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William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth

The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. 6: The Later Years: Part III: 1835–1839 (Second Revised Edition)

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1135. W. W. to HIS FAMILY

  • Address: Mrs Wordsworth, Brinsop Court, near Hereford, Angleterre.
  • Postmark: (1) 8 April 1837 (2) 14 Apr. 1837. Stamp: Toulon-sur-Mer.
  • MS. WL.3
  • K (—). LY ii. 845 (—).

Toulon 8th April [1837]

My dearest Friends,

I will ask a few questions first. How are you dearest Mary in health—How is the pain in your chest and from the dropsical pg 388swellings, and Dora! How is every one at Rydal Mount, you my dearest Sister, and Joanna and Isabella and all friends at Brinsop, and the servants, all friends, Mrs Luff Mr Carr Mr Carter etc and Mary in particular. Tell me about these things whatever you write. And write again a la Poste Restante a Rome. I should have written particulars at Lyons but for a horrid cold in my head and nose and eyes which I caught on crossing the mountain Tarare 3000 feet high between the country of the Loire and the Rhone. This cold quite blinded me with streaming eyes, and took away the strength of which I was so proud. I am now recovering, but I have not yet learned the art of managing myself as to eating and drink. The diet varies so much and the strength of the wine differs so much in different places, that I have suffered from headach; my wish would be to confine myself to milk with coffee or chocolate but milk I find binds the body; but no more of this, if anything serious happens to the health of either of my eyes I shall [? starve]. Upon the whole in despite of the coldness of the season such as has not been known for a century, we have had a great deal of enjoyment; but the annoyance has been great also. I will just mention what pleased me most. The day at Vaucluse,1 where I was enchanted with the power and beauty of the stream, and the wildness and grandeur of the rocks, and several minor beauties which Mr R. has not noticed, and which I should have particularised but for this blinding cold. I was much pleased with Nismes, with Marseilles, but most of all with the drive between Marseilles and Toulon, which is singularly romantic and varied. From a height above Toulon, as we approached, we had a noble view of the purple waters of the Mediterranean, purple no doubt from the state of the atmosphere; for at Marseilles, where we first saw it, the colour was not different from the sea of our own Island. At Nismes the evening was calm, the atmosphere unusually clear, and the air warm, not from its own temperature, but from the effect of the sun. I there first observed the stars, as appearing brighter and at a greater variety of depths, i.e. advancing one before the other more than pg 389they do with us.—I could mention a hundred little things that have interested me, and all of which would have been recorded, but for the bitter cold in my fingers, and streaming eyes.—One of the few promises of summer which we have had is the peach-blossom abundantly scattered over some parts of the country, and very beautiful, especially when neighboured by the cypress, a tree that is plentiful in this part of the south of France. We cannot thus far have been said to be unlucky except in being obliged to post from Lyons to Avignon instead of floating down the Rhone which would have been delightfully done except for the bad weather on one day and at less expense a good deal whereas it took better than two days. Our Carriage has stood the journey capitally;—Mr Courtenay gave us a calculation of expenses thus, 180 days at 1 pound 1. £200; living expenses (they don't amount to so much as we find); carriage duty etc 35—2500 miles travelling at 1 shilling per mile 125, but we shall probably have to go much farther, perhaps 700 miles; extras 10 shillings per day 90 pounds, for unforeseen contingencies 50 pounds, in all 500—but for the one great mistake as to distance, and barring serious accident to the carriage, or illness, this calculating would somewhat exceed the requisite Sum.

We have escaped the Gripe by which 6000 people in Marseilles alone have suffered, of the cholera we hear nothing. It is rather fortunate that yesterday my 67th birthday was decidedly the most impressive and agreeable since we left Paris though no part of it equal to the two hours at Vaucluse and one hour of Nismes. Vaucluse was to me worth 50 perusals.

[        ] to be able to say that I have learned the art of managing myself as to diet [        ]1


Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
3 Enclosed with this letter is one from H. C. R. to M. W., describing their itinerary.
Editor’s Note
1 'Wordsworth was strongly excited, predetermined to find the charm of interest, and he did. There is no verdure, but perhaps on looking more closely Petrarch may not have praised his retreat either for shady groves or meadows—and the stream of the Sorgues is eminently beautiful.' (HCR ii. 517).
Editor’s Note
1 MS. illegible.
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