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Saturday July 2, 2022

William’s Letter to Samuel: Excerpt

letter to Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Dove Cottage Grasmere

Christmas Eve, Grasmere, 1799

My Dear Coleridge,

We arrived here last Friday, and have now been four days in our new abode without writing to you, a long time! but we have been in such confusion as not to have had a moment’s leisure. We found two Letters from you one of which I had heard of at Sockburne. I do not think there is much cause to be uneasy about Cooke’s affair, but as he has not answered my Letter I cannot say but I am sorry I mentioned your name; feeling so forcibly as I did that, if any man had reason to suppose I could be of service to him, he would gain incalculably by the proposed change, I was betrayed into language not sufficiently considerate and reseved. If it is in my power to remedy any part of the evil by writing again to Cooke, or in any other way, pray mention it to me.

I arrived at Sockburn the day after you quitted it, I scarcely knew whether to be sorry or no that you were no longer there, as it would have been a great pain to me to have parted from you. I was sadly disappointed in not finding Dorothy; Mary was a solitary house-keeper and overjoyed to see me. D is now sitting by me racked with the tooth-ache. This is a grievous misfortune as she has so much work for her needle among the bedcurtains, etc. that she is absolutely buried in it.

We have both caught troublesome colds in our new and almost empty house, but we hope to make it a comfortable dwelling. Our first two days were days of fear as one of the rooms upstairs smoked like a furnace, we have since learned that it is uninhabitable as a sitting room on this account; the other room however which is fortunately the one we intended for our living room promises uncommonly well; that is, the chimney draws perfectly, and does not even smoke at the first lighting of the fire. In particular winds most likely we shall have puffs of inconvenience, but this I believe will be found a curable evil, by means of devils as they are called and other beneficient agents which we shall station at the top of the chimney if their services should be required.

D is much pleased with the house and the appurtenances, the orchard especially; in imagination she has already built a seat with a summer shed on the highest platform in this our little domestic slip of mountain. The spot commands a view over the roof of our house, of the lake, the church, helm cragg, and two thirds of the vale.We mean to enclose also two or three yards of ground between us and the road, this for the sake of a few flowers, and because it will make it more our own. Besides, am I fanciful when I would extend the obligation of gratitude to insensate things? May not a man have a salutary pleasure in doing something gratuitousl for the sake of his house, as for an individual to which he owes so much –

 The manners of the neighbouring cottagers have far exceeded our expectations; they seem little adulterated; indeed as far as we have seen not at all. The people we have uniformly found kind-hearted, frank and manly, prompt to serve without servility. This is but experience of four days, but we have had dealings with persons of various occupations, and have no reason whatever to complain.

We do not think it necessary for us to keep a servant. We have agreed to give a woman, who lives in one of the adjoining cottages two shillings a week for attending two or three hours a day to light the fires, wash dishes, etc, etc. In addition to this she is to have her victuals every Saturday when she will be employed in scouring, and to have her victuals likewise on other days if we should have visitors and she is wanted more than usual. We could have had this attendance for eighteen pence a week but we added the sixpence for the sake of the poor woman, who is made happy by it.

 The weather since our arrival has been a keen frost, one morning two thirds of the lake was covered with ice which continued all the day but, to our great surprize, the next morning, though there was no intermission of the frost, had entirely disappeared. The ice had been so thin that the wind had broken it up, and most likely driven it to the outlet of the lake. Rydale is covered with ice, clear as polished steel, I have procured a pair of skates and to-morrow mean to give my body to the wind,- not, however, without reasonable caution.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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