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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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1145. W. W. to HIS FAMILY

  • Address: Mrs Wordswoth, Rydal Mount, near Kendal, England.
  • Postmark: 13 July 1837.
  • Stamp: (1) Salzburg (2) London.
  • MS. WL.
  • K (—). LY ii. 874 (—)

  • [Salzburg]
  • [5 July 1837]

My dearest Friends,

Here we are at Salzburg having arrived this morning, and found, dearest Dora, your welcome letter. But I must go back; and speak about your letters. Mary, yours reached me at Venice, the day after I had written; one from Dora as I must have told you most fortunately the day I left Milan, so that in all I have received four; and shall confidently expect another when we reach Munich, where we shall not be for some little time, for Mr R. much to my regret talks of taking not less than a pg 422fortnight among what are called the Austrian Lakes not far from this place. I hope he will change his mind, as he has made so many sacrifices for me, I must make some for him. How thankful I am dear Dora that you are relieved from your suffering. Most earnestly do I pray that this may be the last of the kind you will have to suffer. Thank you again and again for your entertaining letter; and you dear Mary for yours, which brightened my stay at Venice. Our abode of six days would have been most delightful, but for two unlucky circumstances, the extreme heat of the weather and the smallness and aspect of my bedroom which during four nights (the two last I was able to procure a better) made me very uncomfortable indeed, endeavouring to sleep while I was actually in an oven. Our journey of six days or seven (Mr Robinson is out and he keeps the dates) from Venice through an Alpine country to this place has been charming; the weather though very hot sometimes for a few hours in the day mightily improved and my perspirations at an end. But I expect to have enough of them, when we get again into the plain country. But for your letters, I have received five, one from Mary at Rome date Brinsop April 17th one from Dora, Florence, another Milan, one from Mary, Venice, and lastly this of to day Salzburg. I began and wrote half of a letter at Venice but I thought it better not to finish it, and as it is now out of date I shall not send it. My health has been good, but certainly my Frame is weakened by the journey as I feel in many ways, as for instance the bodily exertion of rummaging in my trunk for something I wanted since I began this Letter, has brought a kind of cramp of pain to my stomach such as I have often felt upon like occasions but never used to have. This stomach weakness may be in part accounted for by the quantity of liquid which from extreme thirst I have been tempted to take, and it has been increased I will confess by the less excusable fault, the labour I have lately undergone in correcting a little Poem1 of 76 lines pg 423which I was tempted to write. This work disturbed or rather broke my rest for two or three nights when I might have had the benefit of the cool air of the Alpine country with sound sleep to recruit me. As these verses have cost me in this way more than they ought to have done I shall be much mortified if you do not like them and think them pretty good. I promise you solemnly that I shall attempt nothing of the kind again during this journey. The mistiming of meals, which is often unavoidable, and employment that would rob me of rest in the night are too much. As to over-hurrying, or rather mine, you are a good deal mistaken on this point. Six days apiece were quite enough for both Florence and Venice unless one had meant to make a study of the works of art there; so was the time we gave to all the other Italian cities unless we had had the same object. And as to posting, that, as our journey from Venice will shew, we have taken at leisure. Indeed I never wish to do otherwise except when the face of the Country is wholly uninteresting. I could write to you Volumes in the way of letters were I [to]1 touch upon all that I have seen felt and thought.

I have, however, to regret that this journey was not made some years ago,—to regret it, I mean, as a Poet; for though we have had a great disappointment in not seeing Naples, etc., and more of the country among the Apennines not far from Rome, Horace's country for instance, and Cicero's Tusculum, my mind has been enriched by innumerable images, which I could have turned to account in verse, and vivified by feelings which earlier in my life would have answered noble purposes, in a way they now are little likely to do. But I do not repine; on the contrary, I am very happy, wishing only to see all your dear faces again, and to make amends for my frequent bad behaviour to you all. Absence in a foreign country, and at a great distance, is a condition, for many minds, at least for mine, often pregnant with remorse. Dearest Mary, when I have felt how harshly I often demeaned myself to you, my inestimable fellow-labourer, while correcting the last Edition of my poems, I often pray to God that He would grant us both life, that I may make some amends to you for that, and all my unworthiness. But you know pg 424into what an irritable state this timed and overstrained labour often put my nerves. My impatience was ungovernable as I thought then, but I now feel that it ought to have been governed. You have forgiven me I know, as you did then, and perhaps that somehow troubles me the more. I say nothing of this to you, dear Dora, though you also have had some reason to complain.—But too much of this—I hope I shall be able to write the rest of this sheet more legibly as I have just been watering the ink which had got unmanageably thick as these few great blots shew. How sorry, dear Dora, I am for poor Mr Hallam;1 he had just been touring in the beautiful country where now we are before he lost his son so suddenly. Beautiful indeed this Country is; in a picturesque and even poetic point of view more interesting than most of what we have seen. It is something between the finest part of Alpine Switzerland and the finest parts of Great Britain; I mean in North Wales, Scotland, and our own region. In many particulars it excels Italy, I mean of course what I have seen of it; and also, greatly indeed, the south of France. The mountains are finely formed, and the Vales not choked up, nor the hillsides disfigured by the sort of cultivation which the sunshine of Italy puts thereupon—vines, olives, citrons, lemons and all kinds of fruit-trees. Yesterday we passed through a country of mountain, meadow, lawn, and the richest wood spread about with all the magnificence of an everlasting Park, such a character as we often find in England, but these things here are on so vast a scale compared with our landscapes. But I must not run on in this strain, but leave the rest of this sheet as you would wish Mary to Mr Robinson.2 How glad was I to have your account of my beloved Sister; oh my dear Sister do try to renew your love of pg 425Nature. How I wish I had you here for a few minutes, notwithstanding your love of your own Chair and your fire! Write to me at Heidelberg and that may be your last letter. Dora you shall hear of the time when I hope to be in town, as soon as I can come at all near a determination. You have never told me anything about the last Edition, how it has sold, how it is liked, and what John Carter thought of the printing of the latter part. But farewell and God bless you all and love to all the family every where and to all friends again farewell—I shall certainly write from Munich; and perhaps begin my Letter before.—

W. W.  

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 W. W. and H. C. R. had visited Assisi on 25 May (see Sadler, iii. 125), and Laverna three days later (See L. 1140 above). The first draft of The Cuckoo at Laverna (PW. iii. 218) was begun on 30 June (see HCR ii. 528), and later expanded into a poem of 112 lines by the addition of the passage about St. Francis (ll. 49–73). See L. 1261 below. 'It was at Laverna', H. C. R. later recalled, 'that he led me to expect that he had found a subject on which he would write; and that was the love which birds bore to St. Francis. He repeated to me a short time afterwards a few lines, which I do not recollect among those he has written on St. Francis in this poem. On the journey, one night only I heard him in bed composing verses, and on the following day I offered to be his amanuensis; but I was not patient enough, I fear, and he did not employ me a second time.' (Mem. ii. 330.)
Editor’s Note
1 Word dropped out.
Editor’s Note
1 Henry Hallam's son Arthur had died at Vienna on 15 Sept. 1833 (see pt. ii, L. 784).
Editor’s Note
2 H. C. R. adds a note at the foot of the letter: 'The only German inconvenience my friend suffers from is the necessity of choosing between a scanty coverlid that leaves his extremities both length and breadth bare or a suffocating feather bed that requires kneading and modelling to fit the body and keep on. He however, tho' perhaps he wont confess it, I believe really feels better than he did in Italy—for how else did it happen that the fit did not come on till he was got among the Alps and was homeward bound. A certain degree of repose of mind must have been the cause tho' you know it is not the effect of the exercise of verse making. You are to have the product from Munich, and will be well pleased with it I promise you …'
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