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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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pg 18266. W. W. to R. W.

  • Address: Mr Wordsworth | Staple Inn | London
  • Postmark: 10 May 1797.
  • Stamp: Crewkhern.
  • MS. WL. LY, 1335.

Racedown 7th May [1797]

Dear Richard

Your shirts are begun today, and shall be dispatched as fast as possible.1 We shall not be able to make as good as we could wish as the whole house is indisposed. Dorothy has been very ill upwards of a fortnight and I cannot say that she is much better. As to the money of mine which Montague and Douglass2 have in their pg 183hands, it amounts to 500£, 300£ secured upon annuity, as you know, 200£ was lent to Douglass in January 96. Of this 200£ 100£ was paid to Montague about the month of December last by Douglass. It was at that time Montague was to have it in readiness for me as I expected the rest of the legacy to be paid to me by Calvert and it was my wish to have the whole laid out in annuity about that time. The other 100£ continues in the hands of Douglass. For the whole 200£ I have no other security but a promissory note of which I will give you an exact copy. It is upon a two shillings stamp.

London July 2nd 1796

On the First day of January 1797 We promise to pay to William Wordsworth Esquire, or his order, the sum of two hundred and twenty pounds value received.

Witness our hands

Charles Douglass


Basil Montague

I suppose in a court of justice this note would have no other effect but that of exposing me to a prosecution for usury, as I could shew no valuable consideration for this note but the 200£ lent at such a time. I have a letter from Douglass, letting me know that I shall be repaid the 100£ which he has on the 1st of January next. Montague pays me interest for the one in his possession. It was continued there from an expectation of the rest of the legacy immediately being forth-coming. The interest of the above 500£, including 30£ for the annuity, and 20£ for the 200£ I have received, the former up to the 1st of October last, and the latter up to the first of January last exclusive of 13£ which I am to receive in a few days. So that you will see I have received no interest since the annuity took the shape that it now has, that is, since [it] was secured as it now is. To state it again. From October 95 to October 96 Montague had 300£ of mine in a sort of an irregularly secured annuity for which I have received ten per cent. This new bond of annuity is dated the 17th of August that is more than a month before the interest would have become due according to the terms of the old agreement. The other security which you have, namely Mr Montague's bond dated the 20th of Janry 96 for the payment of 200[£] and interest on demand relates to the same 200£ for which I have the note signed by Montague and Douglass, dated July 2nd 96, of which I have given you a copy. Upon consideration it appears to me that this joint note of which I have been speaking is of an usurious nature, therefore the only security to be depended upon for the payment of this 200£ is the bond of Montague dated pg 18420th Janry 96 in your possession. Let me have your opinion upon this subject. If it is as I state it will be proper to have a promissory note from Douglass for 100£ with interest to be paid the 1st Janry 98 and another note from Montague for the 100£ in his possession to the same purpose. In this case I trust to the honour of each, (if there can be any honour amongst usurers) for the payment of the additional interest. As for the 7. 10. 6, the annual premium for the insurance, which you have paid, it must be repaid you by Montague, the annuity being 37. 10, of which I calculate upon only 30£ being paid to me. At any rate you must be repaid. I beg particularly that you would read thus far of my letter to Montague.

As to the other sums which you have advanced on my account for the linen &c you should have been repaid immediately if I had not been disappointed in my settlements with Calvert, which has reduced my income much lower than I had reason to expect. If it were all properly settled my expenses would fall within my receipts. Every thing has been very dear for house-keeping this season; we can get no meat under 6d. and Tea and Sugar, our only luxuries, are rising.

I have just received a letter from Robinson Wordsworth. He states that he had applied to my uncle's trustees to supply him with 250£ to prepare house &c as he is going to be married.1 They replied to him that his request could not be complied with as his father's money is secured in the funds, but they recommended it to him to apply to me. These are his words "I therefore request that you will have the goodness to use your utmost endeavours to procure the above sum and either pay it into the hands of our Trustees or remit it to me, and they will give you a receipt therefor as part of what is now owing by you to our family.["] I do most ardently wish that these matters were settled. Has any thing been done with respect to my Uncle Crackanthorpe? This claim of Robinson certainly must be attended to. Do let me know what is the best that can be done. Do not fail to write to me upon this subject. Were you at Whitehaven when you were in the North? Did you see my Uncle Crackanthorp? Could 150£ or 200£ be paid by way of pacifying them for the present and shewing that we have a disposition to be just? This would not interfere with our settling with Richard Wordsworth.2 Tell Birtwistle I have received pg 185his letter and will take care that he shall be paid for his newspapers within three weeks.1 The sum is larger than I expected. Desire him also to be so good as to consider if this new tax be not laid upon newspapers whether he cannot contrive to send me a daily paper (I care not if it is five days old provided it come regularly) for five and twenty shillings or a guinea and a half at the most. John did not give us his address when he wrote nor say that he expected to hear from us, so that we concluded he was sailed. We will write to him at Portsmouth.

Poor little Basil has been very ill. Dorothy has got a very bad cough and I a terrible cold.

Do be so good as to write soon.

Dorothy begs her love. Believe me dear Richard

  • your affectionate Brother    
  • W Wordsworth  

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 In the draft of a letter dated 3 May R. W. had written:
'Dear William
'Be so good as to give my best thanks to Dorothy for her letter about the shirts. I have put on the half sheet a proper measure for the Wrists and Collar which I hope she will understand. I should wish the Bodies of the shirts to be a tolerable good length. I wear loose Buttons at the Wrists. I will thank you to send me half a Doz. of the shirts as soon as they are finished. I am in great want.
'I should wish to be informed by you as soon as possible how your affairs and accounts stand with Montagu [and] Douglas. I wish to have an acct. from you of what you have advanced to either of them and what securities you hold and what you have reced from either of them for Interest. I would advise you by all means to keep a clear regular Ac[coun]t D[ebto]r and C[redito]r between yourself and them. It is absolutely necessary that you shd. do so and that you should not trust too much to Memory. I paid £8. 14. for the Premium and policy of Assurance on the Annuity with Montagu—besides the stamp—I sent you an acct. of what I paid for the linen for your shirts. How am I to be repaid these and other sums?
'The securities which I have belon[gin]g to your acct. [are] as follows vizt. Mr Montagu's Bond dated the 20th Janry 1796 to you for the paymt of £200. and Interest on Demand.
'Mr. Montagu's, Mr Charles Douglas and Mr Francis Wrangham's joint Bond dated the 17th of Augt. 1796 for the paymt of an Annuity of £37. and 10. by half yearly paymts on the 1st day of Novr and the 1st day of May yearly in equal Proportions during ye life of Mr Montagu, £300 being the Consideration of that annuity money lent on the 1st Septr. 1796. Policy of Insurance No. 16209 on Mr Montagus life for £300. The paymt. of £7. 10. 6 the annl. premium for this Assurance becomes due the 31st Augt in every Year.
'I reced a l[ett]er from John this morning dated from the Downs the 1st Inst. he expects to sail for Portsmouth immediately. They are destined for Madras and Bengal. He has expressed a great uneasiness at never hearing from you or Dorothy. I have not seen much of him he has been constantly engaged since he came into England, and he has scarce had a Day to himself. It is material to him that he should go a Voyage this season in order that he shd. return before Captn. Wordsworth sails again.'
Editor’s Note
2 Charles Douglas (1772–1806), fourth son of Charles James Sholto Douglas, collector of customs, of Clermont, Jamaica. He matriculated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, at Michaelmas 1792, was admitted at the Inner Temple on 16 June 1792, and was called to the Bar in 1798. His cousin Charles Douglas (1777–1837) became 6th Marquess of Queensberry.
Editor’s Note
1 Since Jan. 1796 Robinson W. had been collector of customs at Harwich. On 7 Aug. 1797 he married at Ipswich Caroline Matilda, daughter of John Forth and his wife Mary Ann.
Editor’s Note
2 W. W.'s cousin, the attorney, of Cockermouth and Branthwaite.
Editor’s Note
1 Richard Birthwistle, linen-draper, whose London address was 35 Oxford Street in 1795. R. W.'s accounts with W. W. show payments to Birthwistle on 23 May 1796 for a tailor's bill and goods.
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