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William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt and Mary Moorman (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 2: The Middle Years: Part I: 1806–1811 (Second Revised Edition)

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pg 237114. W. W. to WALTER SCOTT

  • Address: Walter Scott Esqre, South Castle Street, Edinburgh.
  • Endorsed: Wordsworth, 14 May 1808.
  • Stamp: Kendal.
  • MS. National Library of Scotland.
  • K (—). MY i. 336, p. 458e.

Grasmere May 14th 1808

My dear Scott,

It is now little less than three months since a Letter from you arrived at Grasmere; I was then in London where I continued 7 weeks; and should have written to you immediately had I not had reason to suppose, from several Quarters, that you were then expected in London every day.—This Letter announced that Marmion was on his way to Grasmere; and I fully expected him here to meet me on my return; and have waited from week to week hoping that I might announce his arrival to you; but alas! I have waited in vain: And I now think it high time to apprize you of our disappointment.——

Thank you for the interesting particulars about the Nortons; I shall like much to see them for their own sakes; but so far from being serviceable to my Poem1 they would stand in the way of it; as I have followed (as I was in duty bound to do) the traditionary and common historic records——. Therefore I shall say in this case, a plague upon your industrious Antiquarianism that has put my fine story to confusion.—

I have had a great anxiety since my return home. A Complaint has been going about the Country among young Children; and put on such a strange aspect in my eldest Son, that for two or three days we were afraid that he had gotten that dreadful, and I am afraid incurable malady, the Water in the Head. Our fears, which were indeed wretched, did, however, God be thanked, prove groundless. The Child is now well, but far from having recovered his fresh looks.—

Southey was in Town at the same time as myself, but out of health, as he always is in the smoke of London. He gave me confident hope of seeing you, and I was not a little disappointed that you did not come. At Longman's I dined once, and there I pg 238met your Friend Heber1, for the first time: I liked well what I saw of him, and wished to see more. Some curious Fishes were present, Sharon Turner2, for example, and, among others, a tag of Literature, a dry–salter of the name of Hill3, a proprietor of a periodical publication of which probably you never heard, entitled the Monthly Mirror; and of the existence of which I should also have been ignorant if a good natured Friend had not told me that I had the honour of being abused in it. The head of the table was illuminated by the sapient countenance of that sun of Literature, Artaxerxes Longimanus, and in opposition were exhibited the milder glories of a sister planet, Rees4 I believe being the name which he bears among mortals.—Upon the whole it was but a dull business, saving that we had some good haranguing, talk I cannot call it, from Coleridge.—

A distressing accident took place here during my absence; you perhaps might see a bald account of it in the papers. A poor man and his wife5, who had eight Children under sixteen years of age, and who had left six of them at home under the care of a girl of eleven, perished together upon the hills, in attempting to return from Langdale, one of the neighbouring valleys, to their own home in Grasmere. It is supposed that they had been bewildered by mist and snow, and perished by falling over the rocks. The bodies were found at no great distance from each other, and were buried in one grave in Grasmere Church–yard. This event has excited much compassion, and we have had a subscription for the Children by which I hope they will be benefited. The spring has burst out upon us all at once, and the Vale is now in exquisite beauty; a gentle shower has fallen this morning; and I hear the Thrush who has built in my Orchard, singing amain.

I return to Marmion, where do you think he can be detained? I might have read him in London, but I purposely declined, pg 239reserving the pleasure for the tranquillity of the Country. Pray write soon; and believe me, dear Scott, your sincere Friend

W. Wordsworth

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 i.e. The White Doe of Rylstone. Scott had supplied Wordsworth with historical information about the Norton family which conflicted with Wordsworth's chief source—the ballad of The Rising in the North in Percy's Reliques—in showing that the Nortons, far from being executed, as in W.'s poem, escaped overseas. See Lockhart, Life of Scott, ch. 16.
Editor’s Note
1 i.e. Richard Heber (1773-1833), brother of Reginald H. (1783-1826) the Bishop of Calcutta (with whom de Selincourt unaccountably confused him). Richard was a collector of books, and a learned antiquarian. He assisted Scott in compiling his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802).
Editor’s Note
2 Sharon Turner (1768-1847) author of The History of the Anglo-Saxons, 4 vols., 1799-1805, which W. W. afterwards consulted when he was writing Ecclesiastical Sketches in 1821, was a learned historian, though the later volumes of his history, which he carried down to 1603, are of less value than those dealing with the Anglo-Saxons.
Editor’s Note
3 Thomas Hill (1760-1840) was one of the friends and patrons of Bloomfield, author of The Farmer's Boy.
Editor’s Note
4 A partner in the firm of Longman with whom S. T. C. discussed the problems of publishing The White Doe of Rylstone. See Griggs, iii. 709, p. 115.
Editor’s Note
5 i.e. George and Sarah Green of Blentan Ghyll in Easedale. See L. 100.
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