1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Quillinan

William Wordsworth to Edward Quillinan, 30 September 1837; Letters, ed. Knight (1907) 3:141.



BRINSOP COURT, Sept. 20, 1837.

My dear Mr. Quillinan,

We are heartily glad to learn from your letter, just received, that in all probability by this time you must have left the unhappy country in which you have been so long residing. I should not have been sorry if you had entered a little more into Peninsular politics, for what is going on there is shocking to humanity, and one would be glad to see anything like an opening for the termination of these unnatural troubles. The position of the Miguelites, relative to the conflicting so-called liberal parties, is just what I apprehended, and expressed very lately to Mr. Robinson.... He came down with us to Hereford with a view to a short tour on the banks of the Wye, which has been prevented by an unexpected attack of my old complaint of inflammation in the eye; and, in consequence of this, Dora will accompany me home, with a promise on her part of returning to London before the month of October is out. Our places are taken in tomorrow's coach for Liverpool, so that since we must be disappointed in not seeing you and Jemima here, we trust that you will come on to Rydal from Leeds. This very day Dora had read to me your poem again; it convinces me, along with your other writings, that it is in your power to attain a permanent place among the poets of England. Your thoughts, feelings, knowledge, judgment in style, and skill in metre entitle you to it; and if you have not succeeded in gaining it, the cause appears to me merely to lie in the subjects which you have chosen.

It is worthy of note how much of Gray's popularity is owing to the happiness with which his subject is selected in three instances, viz. his Hymn to Adversity, his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, and his Elegy. I ought, however, in justice to you, to add that one cause of your failure appears to have been in thinking too humbly of yourself, so that you have not reckoned it worth while to look sufficiently round you for the best subjects, or to employ as much time in reflecting, condensing, bringing out, and placing your thoughts and feeling in the best point of view as is necessary.

I will conclude this matter of poetry, and my part of the letter, with requesting that as an act of friendship, at your convenience, you would take the trouble — a considerable one, I own — of comparing the corrections in my last edition with the text in the preceding one. You know my principles of style better, I think, than any one else, and I should be glad to learn if anything strikes you as being altered for the worse. You will find the principal changes are in The While Doe, in which I had too little of the benefit of your help and judgment. There are several also in the sonnets, both miscellaneous and political. In the other poems they are not at all so numerous; but here also I should be glad if you would take the like trouble. Jemima, I am sure, will be pleased to assist you in the comparison by reading new or old, as you may think fit. With love to her, I remain, my dear Mr. Quillinan,

Faithfully yours,

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.