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William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt, Alan G. Hill, and Mary Moorman (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 3: The Middle Years: Part II: 1812–1820 (Second Revised Edition)

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  • MS. untraced.
  • Gillies.
  • K (—). MY ii. 506, p. 609.

Rydal Mount Nov. 12. 1814

You are a most indulgent and good-natured critic, or I think you would hardly have been so much pleased with Yarrow Visited; we think it heavier than my things generally are, and nothing but a wish to show to Mr Hogg2 that my inclination towards him, and his proposed work were favourable, could have induced me to part with it in that state. I have composed three new stanzas in place of pg 168the three first, and another to be inserted before the two last, and have made some alterations in other parts; therefore, when you see Mr. Hogg, beg from me that he will not print the poem till he has read the copy which I have added to Miss E. Wilson's MSS,1 as I scarcely doubt, notwithstanding the bias of first impressions, that he will prefer it.

In the same MSS. you will find a sonnet addresed to yourself,2 which I should have mentioned before, but for a reason of the same kind as kept you silent on the subject of yours. I am not a little concerned that you continue to suffer from morbid feelings, and still more that you regard them as incurable. This is a most delicate subject, and which, perhaps, I ought not to touch at all, considering the slender knowledge which circumstances have yet allowed me of the characteristics of your malady. But this I can confidently say, that poetry and the poetic spirit will either help you, or harm you, as you use them. If you find in yourself more of the latter effect than of the former, forswear the Muses, and apply tooth and nail to law, to mathematics, to mechanics, to anything, only escape from your insidious foe. But if you are benefited by your intercourse with the lyre, then give yourself up to it with the enthusiasm which I am sure is natural to you. I should like to be remembered to Mr. Lappenberg,3 to Mr. Hogg, and our friends in Queen Street,4 of course. Mr. Sharpe,5 I hope, does not forget me. Adieu, most faithfully, and with great respect. Yours,

William Wordsworth.

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Editor’s Note
1 R. P. Gillies (1788–1858), poet and miscellaneous writer, had met W. in Edinburgh in the previous summer. He had just lost much of his fortune in a rash speculation: in 1825 he lost the rest of his money, and went to London in 1827 to edit the Foreign Quarterly; in 1847 he was in prison for debt, and W. helped him in his financial embarrassment. He had a great admiration for W., of whom he spoke as his 'unalterable friend'. His chief works were Childe Alarique, a poet's reverie with other poems (1813), Rinaldo, a desultory poem, and Illustrations of the Poetical Character in Six Tales (1816); a novel, Confessions of Sir Henry Longueville (1814), and Memoirs of a Literary Veteran, 1851.
Editor’s Note
2 James Hogg (1770–1835), the 'Ettrick Shepherd'. His Queen's Wake referred to in the next letter, was published in 1813.
Editor’s Note
1 Elizabeth Wilson was the sister of John Wilson ('Christopher North' of Blackwood's), who had formerly lived at Elleray on Windermere and was now in Edinburgh. He soon afterwards became a chief contributor to Blackwood's. The original manuscript of Yarrow Visited sent to Hogg is not extant. Hogg had requested his literary friends to supply him with material for a collection of poems, but instead he produced a book of parodies of modern poets (including Wordsworth) called The Poetic Mirror (1816). Yarrow Visited was published by Wordsworth in Poems, including Lyrical Ballads in 1815, the only poem arising out of his tour in Scotland in 1814 to be included in them.
Editor’s Note
2 'From the dark chambers of dejection freed'. See Oxf. W., p. 260.
Editor’s Note
3 Translator of several of W.'s poems into German.
Editor’s Note
4 i.e. John Wilson, his wife, mother, and sister.
Editor’s Note
5 Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe (1781–1851), antiquary, artist, and friend of Scott, lived in Edinburgh.
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