The Prose Works of William Wordsworth
by William Wordsworth
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Mr. Coleridge, I understand, has written to you several times lately; so of course he will have told you when and why he left us. I am glad he did, as I am sure the solitary part of his tour did him much the most service. He is still unwell, though wonderfully strong. He is attempting to bring on a fit of the gout, which he is sure will relieve him greatly. I was at Keswick last Sunday and saw both him and Mr. Southey, whom I liked very much. Coleridge looks better, I think, than when you saw him; and is, I also think, upon the whole, much better. Lady Beaumont will be pleased to hear that our carriage (though it did not suit Mr. Coleridge, the noise of it being particularly unpleasant to him) answered wonderfully well for my sister and me, and that the whole tour far surpassed our most sanguine expectations.

They are sadly remiss at Keswick in putting themselves to trouble in defence of the country; they came forward very cheerfully some time ago, but were so thwarted by the orders and counter-orders of the ministry and their servants, that they have thrown up the whole in disgust. At Grasmere, we have turned out almost to a man. We are to go to Ambleside on Sunday to be mustered, and put on, for the first time, our military apparel. I remain, dear Sir George, with the most affectionate and respectful regard for you and Lady Beaumont,

Yours sincerely, W. WORDSWORTH.

My sister will transcribe three sonnets,[19] which I do not send you from any notion I have of their merit, but merely because they are the only verses I have written since I had the pleasure of seeing you and Lady Beaumont. At the sight of Kilchurn Castle, an ancient residence of the Breadalbanes, upon an island in Loch Awe, I felt a real poetical impulse: but I did not proceed. I began a poem (apostrophising the castle) thus:

Child of loud-throated war! the mountain stream Roars in thy hearing; but thy hour of rest Is come, and thou art silent in thine age;

but I stopp'd.[20]

[19] Written at Needpath, (near Peebles,) a mansion of the Duke of Queensbury: 'Now as I live, I pity that great Lord,' &c. (Memorials of a Tour in Scotland, xii.) To the Men of Kent: 'Vanguard of Liberty, ye Men of Kent.' [Poems dedicated to National Independence and Liberty, xxiii.] Anticipation: 'Shout, for a mighty victory is won!' (Ibid, xxvi.) &c. If you think, either you or Lady Beaumont, that these two last Sonnets are worth publication, would you have the goodness to circulate them in any way you like. (On various readings in these Sonnets, see our Notes and Illustrations. G.)

[20] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 260-4, with important additions from the original. G.


Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.

Grasmere, July 20. 1804. DEAR SIR GEORGE,

Lady Beaumont in a letter to my sister told her some time ago that it was your intention to have written to me, but knowing my aversion to letter writing you were unwilling to impose upon me the trouble of answering. I am much obliged to you for the honour you intended me, and deeply sensible of your delicacy. If a man were what he ought to be, with such feelings and such motives as I have, it would be as easy for him to write to Sir George Beaumont as to take his food when he was hungry or his repose when he was weary. But we suffer bad habits to grow upon us, and that has been the case with me, as you have had reason to find and forgive already. I cannot quit the subject without regretting that any weakness of mine should have prevented my hearing from you, which would always give me great delight, and though I cannot presume to say that I should be a punctual correspondent, I am sure I should not be insensible of your kindness, but should also do my best to deserve it.

A few days ago I received from Mr. Southey your very acceptable present of Sir Joshua Reynolds's Works, which, with the Life, I have nearly read through. Several of the Discourses I had read before, though never regularly together: they have very much added to the high opinion which I before entertained of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Of a great part of them, never having had an opportunity of studying any pictures whatsoever, I can be but a very inadequate judge; but of such parts of the Discourses as relate to general philosophy, I may be entitled to speak with more confidence; and it gives me great pleasure to say to you, knowing your great regard for Sir Joshua, that they appear to me highly honourable to him. The sound judgment universally displayed in these Discourses is truly admirable,—I mean the deep conviction of the necessity of unwearied labour and diligence, the reverence for the great men of his art, and the comprehensive and unexclusive character of his taste. Is it not a pity, Sir George, that a man with such a high sense of the dignity of his art, and with such industry, should not have given more of his time to the nobler departments of painting? I do not say this so much on account of what the world would have gained by the superior excellence and interest of his pictures, though doubtless that would have been very considerable, but for the sake of example. It is such an animating sight to see a man of genius, regardless of temporary gains, whether of money or praise, fixing his attention solely upon what is intrinsically interesting and permanent, and finding his happiness in an entire devotion of himself to such pursuits as shall most ennoble human nature. We have not yet seen enough of this in modern times; and never was there a period in society when such examples were likely to do more good than at present. The industry and love of truth which distinguish Sir Joshua's mind are most admirable; but he appears to me to have lived too much for the age in which he lived, and the people among whom he lived, though this in an infinitely less degree than his friend Burke, of whom Goldsmith said, with such truth, long ago, that—

Born for the universe, he narrowed his mind, And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.

I should not have said thus much of Reynolds, which I have not said without pain, but because I have so great a respect for his character, and because he lived at a time when, being the first Englishman distinguished for excellence in the higher department of painting, he had the field fairly open for him to have given an example, upon which all eyes needs must have been fixed, of a man preferring the cultivation and exertion of his own powers in the highest possible degree to any other object of regard. My writing is growing quite illegible. I must therefore either mend it, or throw down the pen.

How sorry we all are under this roof that we cannot have the pleasure of seeing you and Lady Beaumont down this summer! The weather has been most glorious, and the country, of course, most delightful. Our own valley in particular was last night, by the light of the full moon, and in the perfect stillness of the lake, a scene of loveliness and repose as affecting as was ever beheld by the eye of man. We have had a day and a half of Mr. Davy's company at Grasmere, and no more: he seemed to leave us with great regret, being post-haste on his way to Edinburgh. I went with him to Paterdale, on his road to Penrith, where he would take coach. We had a deal of talk about you and Lady Beaumont: he was in your debt a letter, as I found, and exceedingly sorry that he had not been able to get over to see you, having been engaged at Mr. Coke's sheep-shearing, which had not left him time to cross from the Duke of Bedford's to your place. We had a very pleasant interview, though far too short. He is a most interesting man, whose views are fixed upon worthy objects.

That Loughrigg Tarn, beautiful pool of water as it is, is a perpetual mortification to me when I think that you and Lady Beaumont were so near having a summer-nest there. This is often talked over among us; and we always end the subject with a heigh ho! of regret. But I must think of concluding. My sister thanks Lady Beaumont for her last letter, and will write to her in a few days; but I must say to her myself how happy I was to hear that her sister had derived any consolation from Coleridge's poems and mine. I must also add how much pleasure it gives me that Lady Beaumont is so kindly, so affectionately disposed to my dear and good sister, and also to the other unknown parts of my family. Could we but have Coleridge back among us again! There is no happiness in this life but in intellect and virtue. Those were very pretty verses which Lady Beaumont sent; and we were much obliged to her for them.

What shocking bad writing I have sent you; I don't know [how] it is, but [it] seems as if I could not write any better.

Farewell. Believe me, with the sincerest love and affection for you and Lady Beaumont,


[21] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 267-70, with important additions from the original. G.

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Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.

Grasmere, August 30. (?) 1804. DEAR SIR GEORGE,

Wednesday last, Mrs. Coleridge, as she may, perhaps, herself have informed you or Lady Beaumont, received a letter from Coleridge. I happened to be at Keswick when it arrived; and she has sent it over to us to-day. I will transcribe the most material parts of it, first assuring you, to remove anxiety on your part, that the contents are, we think, upon the whole, promising. He begins thus (date, June 5. 1804, Tuesday noon; Dr. Stoddart's, Malta):—'I landed, in more than usual health, in the harbour of Valetta, about four o'clock, Friday afternoon, April 18. Since then I have been waiting, day after day, for the departure of Mr. Laing, tutor of the only child of Sir A. Ball, our civil governor.'

* * * * *

My sister has to thank Lady Beaumont for a letter; but she is at present unable to write, from a violent inflammation in her eyes, which I hope is no more than the complaint going about: but as she has lately been over-fatigued, and is in other respects unwell, I am not without fear that the indisposition in her eyes may last some time. As soon as she is able, she will do herself the pleasure of writing to Lady Beaumont. Mrs. Wordsworth and Lady B.'s little god-daughter[22] are both doing very well. Had the child been a boy, we should have persisted in our right to avail ourselves of Lady Beaumont's goodness in offering to stand sponsor for it. The name of Dorothy, obsolete as it is now grown, had been so long devoted in my own thoughts to the first daughter that I might have, that I could not break this promise to myself—a promise in which my wife participated; though the name of Mary, to my ear the most musical and truly English in sound we have, would have otherwise been most welcome to me, including, as it would, Lady Beaumont and its mother. This last sentence, though in a letter to you, Sir George, is intended for Lady Beaumont.

[22] Dora Wordsworth, born Aug. 16. 1804.

* * * * *

When I ventured to express my regret at Sir Joshua Reynolds giving so much of his time to portrait-painting and to his friends, I did not mean to recommend absolute solitude and seclusion from the world as an advantage to him or anybody else. I think it a great evil; and indeed, in the case of a painter, frequent intercourse with the living world seems absolutely necessary to keep the mind in health and vigour. I spoke, in some respects, in compliment to Sir Joshua Reynolds, feeling deeply, as I do, the power of his genius, and loving passionately the labours of genius in every way in which I am capable of comprehending them. Mr. Malone, in the account prefixed to the Discourses, tells us that Sir Joshua generally passed the time from eleven till four every day in portrait-painting. This it was that grieved me, as a sacrifice of great things to little ones. It will give me great pleasure to hear from you at your leisure. I am anxious to know that you are satisfied with the site and intended plan of your house. I suppose no man ever built a house without finding, when it was finished, that something in it might have been better done. Internal architecture seems to have arrived at great excellence in England; but, I don't know how it is, I scarcely ever see the outside of a new house that pleases me. But I must break off. Believe me, with best remembrances from my wife and sister to yourself and Lady Beaumont,

Yours, With the greatest respect and regard, W. WORDSWORTH.

My poetical labours have been entirely suspended during the last two months: I am most anxious to return to them[23].

[23] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 270—2. G.

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Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont.

August 28. 1811, Cottage, 7 minutes' walk from the sea-side, near Bootle, Cumberland.


How shall I appear before you again after so long an interval? It seems that now I ought rather to begin with an apology for writing, than for not having written during a space of almost twelve months. I have blamed myself not a little; yet not so much as I should have done had I not known that the main cause of my silence has been the affection I feel for you; on which account it is not so easy to me to write upon trifling or daily occurrences to you as it would be to write to another whom I loved less. Accordingly these have not had power to tempt me to take up the pen; and in the mean while, from my more intimate concerns I have abstained, partly because I do not, in many cases, myself like to see the reflection of them upon paper, and still more because it is my wish at all times, when I think of the state in which your health and spirits may happen to be, that my letter should be wholly free from melancholy, and breathe nothing but cheerfulness and pleasure. Having made this avowal, I trust that what may be wanting to my justification will be made up by your kindness and forgiving disposition.

It was near about this time last year that we were employed in our pleasant tour to the Leasowes and Hagley. The twelve months that have elapsed have not impaired the impressions which those scenes made upon me, nor weakened my remembrance of the delight which the places and objects, and the conversations they led to, awakened in our minds.

* * * * *

It is very late to mention, that when in Wales, last autumn, I contrived to pass a day and a half with your friend Price at Foxley. He was very kind, and took due pains to show me all the beauties of his place. I should have been very insensible not to be pleased with, and grateful for, his attentions; and certainly I was gratified by the sight of the scenes through which he conducted me.

* * * * *

I was less able to do justice in my own mind to the scenery of Foxley. You will, perhaps, think it a strange fault that I am going to find with it, considering the acknowledged taste of the owner, viz. that, small as it is compared with hundreds of places, the domain is too extensive for the character of the country. Wanting both rock and water, it necessarily wants variety; and in a district of this kind, the portion of a gentleman's estate which he keeps exclusively to himself, and which he devotes, wholly or in part, to ornament, may very easily exceed the proper bounds,—not, indeed, as to the preservation of wood, but most easily as to every thing else. A man by little and little becomes so delicate and fastidious with respect to forms in scenery, where he has a power to exercise a control over them, that if they do not exactly please him in all moods and every point of view, his power becomes his law; he banishes one, and then rids himself of another; impoverishing and monotonising landscapes, which, if not originally distinguished by the bounty of Nature, must be ill able to spare the inspiriting varieties which art, and the occupations and wants of life in a country left more to itself, never fail to produce. This relish of humanity Foxley wants, and is therefore to me, in spite of all its recommendations, a melancholy spot,—I mean that part of it which the owner keeps to himself, and has taken so much pains with. I heard the other day of two artists who thus expressed themselves upon the subject of a scene among our lakes: 'Plague upon those vile enclosures!' said one; 'they spoil everything.' 'Oh,' said the other, 'I never see them.' Glover was the name of this last. Now, for my part, I should not wish to be either of these gentlemen; but to have in my own mind the power of turning to advantage, wherever it is possible, every object of art and nature as they appear before me. What a noble instance, as you have often pointed out to me, has Rubens given of this in that picture in your possession, where he has brought, as it were, a whole county into one landscape, and made the most formal partitions of cultivation, hedge-rows of pollard willows, conduct the eye into the depths and distances of his picture; and thus, more than by any other means, has given it that appearance of immensity which is so striking. As I have slipped into the subject of painting, I feel anxious to inquire whether your pencil has been busy last winter in the solitude and uninterrupted quiet of Dunmow. Most likely you know that we have changed our residence in Grasmere, which I hope will be attended with a great overbalance of advantages. One we are certain of—that we have at least one sitting-room clear of smoke, I trust, in all winds.... Over the chimney-piece is hung your little picture, from the neighbourhood of Coleorton. In our other house, on account of the frequent fits of smoke from the chimneys, both the pictures which I have from your hand were confined to bed-rooms. A few days after I had enjoyed the pleasure of seeing, in different moods of mind, your Coleorton landscape from my fire-side, it suggested to me the following sonnet, which, having walked out to the side of Grasmere brook, where it murmurs through the meadows near the church, I composed immediately:

Praised be the art whose subtle power could stay Yon cloud, and fix it in that glorious shape; Nor would permit the thin smoke to escape. Nor those bright sunbeams to forsake the day; Which stopped that band of travellers on their way, Ere they were lost within the shady wood; And showed the bark upon the glassy flood For ever anchored in her sheltering bay.

The images of the smoke and the travellers are taken from your picture; the rest were added, in order to place the thought in a clear point of view, and for the sake of variety. I hope Coleorton continues to improve upon you and Lady Beaumont; and that Mr. Taylor's new laws and regulations are at least peaceably submitted to. Mrs. W. and I return in a few days to Grasmere. We cannot say that the child for whose sake we came down to the sea-side has derived much benefit from the bathing. The weather has been very unfavourable: we have, however, contrived to see every thing that lies within a reasonable walk of our present residence; among other places, Mulcaster—at least as much of it as can be seen from the public road; but the noble proprietor has contrived to shut himself up so with plantations and chained gates and locks, that whatever prospects he may command from his stately prison, or rather fortification, can only be guessed at by the passing traveller. In the state of blindness and unprofitable peeping in which we were compelled to pursue our way up a long and steep hill, I could not help observing to my companion that the Hibernian peer had completely given the lie to the poet Thomson, when, in a strain of proud enthusiasm, he boasts,

I care not, Fortune, what you me deny, You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace; You cannot shut the windows of the sky, Through which Aurora shows her brightening face; You cannot bar my constant feet to trace The woods and lawns by living stream, &c. (Castle of Indolence.)

The windows of the sky were not shut, indeed, but the business was done more thoroughly; for the sky was nearly shut out altogether. This is like most others, a bleak and treeless coast, but abounding in corn-fields, and with a noble beach, which is delightful either for walking or riding. The Isle of Man is right opposite our window; and though in this unsettled weather often invisible, its appearance has afforded us great amusement. One afternoon, above the whole length of it was stretched a body of clouds, shaped and coloured like a magnificent grove in winter when whitened with snow and illuminated by the morning sun, which, having melted the snow in part, has intermingled black masses among the brightness. The whole sky was scattered over with fleecy dark clouds, such as any sunshiny day produces, and which were changing their shapes and position every moment. But this line of clouds immoveably attached themselves to the island, and manifestly took their shape from the influence of its mountains. There appeared to be just span enough of sky to allow the hand to slide between the top of Snafell, the highest peak in the island, and the base of this glorious forest, in which little change was noticeable for more than the space of half an hour. We had another fine sight one evening, walking along a rising ground, about two miles distant from the shore. It was about the hour of sunset, and the sea was perfectly calm; and in a quarter where its surface was indistinguishable from the western sky, hazy, and luminous with the setting sun, appeared a tall sloop-rigged vessel, magnified by the atmosphere through which it was viewed, and seeming rather to hang in the air than to float upon the waters. Milton compares the appearance of Satan to a fleet descried far off at sea. The visionary grandeur and beautiful form of this single vessel, could words have conveyed to the mind the picture which nature presented to the eye, would have suited his purpose as well as the largest company of vessels that ever associated together with the help of a trade wind in the wide ocean; yet not exactly so, and for this reason, that his image is a permanent one, not dependent upon accident.

I have not left myself room to assure you how sincerely I remain,

Your affectionate friend, W. WORDSWORTH.[24]

[24] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 272—8. G.

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To Sir George Beaumont, Bart.

Grasmere, Dec. 25th. 1804.


Long since ought I to have thanked you for your last affectionate letter; but I knew how indulgent you were, and therefore fell, I won't say more easily, but surely with far less pain to myself, into my old trick of procrastination. I was deeply sensible of your kindness in inviting me to Grosvenor Square, and then felt and still feel a strong inclination to avail myself of the opportunity of cultivating your friendship and that of Lady Beaumont, and of seeing a little of the world at the same time. But as the wish is strong there are also strong obstacles against it; first, though I have lately been tolerably industrious, I am far behind-hand with my appointed work; and next, my nervous system is so apt to be deranged by going from home, that I am by no means sure that I should not be so much of a dependent invalid, I mean a person obliged to manage himself, as to make it absolutely improper for me to obtrude myself where neither my exertions of mind or body, could enable me to be tolerable company. I say nothing of my family, because a short absence would be abundantly recompensed by the pleasure of a 'sweet return.' At all events, I must express my sincere thanks for your kindness and the pleasure which I received from your letter, breathing throughout such favourable dispositions, I may say, such earnest friendship towards me.

I think we are completely agreed upon the subject of Sir Joshua, that is, we both regret that he did not devote more of his time to the higher branches of the Art, and further, I think you join with me in lamenting to a certain degree at least that he did not live more to himself. I have since read the rest of his Discourses, with which I have been greatly pleased, and, wish most heartily that I could have an opportunity of seeing in your company your own collection of pictures and some others in town, Mr. Angerstein's, for instance, to have pointed out to me some of those finer and peculiar beauties of painting which I am afraid I shall never have an occasion of becoming sufficiently familiar with pictures to discover of myself. There is not a day in my life when I am at home in which that exquisite little drawing of yours of Applethwaite does not affect me with a sense of harmony and grace, which I cannot describe. Mr. Edridge, an artist whom you know, saw this drawing along with a Mr. Duppa, another artist, who published Hints from Raphael and Michael Angelo; and they were both most enthusiastic in their praise of it, to my great delight. By the bye, I thought Mr. Edridge a man of very mild and pleasing manners, and as far as I could judge, of delicate feelings, in the province of his Art. Duppa is publishing a life of Michael Angelo, and I received from him a few days ago two proof-sheets of an Appendix which contains the poems of M.A., which I shall read, and translate one or two of them, if I can do it with decent success. I have peeped into the Sonnets, and they do not appear at all unworthy of their great Author.

You will be pleased to hear that I have been advancing with my work: I have written upwards of 2000 verses during the last ten weeks. I do not know if you are exactly acquainted with the plan of my poetical labour: it is twofold; first, a Poem, to be called 'The Recluse;' in which it will be my object to express in verse my most interesting feelings concerning man, nature, and society; and next, a poem (in which I am at present chiefly engaged) on my earlier life, or the growth of my own mind, taken up upon a large scale. This latter work I expect to have finished before the month of May; and then I purpose to fall with all my might on the former, which is the chief object upon which my thoughts have been fixed these many years. Of this poem, that of 'The Pedlar,'[25] which Coleridge read you, is part, and I may have written of it altogether about 2000 lines. It will consist, I hope, of about ten or twelve thousand.

[25] 'The Excursion.' 'The Pedlar' was the title once proposed, from the character of the Wanderer, but abandoned. (Memoirs, vol. i. p.304.)

May we not hope for the pleasure of seeing you and Lady Beaumont down here next Summer? I flatter myself that Coleridge will then be return'd, and though we would not [on] any account that he should fix himself in this rainy part of England, yet perhaps we may have the happiness of meeting all together for a few weeks. We have lately built in our little rocky orchard, a little circular Hut, lined with moss, like a wren's nest, and coated on the outside with heath, that stands most charmingly, with several views from the different sides of it, of the Lake, the Valley, and the Church—sadly spoiled, however, lately by being white-washed. The little retreat is most delightful, and I am sure you and Lady Beaumont would be highly pleased with it. Coleridge has never seen it. What a happiness would it be to us to see him there, and entertain you all next Summer in our homely way under its shady thatch. I will copy a dwarf inscription which I wrote for it the other day, before the building was entirely finished, which indeed it is not yet.

No whimsy of the purse is here, No Pleasure-House forlorn; Use, comfort, do this roof endear; A tributary Shed to chear The little Cottage that is near, To help it and adorn.

I hope the young Roscius, if he go on as he has begun, will rescue the English theatre from the infamy that has fallen upon it, and restore the reign of good sense and nature. From what you have seen, Sir George, do you think he could manage a character of Shakspeare? Neither Selin nor Douglas require much power; but even to perform them as he does, talents and genius I should think must be necessary. I had very little hope I confess, thinking it very natural that a theatre which had brought a dog upon the stage as a principal performer, would catch at a wonder whatever shape it might put on.

We have had no tidings of Coleridge these several months. He spoke of papers which he had sent by private hands, none of which we have received. It must be most criminal neglect somewhere if the fever be suffered to enter Malta. Farewell, and believe me, my dear Sir George, your affectionate and sincere friend,


[26] Memoirs, vol. i. p.304 et seq., with important additions from the original. G.

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Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart. Grasmere, May 1st. 1805.


I have wished to write to you every day this long time, but I have also had another wish, which has interfered to prevent me; I mean the wish to resume my poetical labours: time was stealing away fast from me, and nothing done, and my mind still seeming unfit to do anything. At first I had a strong impulse to write a poem that should record my brother's virtues, and be worthy of his memory. I began to give vent to my feelings, with this view, but I was overpowered by my subject, and could not proceed. I composed much, but it is all lost except a few lines, as it came from me in such a torrent that I was unable to remember it. I could not hold the pen myself, and the subject was such that I could not employ Mrs. Wordsworth or my sister as my amanuensis. This work must therefore rest awhile till I am something calmer; I shall, however, never be at peace till, as far as in me lies, I have done justice to my departed brother's memory. His heroic death (the particulars of which I have now accurately collected from several of the survivors) exacts this from me, and still more his singularly interesting character, and virtuous and innocent life.

Unable to proceed with this work, I turned my thoughts again to the Poem on my own Life, and you will be glad to hear that I have added 300 lines to it in the course of last week. Two books more will conclude it. It will be not much less than 9000 lines,—not hundred but thousand lines long,—an alarming length! and a thing unprecedented in literary history that a man should talk so much about himself. It is not self-conceit, as you will know well, that has induced me to do this, but real humility. I began the work because I was unprepared to treat any more arduous subject, and diffident of my own powers. Here, at least, I hoped that to a certain degree I should be sure of succeeding, as I had nothing to do but describe what I had felt and thought; therefore could not easily be bewildered. This might certainly have been done in narrower compass by a man of more address; but I have done my best. If, when the work shall be finished, it appears to the judicious to have redundancies, they shall be lopped off, if possible; but this is very difficult to do, when a man has written with thought; and this defect, whenever I have suspected it or found it to exist in any writings of mine, I have always found incurable. The fault lies too deep, and is in the first conception. If you see Coleridge before I do, do not speak of this to him, as I should like to have his judgment unpreoccupied by such an apprehension. I wish much to have your further opinion of the young Roscius, above all of his 'Hamlet.' It is certainly impossible that he should understand the character, that is, the composition of the character. But many of the sentiments which are put into Hamlet's mouth he may be supposed to be capable of feeling, and to a certain degree of entering into the spirit of some of the situations. I never saw 'Hamlet' acted myself, nor do I know what kind of a play they make of it. I think I have heard that some parts which I consider among the finest are omitted: in particular, Hamlet's wild language after the ghost has disappeared. The players have taken intolerable liberties with Shakspeare's Plays, especially with 'Richard the Third,' which, though a character admirably conceived and drawn, is in some scenes bad enough in Shakspeare himself; but the play, as it is now acted, has always appeared to me a disgrace to the English stage. 'Hamlet,' I suppose, is treated by them with more reverence. They are both characters far, far above the abilities of any actor whom I have ever seen. Henderson was before my time, and, of course, Garrick.

We are looking anxiously for Coleridge: perhaps he may be with you now. We were afraid that he might have had to hear other bad news of our family, as Lady Beaumont's little god-daughter has lately had that dangerous complaint, the croup, particularly dangerous here, where we are thirteen miles from any medical advice on which we can have the least reliance. Her case has been a mild one, but sufficient to alarm us much, and Mrs. Wordsworth and her aunt have undergone much fatigue in sitting up, as for nearly a fortnight she had very bad nights. She yet requires much care and attention.

Is your building going on? I was mortified that the sweet little valley, of which you spoke some time ago, was no longer in the possession of your family: it is the place, I believe, where that illustrious and most extraordinary man, Beaumont the Poet, and his brother, were born. One is astonished when one thinks of that man having been only eight-and-twenty years of age, for I believe he was no more, when he died. Shakspeare, we are told, had scarcely written a single play at that age. I hope, for the sake of poets, you are proud of these men.

Lady Beaumont mentioned some time ago that you were painting a picture from 'The Thorn:' is it finished? I should like to see it; the poem is a favourite with me, and I shall love it the better for the honour you have done it. We shall be most happy to have the other drawing which you promised us some time ago. The dimensions of the Applethwaite one are eight inches high, and a very little above ten broad; this, of course, exclusive of the margin.

I am anxious to know how your health goes on: we are better than we had reason to expect. When we look back upon this Spring, it seems like a dreary dream to us. But I trust in God that we shall yet 'bear up and steer right onward.'

Farewell. I am, your affectionate friend,


My sister thanks Lady Beaumont for her letter, the short one of the other day, and hopes to be able to write soon. Have you seen Southey's 'Madoc'? We have it in the house, but have deferred reading it, having been too busy with the child. I should like to know how it pleases you.[27]

[27] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 305—8. G.

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Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.

Grasmere, June 3d. 1805.


I write to you from the moss-hut at the top of my orchard, the sun just sinking behind the hills in front of the entrance, and his light falling upon the green moss of the side opposite me. A linnet is singing in the tree above, and the children of some of our neighbours, who have been to-day little John's visitors, are playing below equally noisy and happy. The green fields in the level area of the vale, and part of the lake, lie before me in quietness. I have just been reading two newspapers, full of factious brawls about Lord Melville and his delinquencies, ravage of the French in the West Indies, victories of the English in the East, fleets of ours roaming the sea in search of enemies whom they cannot find, &c. &c. &c.; and I have asked myself more than once lately, if my affections can be in the right place, caring as I do so little about what the world seems to care so much for. All this seems to me, 'a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.' It is pleasant in such a mood to turn one's thoughts to a good man and a dear friend. I have, therefore, taken up the pen to write to you. And, first, let me thank you (which I ought to have done long ago, and should have done, but that I knew I had a licence from you to procrastinate) for your most acceptable present of Coleridge's portrait, welcome in itself, and more so as coming from you. It is as good a resemblance as I expect to see of Coleridge, taking it all together, for I consider C.'s as a face absolutely impracticable. Mrs. Wordsworth was overjoyed at the sight of the print; Dorothy and I much pleased. We think it excellent about the eyes and forehead, which are the finest parts of C.'s face, and the general contour of the face is well given; but, to my sister and me, it seems to fail sadly about the middle of the face, particularly at the bottom of the nose. Mrs. W. feels this also; and my sister so much, that, except when she covers the whole of the middle of the face, it seems to her so entirely to alter the expression, as rather to confound than revive in her mind the remembrance of the original. We think, as far as mere likeness goes, Hazlitt's is better; but the expression in Hazlitt's is quite dolorous and funereal; that in this is much more pleasing, though certainly falling far below what one would wish to see infused into a picture of C. Mrs. C. received a day or two ago a letter from a friend who had letters from Malta, not from Coleridge, but a Miss Stoddart, who is there with her brother. These letters are of the date of the fifth of March, and speak of him as looking well and quite well, and talking of coming home, but doubtful whether by land or sea.

I have the pleasure to say, that I finished my poem about a fortnight ago. I had looked forward to the day as a most happy one; and I was indeed grateful to God for giving me life to complete the work, such as it is. But it was not a happy day for me; I was dejected on many accounts: when I looked back upon the performance, it seemed to have a dead weight about it,—the reality so far short of the expectation. It was the first long labour that I had finished; and the doubt whether I should ever live to write The Recluse,' and the sense which I had of this poem being so far below what I seemed capable of executing, depressed me much; above all, many heavy thoughts of my poor departed brother hung upon me, the joy which I should have had in showing him the manuscript, and a thousand other vain fancies and dreams. I have spoken of this, because it was a state of feeling new to me, the occasion being new. This work may be considered as a sort of portico to 'The Recluse,' part of the same building, which I hope to be able, ere long, to begin with in earnest; and if I am permitted to bring it to a conclusion, and to write, further, a narrative poem of the epic kind, I shall consider the task of my life as over. I ought to add, that I have the satisfaction of finding the present poem not quite of so alarming a length as I apprehended.

I wish much to hear from you, if you have leisure; but as you are so indulgent to me, it would be the highest injustice were I otherwise to you.

We have read 'Madoc,' and been highly pleased with it. It abounds in beautiful pictures and descriptions, happily introduced, and there is an animation diffused through the whole story, though it cannot, perhaps, be said that any of the characters interest you much, except, perhaps, young Llewellyn, whose situation is highly interesting, and he appears to me the best conceived and sustained character in the piece. His speech to his uncle at their meeting in the island is particularly interesting. The poem fails in the highest gifts of the poet's mind, imagination in the true sense of the word, and knowledge of human nature and the human heart. There is nothing that shows the hand of the great master; but the beauties in description are innumerable; for instance, that of the figure of the bard, towards the beginning of the convention of the bards, receiving the poetic inspiration; that of the wife of Tlalala, the savage, going out to meet her husband; that of Madoc, and the Atzecan king with a long name, preparing for battle; everywhere, indeed, you have beautiful descriptions, and it is a work which does the author high credit, I think. I should like to know your opinion of it. Farewell! Best remembrances and love to Lady Beaumont. Believe me,

My dear Sir George, Your most sincere friend, W. WORDSWORTH.

My sister thanks Lady Beaumont for her letter, and will write in a few days. I find that Lady B. has been pleased much by 'Madoc.'[28]

[28] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 309—12. G.


To Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.

Grasmere, July 29th. [1805.]


We have all here been made happy in hearing that you are so much better. I write now chiefly on account of a mistake which you seem to be under concerning Coleridge. I guess from your letter that you suppose him to be appointed to the place of Secretary to Sir A. Ball. This is by no means the case. He is an occasional substitute for Mr. Chapman, who is secretary, and no doubt must have resumed his office long before this; as he had been expected every day some time before the date of C.'s last letter. The paragraph in the Paper (which we also saw) positively states that C. is appointed Secretary. This is an error, and has been merely put in upon common rumour.

When you were ill I had a thought which I will mention to you. It was this: I wished to know how you were at present situated as to house-room at Coleorton, that is, whether you could have found a corner for me to put my head in, in case I could have contrived to have commanded three weeks' time, or so. I am at present, and shall be for some time, engaged with a sick friend, who has come all the way from Bristol on purpose to see us, and has taken lodgings in the Village; but should you be unwell again, and my company be like to tend in the least to exhilarate you, I should like to know, that were it in my power to go and see you, I might have the liberty to do so.

Having such reason to expect Coleridge at present (were we at liberty in other respects), I cannot think of taking my family on tour, agreeable to your kind suggestion. Something has, however, already been added by your means to our comforts, in the way of Books, and probably we shall be able to make an excursion ere the Summer be over.

By the bye, are you possessed of Houbraken and Vertue's Heads of Illustrious Persons, with anecdotes of their Lives by Birch? I had an opportunity of purchasing a handsome copy (far below the price at which it now sells, I believe, in London) at Penrith, a few weeks ago; and if you have not a copy, and think the work has any merit, you would please me greatly by giving it a place in your Library.

I am glad you like the passage in 'Madoc' about Llewellyn. Southey's mind does not seem strong enough to draw the picture of a hero. The character of Madoc is often very insipid and contemptible; for instance, when he is told that the Foemen have surprised Caer, Madoc, and of course (he has reason to believe) butchered or carried away all the women and children, what does the Author make him do? Think of Goervyl and Llayan very tenderly forsooth; but not a word about his people! In short, according to my notion, the character is throughout languidly conceived, and, as you observe, the contrast between her and Llewellyn makes him look very mean. I made a mistake when I pointed out a beautiful passage as being in the beginning of the meeting of the bards; it occurs before, and ends thus:

—His eyes were closed; His head, as if in reverence to receive The inspiration, bent; and as he raised His glowing countenance and brighter eye And swept with passionate hands the ringing harp.

The verses of your ancestor Francis Beaumont, the younger, are very elegant and harmonious, and written with true feeling. Is this the only poem of his extant? There are some pleasing Verses (I think by Corbet, Bishop of Norwich) on the death of Francis Beaumont the elder. They end, I remember, thus, alluding to his short life:

—by whose sole death appears, Wit's a disease consumes men in few years.

I have never seen the works of the brother of the dramatic Poet; but I know he wrote a poem upon the Battle of Bosworth Field. Probably it will be in the volume which you have found, which it would give me great pleasure to see, as also Charnwood Rocks, which must have a striking effect in that country. I am highly flattered by Lady Beaumont's favourable opinion of me and my poems.

My Sister will answer her affectionate letter very soon; she would have done it before now, but she has been from home three days and unwell, or entirely engrossed with some visitors whom we have had, the rest of her time.

The letter which you will find accompanying this is from an acquaintance of ours to his wife. He lives at Patterdale, and she was over at Grasmere. We thought it would interest you. Farewell. I remain, in hopes of good news of your health, your affectionate and sincere friend,


From Mr. Luff of Patterdale to his Wife.

Patterdale, July 23d. [1805.]

An event happened here last night which has greatly affected the whole village, and particularly myself.

The body, or more properly speaking, bones of a poor fellow were yesterday found by Willy Harrison, in the rocks at the head of red Tarn. It appears that he was attempting to descend the Pass from Helvellyn to the Tarn, when he lost his footing and was dashed to pieces.

His name appears to have been Charles Gough. Several things were found in his pockets; fishing tackle, memorandums, a gold watch, silver pencil, Claude Lorraine glasses, &c.

Poor fellow! It is very strange, but we met him when we were last reviewed in April; and he then wanted John Harrison to turn back with him and go to the Tarn; but he was told that his request could not be complied with. It appears that he proceeded [forward] and met his fate.

You will be much interested to know that a spaniel bitch was found alive by his side, where she has remained upwards of three months, guarding the bones of her master; but she had become so wild that it was with difficulty she was taken. She is in good condition; and what is more odd, had whelped a pup, which from its size must have lived some weeks, but when found was lying dead by the bones. The bones are as completely freed from flesh as if they had been anatomised, and perfectly white and dry. The head can nowhere be found. The arms, one thigh and a leg were all that remained in the clothes. All the rest were scattered about here and there.

When I reflect on my own wanderings and the many dangerous situations I have found myself in, in the pursuit of game, I cannot help thanking Providence that I am now here to relate to you this melancholy tale. I wonder whether poor Fan's affection would under similar circumstances have equalled that of the little spaniel.


Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.

Grasmere, Feb. 11th. 1806.


Upon opening this letter, you must have seen that it is accompanied with a copy of verses.[29] I hope they will give you some pleasure, as it will be the best way in which they can repay me for a little vexation, of which they have been the cause. They were written several weeks ago, and I wished to send them to you, but could not muster up resolution, as I felt that they were so unworthy of the subject. Accordingly, I kept them by me from week to week, with a hope (which has proved vain) that, in some happy moment, a new fit of inspiration would help me to mend them; and hence my silence, which, with your usual goodness, I know you will excuse.

[29] 'The Happy Warrior'

You will find that the verses are allusive to Lord Nelson; and they will show that I must have sympathised with you in admiration of the man, and sorrow for our loss. Yet, considering the matter coolly, there was little to regret. The state of Lord Nelson's health, I suppose, was such, that he could not have lived long; and the first burst of exultation upon landing in his native country, and his reception here, would have been dearly bought, perhaps, by pain and bodily weakness, and distress among his friends, which he could neither remove nor alleviate. Few men have ever died under circumstances so likely to make their deaths of benefit to their country: it is not easy to see what his life could have done comparable to it. The loss of such men as Lord Nelson is, indeed, great and real; but surely not for the reason which makes most people grieve, a supposition that no other such man is in the country. The old ballad has taught us how to feel on these occasions:

I trust I have within my realm Five hundred good as he.

But this is the evil, that nowhere is merit so much under the power of what (to avoid a more serious expression) one may call that of fortune, as in military and naval service; and it is five hundred to one that such men will not have attained situations where they can show themselves, so that the country may know in whom to trust. Lord Nelson had attained that situation; and, therefore, I think (and not for the other reason), ought we chiefly to lament that he is taken from us.

Mr. Pitt is also gone! by tens of thousands looked upon in like manner as a great loss. For my own part, as probably you know, I have never been able to regard his political life with complacency. I believe him, however, to have been as disinterested a man, and as true a lover of his country, as it was possible for so ambitious a man to be. His first wish (though probably unknown to himself) was that his country should prosper under his administration; his next that it should prosper. Could the order of these wishes have been reversed, Mr. Pitt would have avoided many of the grievous mistakes into which, I think, he fell. I know, my dear Sir George, you will give me credit for speaking without arrogance; and I am aware it is not unlikely you may differ greatly from me in these points. But I like, in some things, to differ with a friend, and that he should know I differ from him; it seems to make a more healthy friendship, to act as a relief to those notions and feelings which we have in common, and to give them a grace and spirit which they could not otherwise possess.

There were some parts in the long letter which I wrote about laying out grounds, in which the expression must have been left imperfect. I like splendid mansions in their proper places, and have no objection to large or even obtrusive houses in themselves. My dislike is to that system of gardening which, because a house happens to be large or splendid, and stands at the head of a large domain, establishes it therefore as a principle that the house ought to dye all the surrounding country with a strength of colouring and to an extent proportionate to its own importance. This system, I think, is founded in false taste, false feeling, and its effects disgusting in the highest degree. The reason you mention as having induced you to build was worthy of you, and gave me the highest pleasure. But I hope God will grant you and Lady Beaumont life to enjoy yourselves the fruit of your exertions for many years.

We have lately had much anxiety about Coleridge. What can have become of him? It must be upwards of three months since he landed at Trieste. Has he returned to Malta think you, or what can have befallen him? He has never since been heard of.

Lady Beaumont spoke of your having been ill of a cold; I hope you are better. We have all here been more or less deranged in the same way.

We have to thank you for a present of game, which arrived in good time.

Never have a moment's uneasiness about answering my letters. We are all well at present, and unite in affectionate wishes to you and Lady Beaumont. Believe me,

Your sincere friend, W. WORDSWORTH.

I have thoughts of sending the Verses to a Newspaper.[30]

[30] Memoirs, vol. i. p.321 et seq., with important additions from the original. By a curious inadvertence this letter is dated 1796—quite plainly—for 1806, as shown by the post-mark outside. G.

* * * * *


Letter to Lady Beaumont.

Coleorton, May 21. 1807.


Though I am to see you so soon, I cannot but write a word or two, to thank you for the interest you take in my poems, as evinced by your solicitude about their immediate reception. I write partly to thank you for this, and to express the pleasure it has given me, and partly to remove any uneasiness from your mind which the disappointments you sometimes meet with, in this labour of love, may occasion. I see that you have many battles to fight for me,—more than, in the ardour and confidence of your pure and elevated mind, you had ever thought of being summoned to; but be assured that this opposition is nothing more than what I distinctly foresaw that you and my other friends would have to encounter. I say this, not to give myself credit for an eye of prophecy, but to allay any vexatious thoughts on my account which this opposition may have produced in you.

It is impossible that any expectations can be lower than mine concerning the immediate effect of this little work upon what is called the public. I do not here take into consideration the envy and malevolence, and all the bad passions which always stand in the way of a work of any merit from a living poet; but merely think of the pure, absolute, honest ignorance in which all worldlings of every rank and situation must be enveloped, with respect to the thoughts, feelings, and images, on which the life of my poems depends. The things which I have taken, whether from within or without, what have they to do with routs, dinners, morning calls, hurry from door to door, from street to street, on foot or in carriage; with Mr. Pitt or Mr. Fox, Mr. Paul or Sir Francis Burdett, the Westminster election or the borough of Honiton? In a word—for I cannot stop to make my way through the hurry of images that present themselves to me—what have they to do with endless talking about things nobody cares any thing for except as far as their own vanity is concerned, and this with persons they care nothing for but as their vanity or selfishness is concerned?—what have they to do (to say all at once) with a life without love? In such a life there can be no thought; for we have no thought (save thoughts of pain) but as far as we have love and admiration.

It is an awful truth, that there neither is, nor can be, any genuine enjoyment of poetry among nineteen out of twenty of those persons who live, or wish to live, in the broad light of the world—among those who either are, or are striving to make themselves, people of consideration in society. This is a truth, and an awful one, because to be incapable of a feeling of poetry, in my sense of the word, is to be without love of human nature and reverence for God.

Upon this I shall insist elsewhere; at present let me confine myself to my object, which is to make you, my dear friend, as easy-hearted as myself with respect to these poems. Trouble not yourself upon their present reception; of what moment is that compared with what I trust is their destiny?—to console the afflicted; to add sunshine to daylight, by making the happy happier; to teach the young and the gracious of every age to see, to think, and feel, and, therefore, to become more actively and securely virtuous; this is their office, which I trust they will faithfully perform, long after we (that is, all that is mortal of us) are mouldered in our graves. I am well aware how far it would seem to many I over-rate my own exertions, when I speak in this way, in direct connection with the volume I have just made public.

I am not, however, afraid of such censure, insignificant as probably the majority of those poems would appear to very respectable persons. I do not mean London wits and witlings, for these have too many foul passions about them to be respectable, even if they had more intellect than the benign laws of Providence will allow to such a heartless existence as theirs is; but grave, kindly-natured, worthy persons, who would be pleased if they could. I hope that these volumes are not without some recommendations, even for readers of this class: but their imagination has slept; and the voice which is the voice of my poetry, without imagination, cannot be heard. Leaving these, I was going to say a word to such readers as Mr. ——. Such!—how would he be offended if he knew I considered him only as a representative of a class, and not an unique! 'Pity,' says Mr. —— 'that so many trifling things should be admitted to obstruct the view of those that have merit.' Now, let this candid judge take, by way of example, the sonnets, which, probably, with the exception of two or three other poems, for which I will not contend, appear to him the most trifling, as they are the shortest. I would say to him, omitting things of higher consideration, there is one thing which must strike you at once, if you will only read these poems,—that those 'to Liberty,' at least, have a connection with, or a bearing upon, each other; and, therefore, if individually they want weight, perhaps, as a body, they may not be so deficient. At least, this ought to induce you to suspend your judgment, and qualify it so far as to allow that the writer aims at least at comprehensiveness.

But, dropping this, I would boldly say at once, that these sonnets, while they each fix the attention upon some important sentiment, separately considered, do, at the same time, collectively make a poem on the subject of civil liberty and national independence, which, either for simplicity of style or grandeur of moral sentiment, is, alas! likely to have few parallels in the poetry of the present day. Again, turn to the 'Moods of my own Mind.' There is scarcely a poem here of above thirty lines, and very trifling these poems will appear to many; but, omitting to speak of them individually, do they not, taken collectively, fix the attention upon a subject eminently poetical, viz., the interest which objects in Nature derive from the predominance of certain affections, more or less permanent, more or less capable of salutary renewal in the mind of the being contemplating these objects? This is poetic, and essentially poetic. And why? Because it is creative.

But I am wasting words, for it is nothing more than you know; and if said to those for whom it is intended, it would not be understood.

I see by your last letter, that Mrs. Fermor has entered into the spirit of these 'Moods of my own Mind.' Your transcript from her letter gave me the greatest pleasure; but I must say that even she has something yet to receive from me. I say this with confidence, from her thinking that I have fallen below myself in the sonnet, beginning,

With ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh.

As to the other which she objects to, I will only observe, that there is a misprint in the last line but two,

And though this wilderness,


And through this wilderness,

that makes it unintelligible. This latter sonnet, for many reasons (though I do not abandon it), I will not now speak of; but upon the other, I could say something important in conversation, and will attempt now to illustrate it by a comment, which, I feel, will be inadequate to convey my meaning. There is scarcely one of my poems which does not aim to direct the attention to some moral sentiment, or to some general principle, or law of thought, or of our intellectual constitution. For instance, in the present case, who is there that has not felt that the mind can have no rest among a multitude of objects, of which it either cannot make one whole, or from which it cannot single out one individual whereupon may be concentrated the attention, divided among or distracted by a multitude? After a certain time, we must either select one image or object, which must put out of view the rest wholly, or must subordinate them to itself while it stands forth as a head:

How glowed the firmament With living sapphires! Hesperus, that led The starry host, rode brightest; till the moon, Rising in clouded majesty, at length, Apparent Queen, unveiled her peerless light, And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.

Having laid this down as a general principle, take the case before us. I am represented in the sonnet as casting my eyes over the sea, sprinkled with a multitude of ships, like the heavens with stars. My mind may be supposed to float up and down among them, in a kind of dreamy indifference with respect either to this or that one, only in a pleasurable state of feeling with respect to the whole prospect. 'Joyously it showed.' This continued till that feeling may be supposed to have passed away, and a kind of comparative listlessness or apathy to have succeeded, as at this line,

Some veering up and down, one knew not why.

All at once, while I am in this state, comes forth an object, an individual; and my mind, sleepy and unfixed, is awakened and fastened in a moment.

Hesperus, that led The starry host,

is a poetical object, because the glory of his own nature gives him the pre-eminence the moment he appears. He calls forth the poetic faculty, receiving its exertions as a tribute. But this ship in the sonnet may, in a manner still more appropriate, be said to come upon a mission of the poetic spirit, because, in its own appearance and attributes, it is barely sufficiently distinguished to rouse the creative faculty of the human mind, to exertions at all times welcome, but doubly so when they come upon us when in a state of remissness. The mind being once fixed and roused, all the rest comes from itself; it is merely a lordly ship, nothing more:

This ship was nought to me, nor I to her, Yet I pursued her with a lover's look.

My mind wantons with grateful joy in the exercise of its own powers, and, loving its own creation,

This ship to all the rest I did prefer,

making her a sovereign or a regent, and thus giving body and life to all the rest; mingling up this idea with fondness and praise—

where she comes the winds must stir;

and concluding the whole with,

On went she, and due north her journey took;

thus taking up again the reader with whom I began, letting him know how long I must have watched this favourite vessel, and inviting him to rest his mind as mine is resting.

Having said so much upon mere fourteen lines, which Mrs. Fermor did not approve, I cannot but add a word or two upon my satisfaction in finding that my mind has so much in common with hers, and that we participate so many of each other's pleasures. I collect this from her having singled out the two little poems, 'The Daffodils,' and 'The Rock crowned with Snowdrops.' I am sure that whoever is much pleased with either of these quiet and tender delineations must be fitted to walk through the recesses of my poetry with delight, and will there recognise, at every turn, something or other in which, and over which, it has that property and right which knowledge and love confer. The line,

Come, blessed barrier, &c.

in the 'Sonnet upon Sleep,' which Mrs. F. points out, had before been mentioned to me by Coleridge, and, indeed, by almost every body who had heard it, as eminently beautiful. My letter (as this second sheet, which I am obliged to take, admonishes me) is growing to an enormous length; and yet, saving that I have expressed my calm confidence that these poems will live, I have said nothing which has a particular application to the object of it, which was to remove all disquiet from your mind on account of the condemnation they may at present incur from that portion of my contemporaries who are called the public. I am sure, my dear Lady Beaumont, if you attach any importance to it, it can only be from an apprehension that it may affect me, upon which I have already set you at ease; or from a fear that this present blame is ominous of their future or final destiny. If this be the case, your tenderness for me betrays you. Be assured that the decision of these persons has nothing to do with the question; they are altogether incompetent judges. These people, in the senseless hurry of their idle lives, do not read books, they merely snatch a glance at them, that they may talk about them. And even if this were not so, never forget what, I believe, was observed to you by Coleridge, that every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great or original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished; he must teach the art by which he is to be seen; this, in a certain degree, even to all persons, however wise and pure may be their lives, and however unvitiated their taste. But for those who dip into books in order to give an opinion of them, or talk about them to take up an opinion—for this multitude of unhappy, and misguided, and misguiding beings, an entire regeneration must be produced; and if this be possible, it must be a work of time. To conclude, my ears are stone-dead to this idle buzz, and my flesh as insensible as iron to these petty stings; and, after what I have said, I am sure yours will be the same. I doubt not that you will share with me an invincible confidence that my writings (and among them these little poems) will co-operate with the benign tendencies in human nature and society, wherever found; and that they will, in their degree, be efficacious in making men wiser, better, and happier. Farewell! I will not apologise for this letter, though its length demands an apology. Believe me, eagerly wishing for the happy day when I shall see you and Sir George here,

Most affectionately yours, W. WORDSWORTH.

Do not hurry your coming hither on our account: my sister regrets that she did not press this upon you, as you say in your letter, 'we cannot possibly come before the first week in June;' from which we infer that your kindness will induce you to make sacrifices for our sakes. Whatever pleasure we may have in thinking of Grasmere, we have no impatience to be gone, and think with full as much regret of leaving Coleorton. I had, for myself, indeed, a wish to be at Grasmere with as much of the summer before me as might be; but to this I attach no importance whatever, as far as the gratification of that wish interferes with any inclination or duty of yours. I could not be satisfied without seeing you here, and shall have great pleasure in waiting.[31]

[31] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 331-40.

OF 'PETER BELL' AND OTHER POEMS. Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.


I am quite delighted to hear of your picture for 'Peter Bell;' I was much pleased with the sketch, and I have no doubt that the picture will surpass it as far as a picture ought to do. I long much to see it. I should approve of any engraver approved by you. But remember that no poem of mine will ever be popular; and I am afraid that the sale of 'Peter' would not carry the expence of the engraving, and that the poem, in the estimation of the public, would be a weight upon the print. I say not this in modest disparagement of the poem, but in sorrow for the sickly taste of the public in verse. The people would love the poem of 'Peter Bell,' but the public (a very different being) will never love it. Thanks for dear Lady B.'s transcript from your friend's letter; it is written with candour, but I must say a word or two not in praise of it. 'Instances of what I mean,' says your friend, 'are to be found in a poem on a Daisy' (by the by, it is on the Daisy, a mighty difference!) 'and on Daffodils reflected in the Water.' Is this accurately transcribed by Lady Beaumont? If it be, what shall we think of criticism or judgment founded upon, and exemplified by, a poem which must have been so inattentively perused? My language is precise; and, therefore, it would be false modesty to charge myself with blame.

Beneath the trees, Ten thousand dancing in the breeze. The waves beside them danced, but they Outdid the sparkling waves in glee.

Can expression be more distinct? And let me ask your friend how it is possible for flowers to be reflected in water where there are waves? They may, indeed, in still water; but the very object of my poem is the trouble or agitation, both of the flowers and the water. I must needs respect the understanding of every one honoured by your friendship; but sincerity compels me to say that my poems must be more nearly looked at, before they can give rise to any remarks of much value, even from the strongest minds. With respect to this individual poem, Lady B. will recollect how Mrs. Fermor expressed herself upon it. A letter also was sent to me, addressed to a friend of mine, and by him communicated to me, in which this identical poem was singled out for fervent approbation. What then shall we say? Why, let the poet first consult his own heart, as I have done, and leave the rest to posterity,—to, I hope, an improving posterity. The fact is, the English public are at this moment in the same state of mind with respect to my poems, if small things may be compared with great, as the French are in respect to Shakspeare, and not the French alone, but almost the whole Continent. In short, in your friend's letter, I am condemned for the very thing for which I ought to have been praised, viz., that I have not written down to the level of superficial observers and unthinking minds. Every great poet is a teacher: I wish either to be considered as a teacher, or as nothing.

To turn to a more pleasing subject. Have you painted anything else beside this picture from 'Peter Bell'? Your two oil-paintings (and, indeed, everything I have of yours) have been much admired by the artists who have seen them. And, for our own parts, we like them better every day; this, in particular, is the case with the small picture from the neighbourhood of Coleorton, which, indeed, pleased me much at the first sight, but less impressed the rest of our household, who now see as many beauties in it as I do myself. Havill, the water-colour painter, was much pleased with these things; he is painting at Ambleside, and has done a view of Rydal Water, looking down upon it from Rydal Park, of which I should like to know your opinion; it will be exhibited in the Spring, in the water-colour Exhibition. I have purchased a black-lead pencil sketch of Mr. Green, of Ambleside, which, I think, has great merit, the materials being uncommonly picturesque, and well put together: I should dearly like to have the same subject (it is the cottage at Glencoign, by Ulleswater) treated by you. In the poem I have just written, you will find one situation which, if the work should ever become familiarly known, would furnish as fine a subject for a picture as any thing I remember in poetry ancient or modern. I need not mention what it is, as when you read the poem you cannot miss it. We have at last had, by the same post, two letters from Coleridge, long and melancholy; and also, from Keswick, an account so depressing as to the state of his health, that I should have set off immediately to London, to see him, if I had not myself been confined by indisposition.

I hope that Davy is by this time perfectly restored to health. Believe me, my dear Sir George,

Most sincerely yours, W. WORDSWORTH.[32]

[32] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 340-3.


Grasmere, October 17th. 1805.


I was very glad to learn that you had room for me at Coleorton, and far more so, that your health was so much mended. Lady Beaumont's last letter to my sister has made us wish that you were fairly through your present engagements with workmen and builders, and, as to improvements, had smoothed over the first difficulties, and gotten things into a way of improving themselves. I do not suppose that any man ever built a house, without finding in the progress of it obstacles that were unforeseen, and something that might have been better planned; things teazing and vexatious when they come, however the mind may have been made up at the outset to a general expectation of the kind.

With respect to the grounds, you have there the advantage of being in good hands, namely, those of Nature; and, assuredly, whatever petty crosses from contrariety of opinion or any other cause you may now meet with, these will soon disappear, and leave nothing behind but satisfaction and harmony. Setting out from the distinction made by Coleridge which you mentioned, that your house will belong to the country, and not the country be an appendage to your house, you cannot be wrong. Indeed, in the present state of society, I see nothing interesting either to the imagination or the heart, and, of course, nothing which true taste can approve, in any interference with Nature, grounded upon any other principle. In times when the feudal system was in its vigor, and the personal importance of every chieftain might be said to depend entirely upon the extent of his landed property and rights of seignory; when the king, in the habits of people's minds, was considered as the primary and true proprietor of the soil, which was granted out by him to different lords, and again by them to their several tenants under them, for the joint defence of all; there might have been something imposing to the imagination in the whole face of a district, testifying, obtrusively even, its dependence upon its chief. Such an image would have been in the spirit of the society, implying power, grandeur, military state, and security; and, less directly, in the person of the chief, high birth, and knightly education and accomplishments; in short, the most of what was then deemed interesting or affecting. Yet, with the exception of large parks and forests, nothing of this kind was known at that time, and these were left in their wild state, so that such display of ownership, so far from taking from the beauty of Nature, was itself a chief cause of that beauty being left unspoiled and unimpaired. The improvements, when the place was sufficiently tranquil to admit of any, though absurd and monstrous in themselves, were confined (as our present Laureate has observed, I remember, in one of his essays) to an acre or two about the house in the shape of garden with terraces, &c. So that Nature had greatly the advantage in those days, when what has been called English gardening was unheard of. This is now beginning to be perceived, and we are setting out to travel backwards. Painters and poets have had the credit of being reckoned the fathers of English gardening; they will also have, hereafter, the better praise of being fathers of a better taste. Error is in general nothing more than getting hold of good things, as every thing has two handles, by the wrong one. It was a misconception of the meaning and principles of poets and painters which gave countenance to the modern system of gardening, which is now, I hope, on the decline; in other words, we are submitting to the rule which you at present are guided by, that of having our houses belong to the country, which will of course lead us back to the simplicity of Nature. And leaving your own individual sentiments and present work out of the question, what good can come of any other guide, under any circumstances? We have, indeed, distinctions of rank, hereditary legislators, and large landed proprietors; but from numberless causes the state of society is so much altered, that nothing of that lofty or imposing interest, formerly attached to large property in land, can now exist; none of the poetic pride, and pomp, and circumstance; nor anything that can be considered as making amends for violation done to the holiness of Nature. Let us take an extreme case, such as a residence of a Duke of Norfolk, or Northumberland: of course you would expect a mansion, in some degree answerable to their consequence, with all conveniences. The names of Howard and Percy will always stand high in the regards of Englishmen; but it is degrading, not only to such families as these, but to every really interesting one, to suppose that their importance will be most felt where most displayed, particularly in the way I am now alluding to. This is contracting a general feeling into a local one. Besides, were it not so, as to what concerns the Past, a man would be sadly astray, who should go, for example, to modernise Alnwick and its dependencies, with his head full of the ancient Percies: he would find nothing there which would remind him of them, except by contrast; and of that kind of admonition he would, indeed, have enough. But this by the bye, for it is against the principle itself I am contending, and not the misapplication of it. After what was said above, I may ask, if anything connected with the families of Howard and Percy, and their rank and influence, and thus with the state of government and society, could, in the present age, be deemed a recompence for their thrusting themselves in between us and Nature. Surely it is a substitution of little things for great when we would put a whole country into a nobleman's livery. I know nothing which to me would be so pleasing or affecting, as to be able to say when I am in the midst of a large estate—This man is not the victim of his condition; he is not the spoiled child of worldly grandeur; the thought of himself does not take the lead in his enjoyments; he is, where he ought to be, lowly-minded, and has human feelings; he has a true relish of simplicity, and therefore stands the best chance of being happy; at least, without it there is no happiness, because there can be no true sense of the bounty and beauty of the creation, or insight into the constitution of the human mind. Let a man of wealth and influence shew, by the appearance of the country in his neighbourhood, that he treads in the steps of the good sense of the age, and occasionally goes foremost; let him give countenance to improvements in agriculture, steering clear of the pedantry of it, and showing that its grossest utilities will connect themselves harmoniously with the more intellectual arts, and even thrive the best under such connection; let him do his utmost to be surrounded with tenants living comfortably, which will bring always with it the best of all graces which a country can have—flourishing fields and happy-looking houses; and, in that part of his estate devoted to park and pleasure-ground, let him keep himself as much out of sight as possible; let Nature be all in all, taking care that everything done by man shall be in the way of being adopted by her. If people chuse that a great mansion should be the chief figure in a country, let this kind of keeping prevail through the picture, and true taste will find no fault.

I am writing now rather for writing's sake than anything else, for I have many remembrances beating about in my head which you would little suspect. I have been thinking of you, and Coleridge, and our Scotch Tour, and Lord Lowther's grounds, and Heaven knows what. I have had before me the tremendously long ell-wide gravel walks of the Duke of Athol, among the wild glens of Blair, Bruar Water, and Dunkeld, brushed neatly, without a blade of grass or weed upon them, or anything that bore traces of a human footstep; much indeed of human hands, but wear or tear of foot was none. Thence I pass'd to our neighbour, Lord Lowther. You know that his predecessor, greatly, without doubt, to the advantage of the place, left it to take care of itself. The present lord seems disposed to do something, but not much. He has a neighbour, a Quaker, an amiable, inoffensive man[33], and a little of a poet too, who has amused himself, upon his own small estate upon the Emont, in twining pathways along the banks of the river, making little cells and bowers with inscriptions of his own writing, all very pretty as not spreading far. This man is at present Arbiter Elegantiarum, or master of the grounds, at Lowther, and what he has done hitherto is very well, as it is little more than making accessible what could not before be got at.

[33] Mr. Thomas Wilkinson. See poem, 'To his Spade.'

You know something of Lowther. I believe a more delightful spot is not under the sun. Last summer I had a charming walk along the river, for which I was indebted to this man, whose intention is to carry the walk along the river-side till it joins the great road at Lowther Bridge, which you will recollect, just under Brougham, about a mile from Penrith. This to my great sorrow! for the manufactured walk, which was absolutely necessary in many places, will in one place pass through a few hundred yards of forest ground, and will there efface the most beautiful specimen of a forest pathway ever seen by human eyes, and which I have paced many an hour, when I was a youth, with some of those I best love. This path winds on under the trees with the wantonness of a river or a living creature; and even if I may say so with the subtlety of a spirit, contracting or enlarging itself, visible or invisible as it likes. There is a continued opening between the trees, a narrow slip of green turf besprinkled with flowers, chiefly daisies, and here it is, if I may use the same kind of language, that this pretty path plays its pranks, wearing away the turf and flowers at its pleasure. When I took the walk I was speaking of, last summer, it was Sunday. I met several of the people of the country posting to and from church, in different parts; and in a retired spot by the river-side were two musicians (belonging probably to some corps of volunteers) playing upon the hautboy and clarionet. You may guess I was not a little delighted; and as you had been a visiter at Lowther, I could not help wishing you were with me. And now I am brought to the sentiment which occasioned this detail; I may say, brought back to my subject, which is this,—that all just and solid pleasure in natural objects rests upon two pillars, God and Man. Laying out grounds, as it is called, may be considered as a liberal art, in some sort like poetry and painting; and its object, like that of all the liberal arts, is, or ought to be, to move the affections under the controul of good sense; that is, those of the best and wisest: but, speaking with more precision, it is to assist Nature in moving the affections, and, surely, as I have said, the affections of those who have the deepest perception of the beauty of Nature; who have the most valuable feelings, that is, the most permanent, the most independent, the most ennobling, connected with Nature and human life. No liberal art aims merely at the gratification of an individual or a class: the painter or poet is degraded in proportion as he does so; the true servants of the Arts pay homage to the human kind as impersonated in unwarped and enlightened minds. If this be so when we are merely putting together words or colours, how much more ought the feeling to prevail when we are in the midst of the realities of things; of the beauty and harmony, of the joy and happiness of living creatures; of men and children, of birds and beasts, of hills and streams, and trees and flowers; with the changes of night and day, evening and morning, summer and winter; and all their unwearied actions and energies, as benign in the spirit that animates them as they are beautiful and grand in that form and clothing which is given to them for the delight of our senses! But I must stop, for you feel these things as deeply as I; more deeply, if it were only for this, that you have lived longer. What then shall we say of many great mansions with their unqualified expulsion of human creatures from their neighbourhood, happy or not; houses, which do what is fabled of the upas tree, that they breathe out death and desolation! I know you will feel with me here, both as a man and a lover and professor of the arts. I was glad to hear from Lady Beaumont that you did not think of removing your village. Of course much here will depend upon circumstances, above all, with what kind of inhabitants, from the nature of the employments in that district, the village is likely to be stocked. But, for my part, strip my neighbourhood of human beings, and I should think it one of the greatest privations I could undergo. You have all the poverty of solitude, nothing of its elevation. In a word, if I were disposed to write a sermon (and this is something like one) upon the subject of taste in natural beauty, I should take for my text the little pathway in Lowther Woods, and all which I had to say would begin and end in the human heart, as under the direction of the Divine Nature, conferring value on the objects of the senses, and pointing out what is valuable in them.

I began this subject with Coleorton in my thoughts, and a confidence, that whatever difficulties or crosses (as of many good things it is not easy to chuse the best) you might meet with in the practical application of your principles of Taste, yet, being what they are, you will soon be pleased and satisfied. Only (if I may take the freedom to say so) do not give way too much to others: considering what your studies and pursuits have been, your own judgment must be the best: professional men may suggest hints, but I would keep the decision to myself.

Lady Beaumont utters something like an apprehension that the slowness of workmen or other impediments may prevent our families meeting at Coleorton next summer. We shall be sorry for this, the more so, as the same cause will hinder your coming hither. At all events, we shall depend upon her frankness, which we take most kindly indeed; I mean, on the promise she has made, to let us know whether you are gotten so far through your work as to make it comfortable for us all to be together.

I cannot close this letter without a word about myself. I am sorry to say I am not yet settled to any serious employment. The expectation of Coleridge not a little unhinges me, and, still more, the number of visitors we have had; but winter is approaching, and I have good hopes. I mentioned Michael Angelo's poetry some time ago; it is the most difficult to construe I ever met with, but just what you would expect from such a man, shewing abundantly how conversant his soul was with great things. There is a mistake in the world concerning the Italian language; the poetry of Dante and Michael Angelo proves, that if there be little majesty and strength in Italian verse, the fault is in the authors, and not in the tongue. I can translate, and have translated, two books of Ariosto, at the rate, nearly, of 100 lines a day; but so much meaning has been put by Michael Angelo into so little room, and that meaning sometimes so excellent in itself, that I found the difficulty of translating him insurmountable. I attempted, at least, fifteen of the sonnets, but could not anywhere succeed. I have sent you the only one I was able to finish: it is far from being the best, or most characteristic, but the others were too much for me.[34]

[34] 'Yes, Hope may with my strong desire keep pace,' &c.

I began this letter about a week ago, having been interrupted. I mention this, because I have on this account to apologise to Lady Beaumont, and to my sister also, whose intention it was to have written, but being very much engaged, she put it off as I was writing. We have been weaning Dorothy, and since, she has had a return of the croup from an imprudent exposure on a very cold day. But she is doing well again; and my sister will write very soon. Lady Beaumont inquired how game might be sent us. There is a direct conveyance from Manchester to Kendal by the mail, and a parcel directed for me, to be delivered at Kendal, immediately, to John Brockbank, Ambleside, postman, would, I dare say, find its way to us expeditiously enough; only you will have the goodness to mention in your letters when you do send anything, otherwise we may not be aware of any mistake.

I am glad the Houbraken will be acceptable, and will send it any way you shall think proper, though perhaps, as it would only make a small parcel, there might be some risk in trusting it to the waggon or mail, unless it could be conveniently inquired after. No news of Coleridge. The length of this letter is quite formidable; forgive it. Farewell, and believe me, my dear Sir George,

Your truly affectionate friend, W. WORDSWORTH.[35]

[35] Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 345-54, with very important additions from the original. G.


Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.


Had there been room at the end of the small avenue of lime-trees for planting a spacious circle of the same trees, the urn might have been placed in the centre, with the inscription thus altered:

Ye lime-trees, ranged around this hallowed urn, Shoot forth with lively power at Spring's return!

* * * * *

Here may some painter sit in future days, Some future poet meditate his lays! Not mindless of that distant age, renowned, When inspiration hovered o'er this ground, The haunt of him who sang, how spear and shield In civil conflict met on Bosworth field, And of that famous youth (full soon removed From earth!) by mighty Shakspeare's self approved. Fletcher's associate, Jonson's friend beloved.

The first couplet of the above, as it before stood, would have appeared ludicrous, if the stone had remained after the tree might have been gone. The couplet relating to the household virtues did not accord with the painter and the poet; the former being allegorical figures; the latter, living men.

What follows, I composed yesterday morning, thinking there might be no impropriety in placing it, so as to be visible only to a person sitting within the niche which we hollowed out of the sandstone in the winter-garden. I am told that this is, in the present form of the niche, impossible; but I shall be most ready, when I come to Coleorton, to scoop out a place for it, if Lady Beaumont think it worth while.


Oft is the medal faithful to its trust When temples, columns, towers, are laid in dust; And 'tis a common ordinance of fate That things obscure and small outlive the great. Hence, &c.

These inscriptions have all one fault, they are too long; but I was unable to do justice to the thoughts in less room. The second has brought Sir John Beaumont and his brother Francis so lively to my mind, that I recur to the plan of republishing the former's poems, perhaps in connection with those of Francis. Could any further search be made after the 'Crown of Thorns?' If I recollect right, Southey applied without effect to the numerous friends he has among the collectors. The best way, perhaps, of managing this republication would be, to print it in a very elegant type and paper, and not many copies, to be sold high, so that it might be prized by the collectors as a curiosity. Bearing in mind how many excellent things there are in Sir John Beaumont's little volume, I am somewhat mortified at this mode of honouring his memory; but in the present state of the taste of this country, I cannot flatter myself that poems of that character would win their way into general circulation. Should it appear advisable, another edition might afterwards be published, upon a plan which would place the book within the reach of those who have little money to spare. I remain, my dear Sir George,

Your affectionate friend, W. WORDSWORTH[36].

[36] Memoirs, vol. i, pp. 358-60.


Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.

Grasmere, Sat., Nov. 16. 1811.


I have to thank you for two letters. Lady Beaumont also will accept my acknowledgments for the interesting letter with which she favoured me.

* * * * *

I learn from Mrs. Coleridge, who has lately heard from C——, that Alston, the painter, has arrived in London. Coleridge speaks of him as a most interesting person. He has brought with him a few pictures from his own pencil, among others, a Cupid and Psyche, which, in C.'s opinion, has not, for colouring, been surpassed since Titian. C. is about to deliver a Course of Lectures upon Poetry, at some Institution in the city. He is well, and I learn that the 'Friend' has been a good deal inquired after lately. For ourselves, we never hear from him.

I am glad that the inscriptions please you. It did always appear to me, that inscriptions, particularly those in verse, or in a dead language, were never supposed necessarily to be the composition of those in whose name they appeared. If a more striking, or more dramatic effect could be produced, I have always thought, that in an epitaph or memorial of any kind, a father, or husband, &c. might be introduced, speaking, without any absolute deception being intended: that is, the reader is understood to be at liberty to say to himself,—these verses, or this Latin, may be the composition of some unknown person, and not that of the father, widow, or friend, from whose hand or voice they profess to proceed. If the composition be natural, affecting, or beautiful, it is all that is required. This, at least, was my view of the subject, or I should not have adopted that mode. However, in respect to your scruples, which I feel are both delicate and reasonable, I have altered the verses; and I have only to regret that the alteration is not more happily done. But I never found anything more difficult. I wished to preserve the expression patrimonial grounds, but I found this impossible, on account of the awkwardness of the pronouns, he and his, as applied to Reynolds, and to yourself. This, even where it does not produce confusion, is always inelegant. I was, therefore, obliged to drop it; so that we must be content, I fear, with the inscription as it stands below. As you mention that the first copy was mislaid, I will transcribe the first part from that; but you can either choose the Dome or the Abbey as you like.

Ye lime-trees, ranged before this hallowed urn, Shoot forth with lively power at Spring's return; And be not slow a stately growth to rear Of pillars, branching off from year to year, Till ye have framed, at length, a darksome aisle, Like a recess within that sacred pile Where Reynolds, 'mid our country's noblest dead, In the last sanctity of fame is laid, &c. &c.

I hope this will do: I tried a hundred different ways, but cannot hit upon anything better. I am sorry to learn from Lady Beaumont, that there is reason to believe that our cedar is already perished. I am sorry for it. The verses upon that subject you and Lady B. praise highly; and certainly, if they have merit, as I cannot but think they have, your discriminating praises have pointed it out. The alteration in the beginning, I think with you, is a great improvement, and the first line is, to my ear, very rich and grateful. As to the 'Female and Male,' I know not how to get rid of it; for that circumstance gives the recess an appropriate interest. I remember, Mr. Bowles, the poet, objected to the word ravishment at the end of the sonnet to the winter-garden; yet it has the authority of all the first-rate poets, for instance, Milton:

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