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William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth

The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 5: The Later Years: Part II: 1829–1834 (Second Revised Edition)

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510. W. W. to C. W., JOHN WORDSWORTH, and C. W.JNR.

  • Address: The Revd Dr Wordsworth, Trinity Lodge, Cambridge. Single.
  • MS. British Library.
  • K (—). LY ii. 581 (—).

[mid-late Mar. 1830]

My dear Brother,

We all heartily congratulate you upon the academical success of your Son Christ: which gave us very great pleasure2—A fellowship it is to be hoped will come almost of course—

My Nephew John3 will have been a year at Hawkshead when Easter comes. I have written to Mr Sleigh4 the agent at Penrith for a Statement of the Accounts. When it is made out I shall be able to let you know what surplus there is, if any, to meet the pg 214expenses of his Education. I have paid his Bills up to Christmas, advancing the money. The £25 you were so kind as to offer may be remitted to Messrs Masterman and Co to be placed in my account with Wakefield's Kendal bank. John is but a poor learner, and what line of life will be best for him I cannot determine.—I have had a good deal of trouble lately with my Sub-disr at Keswick—a Bankrupt—but I hope I shall lose nothing. Our Friends, the Cooksons of Kendal, have had the bailiffs in their house; and their affairs are sadly disordered. There is more distress in this neighbourhood than has ever been known—but it is nothing compared with what is spreading elsewhere. The rest of this, that shall be for your Sons, only let me tell you that our excellent Sister is to appearance well—but certainly continues altogether unable to endure the exposure, and support the exertions she has been used to—so that she must long be managed as an Invalid. Dora is now at Keswick, on her way to Moresby. She writes that she is well—but says nothing of improved looks or better appetite, or gaining flesh, all of which she stood in need of when she left us a fortnight ago—The rest of us are well—I have myself been moving about a good deal twice on business—it is lucky for me that my engagements of that kind must of necessity lead me through a beautiful country. Last Friday I was called to Ulverstone; I went down Coniston Water side, and returned by Broughton up the Duddon, and over Wrynose. The Vale of Duddon I had never seen at this season, and was much charmed with it. Most of the Cottages are embowered in fir trees mixed with sycamore, and in laurel, which thrives luxuriantly in this sheltered vale, and at this season is most pleasant to look upon. John was my companion,—we parted 5 miles up the Duddon, he turning up over Birker Moor for Whitehaven. John takes cordially to his profession, is much respected, and having a good voice he is highly thought of as a Preacher. He does not appear to trust himself to the entire composition of Sermons; but he is very successful in curtailing, remodelling, and adapting to his Congregation the works of others, especially the old Divines. He has a logical head; a good judgement; and certainly was much benefited by his Oxford Education. Owen is happy as the day is long—an excellent Minister, and beloved by every one; so that we have great satisfaction in these two young men. Another of my excursions was of two days with the Secy and Solr of Stamps, whom their official duties had brought to Lancaster; they came on to the Lakes, and pleased to shew them a kindness, I went with [them] to Keswick, up Borrowdale, as far as Stonethwaite, and round by Lyulph's pg 215Tower, Patterdale, etc, You see how strangely I have dealt with my intention of giving the remainder of this Sheet to John and Chris: I might as well go on and let it be a joint Letter to you all. Dear Father and Sons! but to begin with Chris:—Your printed Quarto showed Us most agreeably your place in the Classical Tripos and your Cambridge Paper, your acquisition of the first medal. I should detest your honours if I thought they would cause you to love classical Literature less for its own sake when the stimulus of reading for distinction is withdrawn. But I have no apprehension of this fatal and too common result, in your case. You entertained me by your extract from Mr Le Bas's1 Letter. The Paper, on [             ]2 he alluded to I never read, but I

know it to be the last of a series written by that wretched Fribble Chauncey Hare Townsend, in all of which, except this concluding one, I was abused by Bell book and Candle; at a time that the Author was presenting himself at my Door as a Friend and cordially received as such. He hoped to remain concealed, but that was impossible—But too much of this—You are all far better employed than reading such trash; I will only add that if any one had hinted to me, while the publication of these Papers was going on that the Revd Cy H.T. was their author, I should have revolted from the suspicion as a slander upon human nature—

Dear John, what you tell us of Mr Rose's success as a Preacher is highly gratifying.3 He is a sincere devout Man, and, I suppose, very industrious. How honourable is it to your University that such crowds go to hear him! He is out, as you are out about Laodamia.4 No stanza is omitted. The last but one is however substantially altered. Hare5 disliked the alteration; but I cannot bring my mind to reject it. As first written the Heroine was dismissed to happiness in Elysium. To what purpose then the mission of Pro-pg 216tesilaus—He exhorts her to moderate her passion—the exhortation is fruitless—and no punishment follows. So it stood; at present she is placed among unhappy Ghosts, for disregard of the exhortation. Virgil also places her there—but compare the two passages and give me your opinion. Hare said, any punishment stopping short of the future world would have been reasonable—but not the melancholy one I have imposed as she was not a voluntary suicide. Who shall decide when Doctors disagree? Do not let your etymological researches1 interfere with your fellowship Studies. I rejoice, however, to hear that fellows of Colleges are so engaged. Were I a younger Man or had better eyes, I should be happy in being admitted as a Cooperator. Thus and thus only—can a tolerable Dictionary be produced. I am not surprized at your account of the Bp of London.2 I offended him with the freedom of my Letter upon [the] R. C. [Question]3 at least I infer so, as he did not answer it. It certainly was done in too great a hurry, and not sprinkled with complimentary expressions to himself, which he really deserved—I will shew you, my dear Brother, a copy of it. I find in it one clerical error of importance—the word papacy is often inconsiderately used for popes—this was owing to haste.—Dear Chris: put down Mr Southey's name as a Subr to the Moliere4—and charge me with the sum, let both be deducted from what your Father will have to remit for me to Mastermans. Willy has suffered from the severity of the winter at Bremen by heavy colds. Poor Fellow what am I to do with him when he returns—My paper is exhausted—Kindest love to all from all—

  • ever faithfully yours     
  • W. W.   

[D. W. writes]

I thank you heartily, my dear Nephew John, for your very cheerful and kind letter—I only wish in addition to the pleasant facts you communicate you had added that your Father and others had thoughts of visiting the North in summer. I often wish that your Uncle would resolve on a Trip to Cambridge this spring with pg 217Dora before the dispersion of Master and students—Kind love to all and congratulations to Chris.

  • Yours ever    
  • D. W.   

I have just been reading Milman's His. of Jews1—Such books are likely to do more harm than good: He makes wry faces at the Mosaic Miracles; and is anxious to explain as many as he can into natural phenomena. Better give up the whole at once—the whole character of Moses is damaged.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2 For C. W. jnr.'s academic successes, see L. 501 above. He was elected a Fellow of Trinity later this year. John Wordsworth wrote to his aunt D. W. from Trinity this month about his brother's success: 'If mitres are to be had twenty years hence, Chris I think in all human probability has as fair a chance of wearing one as anybody.' (British Library MSS.)
Editor’s Note
3 R. W.'s son, 'Keswick John', at present at Hawkshead School.
Editor’s Note
4 For Isaac Slee, see MY ii. 383.
Editor’s Note
1 The Revd. Charles Webb le Bas (1779–1861), Fellow of Trinity (1802), rector of St. Paul's, Shadwell (1812–43), mathematical professor and Dean in the East India College, Haileybury (1813–37), and Principal (1837–43): a High-Churchman of the old school, who frequently contributed to the British Critic, and wrote for H. J. Rose's 'Theological Library'.
Editor’s Note
2 MS. illegible—but the reference is clearly to C. H. Townshend's 'Essay on the theory and the writings of Wordsworth', in Blackwood's (see L. 498 above).
Editor’s Note
3 In his letter to D. W., John Wordsworth had described the success of H. J. Rose's sermons: 'He borrows largely from my uncle, I think I recognised today more than a dozen passages from the Excursion and the Sonnets. His admiration for my uncle's Poems is absolutely without bounds.' Rose, like Barron Field (see pt. i, L. 334) was compiling his own critical edition.
Editor’s Note
4 See PW ii. 267 ff. and app. crit. for the alterations in the 1827 edition to the last stanza but one, which W. W. goes on to justify. For W. W.'s debt to Virgil in the poem, see PW ii. 519.
Editor’s Note
5 For Julius Charles Hare see pt. i, L. 123.
Editor’s Note
1 According to John Wordsworth's letter, a new Etymological Society had been founded in Cambridge, 'for the illustration of the history of the English Language, and to fix the dates and trace the origin of its words'.
Editor’s Note
2 John Wordsworth was very critical of Blomfield, the Bishop of London, for his innovations and 'the overweening confidence which he has in his own udgment'.
Editor’s Note
3 MS. torn. The reference is to L. 416 above.
Editor’s Note
4 The proposed new edition mentioned in L. 501 above.
Editor’s Note
1 Henry Hart Milman (1791–1868), clergyman and poet, was rector of St. Mary's, Reading, from 1818 and Keble's immediate predecessor as Professor of Poetry at Oxford (1821–31). In 1835 he became rector of St. Margaret's, Westminster, and in 1849 Dean of St. Paul's. His History of the Jews (anon., 1829) caused something of a stir because it treated the Jews as an oriental tribe and played down the miraculous elements in sacred history. He went on to produce his History of Latin Christianity in 1855. W. W. got to know him later, and he visited Rydal Mount in 1843 and 1846 (RMVB).
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