Jump to Content
Jump to chapter

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)

Find Location in text

Main Text

pg 10653. W. W. to CHARLES LLOYD1

MS. Cornell. Hitherto unpublished.

Feb 20th 1822

I begin this letter without the usual expressions of regard, because till I have explained myself, they might be understood not altogether as I could wish. You need not doubt that every one in this family, myself included, sympathized with you in the loss of your excellent parent,2 of whom probably too much could not be said, and we all thank you for the memorial which you have sent. The little volume you last sent to me, I have not read. The subject would at no period have interested me, and coming as it did in the wane of the trash that had just been scribbled by others, upon the character of Pope, I could not, from respect to your intellect, and from general disgust bring myself to the perusal.3 I am sorry you should have imagined that anything connected with myself as a literary person, could have given me offence. This is not an age, which will allow an author's feelings to be in that state without disgrace to his philosophy. I come now to the point—

From a wish to see certain writings of C. Lamb in the London Mag. a few numbers were procured: in one of them I found an abusive article, no doubt by Hazlitt,4 in which inferences were pg 107drawn to my prejudice from a trivial story, which, as I know from several quarters, you repeated at Keswick (observe not from Southey), but treating it then as neighbourly gossip I did not notice it. The same story must have passed from you to Hazlitt, a person who you knew was malignantly disposed towards Southey, Coleridge, and myself. The particulars upon which you grounded this misrepresentation came to your knowledge as a guest invited to my table, and therefore could not have been repeated in any miscellaneous society with a view to lower my character, without a breach of the rules of gentlemanly intercourse; but persuaded as I was that you had talked in this strain to the individual in question, I was disinclined to write untill I should be called upon to explain in sincerity my notion of this mode of dealing with one's friends. I will conclude the subject with a word. Such silly tales throw no light whatever upon the character they are brought forward to illustrate1—what light they may throw upon that of those who report, or listen to them, I should be loth to trouble myself to ascertain.

Be so good as to remember me affectly to your father, to Mrs Ll. pg 108and to your children, in whose welfare I shall always feel much interested, and I may now say that I remain my dear Lloyd with sincere truth and regard

  • affectionately yours      
  • W. Wordsworth.1    

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Charles Lloyd, who was still living in Kensington, had recently sent W. W. his Poetical Essays on the Character of Pope as a Poet and Moralist; and on the Language and Objects most fit for Poetry, 1821, and he wrote on 16 Feb. from a place called Woodfield to inquire why he had received no acknowledgement. 'I have feared that you were not quite pleased with my last little volume, as you have neither noticed its receipt, nor have we heard from any branch of your family since it was sent. Of its merit as a performance it is not for me to speak, but this I can truly say, that nothing in it was written with the slightest intention of displeasing you, indeed I am incapable of harbouring such a feeling towards you.' (WL MSS.) W. W.'s reply is quoted by Lloyd in the copy of their correspondence which he sent to Talfourd on 6 Mar. for his perusal and advice. See also Vera Watson, 'Thomas Noon Talfourd and His Friends', TLS 20 and 27 Apr. 1956.
Editor’s Note
2 Mrs. Mary Lloyd had died on 9 Dec. 1821. Lloyd's letter of 16 Feb. was written on a copy of the tribute he had composed to her memory.
Editor’s Note
3 W. L. Bowles's hostile Life of Pope, prefixed to his edition of 1806, stirred up a bitter controversy to which Campbell (in his Specimens of the British Poets, 1819), Hazlitt, and Byron all contributed. Lloyd's own Poetical Essays added to this prolonged debate on the rival claims of 'nature' and 'art' in poetry: had W. W. opened the book, he would have found himself criticized (p. 56) for confining the true subject-matter of poetry to the 'peasants'.
Editor’s Note
4 In 'Table Talk, No. XII—On Consistency of Opinion', London Magazine, iv (Nov. 1821), 485–92, in the course of attacking the apparent inconsistencies between W. W.'s early poetical creed and his recent stance in Westmorland politics, Hazlitt had illustrated W. W.'s 'impertinence' and 'ostentatious servility' with the following anecdote about Lloyd, W. W., and Lord Lowther, which he must have heard from Lloyd's own lips: 'A gentleman went to live, some years ago, in a remote part of the country, and as he did not wish to affect singularity he used to have two candles on his table of an evening. A romantic acquaintance of his in the neighbourhood, smit with the love of simplicity and equality, used to come in, and without ceremony snuff one of them out, saying, it was a shame to indulge in such extravagance, while many a poor cottager had not even a rush-light to see to do their evening's work by. This might be about the year 1802, and was passed over as among the ordinary occurrences of the day. In 1816 (oh! fearful lapse of time, pregnant with strange mutability), the same enthusiastic lover of economy, and hater of luxury, asked his thoughtless friend to dine with him in company with a certain lord, and to lend him his man-servant to wait at table; and just before they were sitting down to dinner, he heard him say to the servant in a sonorous whisper—"and be sure you don't forget to have six candles on the table!"' (Works, ed. Howe, xvii. 26–7.) W. W.'s version of what happened is reflected in M. W.'s indignant letter to Thomas Monkhouse, in which she attempted to set the record straight. W. W. had once snuffed out a candle at Brathay, 'after he had walked to see the reptile [i.e. Lloyd] thro' the darkness, and the glare hurt his eyes … The cant about the poor who only have a rush light, etc., is utterly false, as any one who knows Wm will know.' As for the dinner party, the servant was present to watch over and restrain Lloyd as his insanity increased, not to wait at table. Lord Lowther had brought his own servant for that purpose. (MW, p. 84.)
Editor’s Note
1 In his letter to Talfourd, Lloyd justified the publishing of such trifles about celebrities on the ground that 'people in trifles are less on their guard than in matters of greater importance, and that consequently the real character by means of them is often best detected … This is one instance of that want of truth of character, which in all that relates to self is perpetually conspicuous in W.'
Editor’s Note
1 Talfourd's efforts at mediation met with little success, but—as W. W.'s closing words suggest—there was no permanent breach with Lloyd, and they seem to have met again in 1827 when W. W. was staying with Charles Lloyd senior on his way through Birmingham.
logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out