1826 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Cottle

William Wordsworth to Joseph Cottle, 27 January 1826; Letters of the Wordsworth Family, ed. Knight (1907) 2:360-62.



RYDAL MOUNT, NEAR KENDAL, 27th January, 1829.

My dear Sir,

It is an age since you addressed a very kind letter to me, and though I did not receive it till long after its date, — being then upon the Continent, — I should have replied to it much earlier, could I have done so to my satisfaction. But you will recollect it probably. The letter contained a request that I should address to you some verses. I wished to meet this desire of yours; but, I know not how it is, I have ever striven in vain to write verses upon subjects either proposed, or imposed. I hoped to prove more fortunate on this occasion, but I have been disappointed. And therefore I beg you to excuse me, not imputing my failure to any want of inclination, or even to the absence of poetic feeling connected with times and places to which your letter refers. You will not be hurt at this inability, when I tell you that I was once a whole twelve-month occasionally employed in vain endeavour to write an inscription upon a suggested subject, though it was to please one of my most valued friends.

I am glad to hear of your intended publication. The Malvern Hills, from which you gave me a valuable extract, I frequently look at. It was always a favourite of mine. Some passages — and especially one, closing

To him who slept at noon and wakes at eve —

I thought super-excellent.

I was truly glad to have, from Mrs. W. and my daughter, so agreeable an account of your family, and to have this account confirmed by your letter. I often think with lively remembrance of the days I passed at Bristol, not setting the least value on those passed under the roof of your good father and mother.

Last week I spent at Keswick with Mr. Southey; himself, his family, Mrs. Coleridge, and Sara, all well except for colds, scarcely to be avoided at this severe season. S. was busy as usual, and in excellent spirits. His son, about ten years of age, is a very fine youth, and though not robust enjoys excellent health. Mrs. Lovel was but poorly, indeed her health seems quite ruined. You probably have heard that Coleridge was on the Continent, along with my daughter and myself, last summer. The trip did him service, and though he was sometimes a good deal indisposed, his health, upon the whole, was for him not bad. Hartley lives in our neighbourhood. We see him, but not very often. He writes a good deal, and is about (I understand) to publish a volume of poems. You know that he is not quite so steady as his friends would wish. I must now conclude with the kindest regards, in which my daughter joins with Mrs. Wordsworth (my sister is in Leicestershire) to yourself, and your sisters, and nieces. And believe me, my dear friend,

Very faithfully yours,

WM. WORDSWORTH.