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William Wordsworth, Sara Hutchinson

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 329156. W. W. and S. H. to THOMAS DE QUINCEY1

  • Address: Thos de Quincey Esqre, 89 G Titchfield Street, Cavendish Square, London.
  • Postmark: C. May 8 1809.
  • Stamp: Kendal.
  • MS. Miss Maud Craig.
  • Japp. K.MY i. 373, p. 298.

Grasmere 5th May, Friday evening [1809]

My dear Friend

The other day I wrote to Mr. Stuart, requesting him to look over the Pamphlet, previous to publication, for the express purpose of ascertaining whether it contained matter which would expose me to a prosecution in any of the courts of law; and I pointed out to him a passage which I deemed the most objectionable of any that occurred to me recommending, if he agreed with me, that the leaf should be cancelled. The passage is the one where I say, What greater punishment could there be 'than to have brought upon themselves the unremovabl econtempt and hatred of their countrymen'. As Wellesley is now at the head of the Army, it will be pleaded that it is very dangerous to circulate such opinions concerning men in such high stations. The blame, morally considered, belongs not to me for speaking thus of such a man, but to those who placed him in such high authority after his having given such flagrant proofs of unworthiness. But this I should derive no benefit from, if prosecuted. Therefore, though I left it to the discretion of Mr. Stuart to soften this passage or not, I am now decidedly of the opinion that it is much safer and more prudent to cancel the leaf, if the work be not already published. Let it stand something like this, just as it happens to suit: 'What punishment could be greater than the unalterable sentence already passed on them by the voice of their countrymen'. or any words to that effect to fill up the space. Pray do also, previous to the publication, confer with Mr. Stuart upon this question in general, and beg him to exercise his most deliberate judgment upon it.

I must apologize for making this application so late and unseasonably after all the trouble you have had; but if 'better late than never' be true in any case it is in a case like this. I am influenced chiefly by the consideration of Wellesley being now in so high a station which makes it I think imprudent, and even improper, to be said now—though it might have been very justifiable, if the saying of it would have had any tendency to prevent his having so pg 330many precious interests confided to his care. Thus far I Wm Wordsworth have employed Miss H. as my Amanuensis. She is now going to write a few words in her own person, and I retire from the Field, begging leave only to say that we have not seen the decree of the Junta about Saragossa, and should be glad to see it. Neither have we seen the private accounts about Lord Cockrane, but my first feeling [is] that that noble Hero would be greatly disappointed in the result, and I strongly suspected that, if the matter were investigated, heavy blame would be attached to Gambier for not having his Ships where they could be brought up in time. Nothing effectual can be done in cases of this sort without considerable risk: excessive caution in such cases is cowardice. farewell.

  • your very affectionate Friend      
  • W. Wordsworth   

P.S. [in the hand of W. W.] If the Pamphlet is bound up, the leaf must be cancelled.—

[Sara Hutchinson adds]

My dear Sir

We Females shall be very sorry to find that the pamphlet is not published for we have not the least fear of Newgate—if there was but a Garden to walk in we think we should do very nicely—and a Gaol in the Country would be quite pleasant—But, seriously, I hope that the passage may not be deemed objectionable, for another delay will be most provoking and put Mr. Baldwin1 out of all patience with you both.

I am glad to tell you that the workmen have begun to-day in good earnest with your Cottage—we have been down this morning superintending—and we expect that in less than a fortnight it will be ready for the Painters. Ned Wilson is to make the shelves. The Cabinet-maker said that mahogany would be very expensive, and of no use afterwards; for the shelves of bookcases were never made of any thing but deal or common wood. We are sure that all will be finished long before you arrive—even if William does not call upon you to attend him into Ireland—of which scheme Miss W. must have told you—namely, that her Brother is to attend me into Wales, and that Mr. Wilson is to follow us, and you join them at our House, and all proceed together.2

pg 331Mr. Jameson1 is to be in London in a few days and Miss Wordsworth will write to you by him. We are all very well—Catharine improves—John grows a better Scholar—and Thomas is quite the beauty—and much improved in his behaviour—One thing I forgot to say about your House, that if you leave it before your term, you must offer it first to me in case I should wish to go to housekeeping; for it is going to be made so neat that I shall no longer prefer Mr. Gill's cottage,2 upon which I had hitherto set my heart. Mr. and Miss W. are just going to set off for Ambleside where they expect to meet with a letter from you—God bless you!

  • very sincerely yours    
  • S. H.

P.S.—Could you bring those books of Mr. Coleridge's which were detained in London by Mr. Montagu? I ask because I suspect that he may never think about them himself, and I know that he wants Sir T. Browne's works especially. Mary desires her love to you, and advises you to leave this disagreeable office entirely to Mr. S., as you have had enough of the unpleasant.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1The whole letter is in the handwriting of S. H.
Editor’s Note
1 The bookseller of 37 Pater Noster Row.
Editor’s Note
2 These expeditions did not take place.
Editor’s Note
1 The Jamesons were an Ambleside family, not wealthy, but ambitious. One of them, Robert Jameson, later became, with the help of Basil Montagu, a barrister, and eventually a judge in Canada. At Ambleside he had been at school with Hartley Coleridge. His wife Anna Jameson was a writer of some merit; Wordsworth read her (anonymous) Diary of an Ennuyée (1826) and was surprised to find in it frequent quotations from his poems. See LY. i, p. 251. Robert Jameson deserted his wife and was not well thought of. They are frequently mentioned by Crabb Robinson in his Diary. See HCR i. 171, 262, 441, etc. An elder brother Joseph was ordained and was for over fifty years a minor canon of Ripon, where there is a large window to his memory. He died in 1875. It is their father who is referred to here.
Editor’s Note
2 'Gell's Cottage', on the western side of Grasmere Lake, may be meant. It is frequently mentioned by D. W. in her Grasmere journals.
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