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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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407. W. W. to H. C. R.

  • Address:H. C. Robinson Esqre, No. 3. Kings Bench Walk, Temple, London.
  • Postmark: [? 1829].
  • Stamp.: Kendal Penny Post.
  • Endorsed: 27 Jan. 1829. Wordsworth.
  • Prof: Wilson, De Quincey, His other Critics.
  • MS. Dr. Williams's Library.
  • K (—). Morley, i. 199.

  • 27th Janry [1829]
  • Rydal Mount

My dear Friend

What an odd view do you take of the stability of human life! 'I accept your invitation'—these words set us all agog—we looked for you in ten days at most—then comes—'after my return from Germany—from Italy—and the Holy Land'—but that did not follow—as it well might have done.—Within the course of the last fortnight I have heard of the death of two among the most valued pg 16of my Schoolfellows—Godfrey Sykes,1 Sol: of the Stamp Off.—and Mr Calvert,2 probably unknown to you by name—So we are thinned off—but you live in the light of Hope—and you are in the right as long as you can—but why not run down for a fortnight or three weeks—we should be so glad to see you!—and really the absence you talk of is a little formidable to a man so near 60 as I am.— —About ten days ago I had a pop visit of ten minutes from Courtenay the Barrister,3 who had been at Cockermouth Sessions—I recurred to the Law-life Insurance—which you will recollect we all talked about together, he continues to affirm that it is a most excellent Investment.—Now I am expecting every week a Legacy of 160 to Mrs Wordsworth. I dont wish to touch this money—but should like to make it up to 200—and invest it in this way for her benefit—in case of my demise. Mr C—says that no interest will be received for 4 or five years—and you will recollect that you offered to lend your name; as the Insurance must be in the name of some Barrister, whose honor may be depended upon. Will you be kind enough to call upon him, 23 Montagu street, Russel Square—and settle the affair with him—if you deem it an eligible thing, of which I suppose there is little doubt—the money shall be forthcoming at Masterman's Bank, as soon as required—Should you disapprove of the intended Insurance, pray let me know with your reasons—

I had a Letter the other day from Mr Richard Sharp4 of the Corner of Park Lane Upper Grosvenor street, and of Mansion house place—about business—which I was obliged to reply to in so great a hurry—that I overlooked a notice of my Son's Station upon the list of Candidates for the Athenæum. I do not like to trouble him with another Letter till I have an opportunity of a Frank—which may not be shortly—therefore should you be passing either of these doors—but not else, will you be kind enough to step in—and leave upon a slip of paper—that my Son being beneficed in Cumberland—there is no probability of an Election to the Athenæum being of the least use to him—so that his name may be removed from the list of Candidates.—I shall have a Letter to Mr Sharp, to this effect ready for the first opportunity.

pg 17I have seen the Article in Blackwood alluded to in your last1—it is undoubtedly from the pen of Mr Wilson himself. He is a perverse Mortal,—not to say worse of him. Have you peeped into his Trials of Margaret Lyndsay2—you will there see to what an extent he has played the Plagiarist—with the very tale of Margaret in the Excursion, which he abuses—and you will also, with a glance learn, what passes with him for poetical Christianity—more mawkish stuff I never encountered.—I certainly should think it beneath me to notice that Article in any way—my Friends and admirers I hope will take the same view of it. Mr W's pen must be kept going at any rate—I am at a loss to know why—but so it is—he is well paid twice as much, I am told as any other Contributor—In the same number of Blackwood is an Article upon Rhetoric, undoubtedly from De Quincey.3 Whatever he writes is worth reading—there are in it some things from my Conversation—which the Writer does not seem aware of.—Last week I passed with Southey—well (except for a Cold) and busy as usual. He is about to publish a book, two volumes of Dialogues—between the Ghost of Sir Thomas More—and Montesino—himself4—It is an interesting work—and I hope will attract some attention. But periodicals appear to have swallowed up so much money—that there is none left for more respectable Literature.—You advert to Critics that dont deal fairly with me5—I do not blame them—they pg 18write as they feel—and that their feelings are no better they cannot help. The older part of Critics like Gifford1 had he been alive, have their classical prejudices and for the younger—I am not poetical enough, they require higher seasoning than I give.

Dont mind Franks in writing to me—that is never put off because you have not a Cover—I wish I had one for you—but here they are rarely to be had.


Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 See pt. i, L. 31.
Editor’s Note
2 William Calvert. See L. 403 above.
Editor’s Note
3 Philip Courtenay, W. W.'s financial adviser.
Editor’s Note
4 Richard Sharp had written on 17 Jan. to say that he had put John W. up for election to the Athenaeum, and he raised the matter again in a letter of the 28th (WL MSS.). Early in 1827 W. W. had asked that his son's name be put forward (see pt. i, L. 279).
Editor’s Note
1 In his letter of 31 Dec. (Morley, i. 197), H. C. R. had drawn attention to John Wilson's article on 'Sacred Poetry' in Blackwood's Magazine, xxiv (1828), 917–38 (repr. in revised form in Recreations of Christopher North, 3 vols., 1842): 'He argues that having so intense a love of nature and so devout a Sentiment towards the God of Nature, you cannot be a Christian because in your earlier works you were silent about Christianity—And because the little you have said in your later writings has been merely in praise of the Church of England and in fact worse than nothing.' In his article, which was ostensibly a review of James Montgomery's Christian Psalmist and Christian Poet and Keble's Christian Tear, Wilson was particularly critical of the absence of revealed religion as a vital force in the tale of Margaret in The Excursion.
Editor’s Note
2 Wilson's novel, The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay, appeared in 1823.
Editor’s Note
3 'Elements of Rhetoric by Dr Whateley', Blackwood's Magazine, xxiv (1828), 885–908; repr. in De Quincey's Works (ed. Masson), x. 81–133.
Editor’s Note
4 Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, a series of dialogues between himself and the ghost of More, was published by Southey in 2 vols. in 1829. The book is written in the first person (as Morley notes), but More on first appearing, addresses the author as Montesinos, and the name is used throughout the dialogue. For Montesinos see Don Quixote, ii. xxii, xxiii. He was a legendary hero who retired in dudgeon to a cave in La Mancha, called the Cavern of Montesinos. There Don Quixote fell into a trance, in which he believed he saw Montesinos and others under the spell of Merlin.
Editor’s Note
5 'I will quarrel with no one who prefers the style of the Lyrical Ballads to that of your later poems', H. C. R. had written, 'but I have no patience with those who affecting to refuse the character of poetry to those works, now are quite silent at the appearance of the later poems—This is manifest unprincipled dishonesty.' (Morley, i. 197.)
Editor’s Note
1 William Gifford (1756–1826), first editor of the Quarterly Review, 1809– 24.
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