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William Wordsworth

Ernest De Selincourt and Alan G. Hill (eds), The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 4: The Later Years: Part I: 1821–1828 (Second Revised Edition)

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pg 4324. W. W. to H. C. R.

  • Address: To H. C. Robinson Esqre, Kings Bench Walk, Temple, London. [In M. W.'s hand]
  • Postmark: 13 Mar. 1821.
  • Stamp: Kendal Penny Post.
  • Endorsed: Wordsworth, Death of Scott in a duel.
  • MS. Dr. Williams's Library.
  • K (—). Morley, i. 98.

[c. 12 Mar. 1821]

My dear Friend

The Books arrived safe

You were very good in writing me so long a Letter, and kind after your own Robinsonian way in going to inquire after our long and far banished Little one.1 As we hear from himself never, and of him but seldom, we cannot but be at some times anxious, remembering the two sharp fits of illness which he had last Summer. You will be pleased to hear that the two ladies2 are busy in transcribing their Journals; neither of them have yet reached the point where you joined us, but many a spot where we all wished you had been with us, often, I own, from our want of an Interpreter, and not unfrequently from less selfish motives.—Your determination to withdraw from your Profession in sufficient time for an Autumnal harvest of leisure, is of a piece with the rest of your consistent resolves and practices. Consistent I have said, and why not rational—the word would surely have been added, had not I felt that it was awkwardly loading the sentence, and so truth would have been sacrificed to a point of Taste, but for after compunction. Full surely you will do well—but take time, it would be ungrateful to quit in haste a profession that has used you so civilly. Would that I could encourage the3 hope of passing a winter with you at Rome, about the time you mention, which is just the period I should myself select.—But the expense is greater than I dare think of facing, though five years hence the education of my eldest Son will be nearly finished; but in the mean time I cannot foresee how we shall be able to lay by any thing either for travelling, or other purposes.—Poor Scott!4 living in this solitude we have thought more about pg 44him, and suffered more anxiety and sorrow on his account, than you among the many interruptions of London can have leisure to feel. I do not recollect any other English Author's perishing in the same way. It is an Innovation the effect of others which promise no good to the Republic of Letters or to the Country. We have had ribaldry, and sedition, and slanders enough in our Literature heretofore, but no epithet which those periods deserved is so foul as that merited by the present, viz.—the treacherous. As to Scott he need not have lost his life, if the Coroners Inquest may be trusted but for the Intemperance and ignorance of his Second.1—At a proper time I should much wish enquiries to be made from myself after Mrs Scott,2 who must know that I was acquainted with her Husband. This perhaps you could assist me in effecting; in the meanwhile could you let me know how she bears her affliction, and what circumstances she is left in.

I have read Cornwall's Tragedy,3 and think of it pretty much as you seem to do. The feelings are cleverly touched in it; but the situations for exhibiting them, are produced not only by sacrifice of the respectability of the persons concerned, but with great, and I should have thought unnecessary violation of probability and common sense. But it does appear to me in the present late age of the world a most difficult task to construct a good tragedy free from stale and mean contrivances and animated by new and suitable Characters. So that I am inclined to judge Cornwall gently, and sincerely rejoice in his success.—As to Poetry I am sick of it—it overruns the Country in all the shapes of the plagues of Egypt—frog-poets (the Croakers) mice-poets (the Niblers), a class rhyming to mice that shall be nameless, and fly-poets. (Gray in his dignified way calls flies the 'Insect Youth',4 a term wonderfully applicable upon this occasion!) But let us desist or we shall be accused of envying the rising generation. Be assured however that it is not pg 45fear of such accusation which leads me to praise a Youngster who writes verses in the Etonian, to some of which our Cumberland Paper has introduced me, and some I saw at Cambridge. He is an Imp as hopeful I think as any of them—by name Moutray;1 if you should ever fall in with him tell him that he has pleased me much.—My Sister sends her2 very kind love, and expressions of bitter regret, (strong terms these but natural to Ladies!) that she did not see you at Cambridge where Mary and I passed thirteen days; and, though plagued by a severe cold, what with the company (but by the bye I saw very little of him) of my dear brother, our Stately appartments with all the venerable Portraits there that awe one in to humility, old Friends, new Acquaintances, and a thousand familiar remembrances, and freshly conjured up recollections, I enjoyed myself not a little.—I should like to send you a Sonnet3 composed at Cambridge, but it is reserved for cogent reasons—to be imparted in due time. I have been scribbling with an infamous pen, and we have no quills, which makes the further want of a penknife the less regretted.—Farewell happy shall we be to see you.

Congratulate Talfourd from me upon his new honours,4 and add a thousand good wishes.—Muley Moloch!5—unhappy London! pg 46Let Talfourd flagellate him when he becomes impertinent upon the Lake-School, i.e.

Love to the Lambs.

Wm Wordsworth  

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 i.e. Willy W.
Editor’s Note
2 i.e. M. W. and D. W.
Editor’s Note
3 the written twice.
Editor’s Note
4 John Scott (see MY ii. 237), editor of the London Magazine, had published a series of articles from May 1820 onwards attacking the criticisms of 'Z' in Blackwood's Magazine. John Gibson Lockhart (1794–1854), the chief object of his assault, was provoked into demanding satisfaction, and after fruitless negotiations a communication from Jonathan Henry Christie, a friend of Lockhart, led to a duel between Christie and Scott. They met at Chalk Farm on 16 Feb., James Traill acting as Christie's second, and P. G. Patmore (see below) as Scott's. Christie held his fire on the first occasion, but on the second fired in self-defence, and wounded Scott in the side. He died on 27 Feb. At the inquest, a verdict of wilful murder was returned, and Christie and Traill were tried at the Old Bailey on 13 Apr. and found not guilty. Patmore absented himself from the whole proceedings. He carried considerable responsibility for the final tragedy for not stopping the duel after the first shot.
Editor’s Note
1 Peter George Patmore (1786–1855), author and journalist, friend of Lamb and Hazlitt, father of Coventry Patmore: editor of the New Monthly Magazine from Theodore Hook's death in 1841 until the periodical was acquired by Harrison Ainsworth in 1853: author of the gossipy My Friends and Acquaintances, 3 vols., 1854. See RMVB, 1842.
Editor’s Note
2 She was Caroline, daughter of the printseller Paul Colnaghi (1751–1833), founder of the famous firm in Pall Mall. She and her two children were left penniless.
Editor’s Note
3 Mirandola. See L. 11 above.
Editor’s Note
4 Ode on the Spring, 1. 25.
Editor’s Note
1 John Moultrie (1799–1874), whom W. W. had met at Cambridge the previous December, won early renown for poems such as My Brother's Grave and Godiva contributed to the Etonian under the pseudonym of Gerard Montgomery in 1820–1; but he failed to live up to his early promise. At Trinity College, Cambridge, he forsook law for the Church, becoming rector of Rugby (1828) and a friend of Arnold. He published several volumes of verse and hymns; Altars, Hearths and Graves, 1854, included Three Minstrels (pp. 177 ff.), an account of his relations with W. W., S. T. C., and Tennyson. A complete edition of his Poems, with Memoir by Derwent Coleridge, appeared in 2 vols, in 1876.
Editor’s Note
2 her written twice.
Editor’s Note
3 One of the three sonnets on King's College Chapel.
Editor’s Note
4 Talfourd was called to the Bar on 10 Feb. 1821.
Editor’s Note
5 i.e. Thomas Samuel Mulock (1789–1869), a well-known eccentric who engaged in extensive religious controversy. He was in early life a partner in the firm of Mulock and Blood, whence the sobriquet 'Bloody Moloch'. Later this became 'Muley Moloch'—a reference to the Sultan Muli of Morocco (cf. Addison, Spectator, 349). Mulock's views on literary matters do not appear to have been of much importance if one may judge by Moore's opinion of a course of lectures he attended in 1820 at Geneva. (See Moore's Memoirs, iii. 166.) There the Wordsworths, Monkhouse, and H. C. R. met him during the Swiss tour of 1820. Mulock made himself very offensive to Monkhouse, and to H. C. R. 'began a disquisition on the character of Wordsworth's religious poetry, which he said he considered as Atheism and had been castigating in his lectures … . That rhapsodies about the beauties and wonders of nature were mystical nonsense—He aggravated this by professing the highest admiration of Lord Byron … . I was purposely rude and contemptuous. We saw him no more—W; used afterwards always to call him Muley Moloch.' (HCR i. 254; see also DWJ ii. 299.) This nickname was also used by Byron. See his letters to Murray, 1 Mar. 1820, and to Moore, 9 Dec. 1820. (Morley's note.)
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