine kings, a king for use
  •     ____________________________________________________________
  •     pg 177125Let Bourbon spawn her scoundrels
  •     126Be my joy the embryo Franklin in the printer's boy1
  •     127But grant
  •     128The bastard2 gave some favorite stocks of peers
  •     129Patents of Manhood for eight hundred years
  •     130Eight hundred years uncalled to other tasks
  •     131Butlers have simply broachd their Lordships casks
  •     132My Lady ne'er approachd a thing so coarse
  •     133As Tom—but when he helped her to her horse
  •     134A Norman Robber then &c &c.

My dear Wrangham—

Your letter was very acceptable. I have done wrong in not replying to it sooner; if precedents would excuse me I would follow Mr Pitt's rule and take them from my own conduct; you also might furnish me with some additional store. As to your promoting my interest in the way of pupils upon a review of my own attainments I think there is so little that I am able to teach that this scheme may be suffered to fly quietly away to the paradise of fools. Your verses are good but having lost my Juvenal I cannot compare them with the original. There is one weak line "Urged by avarices" &c and murderers shall die after whips racks and torture sounds weak.

Your poems What is become of them?3 It is no disgrace to a man in the moon not to know what is doing here below—and there [fore] do not think the worse of [me] because I have not heard of the[m] for we have neither magazine review nor any new publication whatever.

If your poems are published I should have liked to have had a copy. I have been employed lately in writing a tragedy the first draught of which is nearly finished. Let me hear from you very soon and I do promise not a Godwynian Montaguian Lincolnsonian4 promise that I will become a prompt correspondent. This letter will do as well as a collection of rebuses and enigmas.

As I suppose patience is a topic which you occasionally harangue from the pulpit I recommend it to you to put this letter in your pocket next Sunday and collecting your parishioners under the reading Desk or under the old yews in the church yard if more pg 178convenient (and giving it to them) set your arms akimbo and contemplate its open Christian, operation upon their tempers. God bless you adieu

W Wordsworth  

Basil is well

I was going to conclude but I have found another piece of blank paper. On the other side you will find or have found something about a promise to [be] faithful in writing to you. This I repeat in spite of Mr Pitt's additional duty.1 The copy of the poem you will contrive to frank, else ten to one I shall not be able to release [it] from the post office. I have lately been living upon air and the essence of carrots cabbages turnips and other esculent vegetables, not excluding parsely the produce of my garden—

The verses will do. Pray let me hear from you soon with a fresh supply and the whole copy. What I have sent you is some of it sad stuff, but there is enough to cut out.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2 Date conjectured from the postmark; misdated '1796' in EL, but corrected in LY, 1388.
Editor’s Note
3 When this letter was written, it was almost a year since W. W. notified Wrangham (Letter 59) that he would at once compose verses paralleling the last forty lines of Juvenal's eighth satire. The promised passage, now sent, was completed almost certainly in the spring or summer of 1796; and some time between that period and the date of this letter W. W., as he notes, lost his copy of Juvenal. W. W.'s and Juvenal's corresponding lines are as follows: W. W. 1–16 and Juv. 163 f.; W. W. 17 f. and Juv. 179 f.; W. W. 73–78 and Juv. 211–12; W. W. 109–18 and Juv. 254–8; W. W. 119–34 and Juv. 259–75.
Editor’s Note
4 Frederick Duke of York, second son of George III, was made a general in 1782, and in 1793 was sent out to the Low Countries in supreme command. After a disastrous campaign, in which the English force was defeated at Dunkirk, and expelled from Holland, he returned to England on 7 Feb. 1794. Moore and Partridge, the famous almanac makers and astrologers. Partridge (1644–1715) started his almanac in 1679 and by the end of the century was at the head of his profession. In 1707 Swift began his famous attacks upon him. Moore (1657–1715) started his almanac in 1699 to promote the sale of some pills. For a time he was an assistant to Partridge (EL).
Editor’s Note
1 Under 'tears' is written, possibly in Wrangham's hand, 'Dutch Mistresses'.
Editor’s Note
2 MS. Hulans.
Editor’s Note
3 Possibly Hugh Percy (1742–1817), 2nd Duke of Northumberland, whom George III blamed for having 'a peevish temper'.
Editor’s Note
4 Imprisonment in the hulks.
Editor’s Note
5 Percy became Knight of the Garter in 1788, joined the Prince of Wales's party in 1789, and was commissioned a general of the army in 1793.
Editor’s Note
6 Juv. 184: 'peiora supersint' and Hamlet, iii. iv. 147 (PW, i. 373).
Editor’s Note
7 In 1796 Lord Chief Justice Kenyon noted three peeresses who had faro tables at their houses: (1) Albinia, wife of George Hobart (1731–1804), 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire since Sept. 1793; (2) his niece Sophia (1768–1803), Countess of Mount Edgcumbe since Feb. 1795; and (3) Sarah (1741–1801), wife of Andrew, Lord Archer. They were caricatured as 'Pharaoh's daughters'. The Hobarts, when Hobart became earl, were reputed to have an annual income of £16,000, yet The Whig Club (1794) gossiped: 'Mrs H-b-t is now an assiduous votary at the shrine of Plutus. The title of B-k-h-s brought an accession of dignity without an accession of fortune, and to supply the deficiency of the latter she is liberal in prostituting the former. Twice a week a public faro bank is kept at her house; and the unfledged ensigns of the guards … with those unfortunate exiles from the rage of a democracy whose slender hoards are not totally exhausted are invited to contribute in a polite way to the establishment of this needy Countess.'
Editor’s Note
1 Under 'fool' is written, perhaps in Wrangham's hand, 'tympana = hurdy gurdy'. Hobart, before his elevation to the peerage, was 'a conductor of the opera-entertainment', and in June 1795 he and his wife took part in amateur theatricals at Brandenburgh House.
Editor’s Note
2 Scrub is the factotum of Lady Bountiful's household in George Farquhar's comedy The Beaux' Stratagem (1707); Bufo (buffoon) is a character in Pope's Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot; Bartholomew Fair in Smithfield was the scene of low-comedy entertainments.
Editor’s Note
3 Westminster Bridge.
Editor’s Note
4 MS. ought.
Editor’s Note
5 St. Stephen's Chapel (now Hall) in the Palace of Westminster.
Editor’s Note
6 If W. W. is referring to an actual race, the name of the peer in question has not come to light.
Editor’s Note
1 The office of Earl Marshal, which grants armorial bearings, is hereditary with the Dukes of Norfolk. In heraldry, gules is the colour red.
Editor’s Note
2 Sir Thomas More (1478–1535), appointed Lord Chancellor in 1529 by Henry VIII and beheaded for treason on the charge that he refused to obey the act by which Parliament in 1534 made Henry supreme head of the Church in England.
Editor’s Note
3 Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?–1618), executed for disobeying James I's command not to fight Spaniards during the Guiana Expedition (1617–18).
Editor’s Note
4 George Buchanan (1506–82), historian and scholar; James's tutor at Stirling Castle from 1569 to 1578.
Editor’s Note
5 An allusion to James's Demonology (1597).
Editor’s Note
6 John Pym (1584–1643) was member for Tavistock in the Long Parliament, where he led the attack on Charles I's attempts to rule arbitrarily. John Hampden (1594–1643) was chief opponent of ship-money in the Long Parliament, where he was member for Buckinghamshire.
Editor’s Note
7 George, Prince of Wales.
Editor’s Note
1 The chantry of Henry V in Westminster Abbey, which is decorated with his shield, saddle, and helmet.
Editor’s Note
2 Edward the Black Prince (d. 1376), whose effigy-tomb in Canterbury Cathedral contains reproductions of his gauntlets, helmet, shield, and scabbard.
Editor’s Note
4 The poet Andrew Marvell (1621–78) was born at Winestead in Holderness, Yorks.; Capt. James Cook (1728–79), the circumnavigator, at Marton in Cleveland, Yorks. Sir Francis Drake (1540?–96) was a Devon man.
Editor’s Note
5 In 1346, following the battle of Crécy, Edward III besieged Calais for a year.
Editor’s Note
1 Benjamin Franklin, 1706–90, the famous American writer and statesman, was apprenticed in youth to a printer (EL).
Editor’s Note
2 William the Conqueror.
Editor’s Note
3 See Letter 59.
Editor’s Note
4 Alluding to Lincoln's Inn, where Montagu had chambers.
Editor’s Note
1 A tax increasing the cost of postage was proposed in Pitt's budget of 7 Dec. 1796 and was voted the same day.
logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out