Feb 6 1812 Wordsworth to Lord Lonsdale

On February 6, 1812, William Wordsworth writes to Lord Lonsdale seeking his assistance in obtaining an office in what his biographer has called a "begging letter." *  The letter reads, in part:  
GRASMERE, Feb. 6, 1812. 
"... I need scarcely say that literature has been the  pursuit of my life; a life-pursuit, chosen (as I believe are those of most men distinguished by any particular features of character) partly from passionate liking, and partly from calculations of the judgment; and in some small degree from circumstances in which my youth was placed, that threw great difficulties in the way of my adopting that profession to which I was most inclined, and for which I was perhaps best qualified. I long hoped, depending upon my moderate desires, that the profits of my literary labours, added to the little which I possessed, would have answered all the rational wants of myself and my family. But in this I have been disappointed, and for these causes ; firstly, the unexpected pressure of the times, falling most heavily upon men, who have no regular means of increasing their income in proportion; secondly, I had erroneously calculated upon the degree in which my writings were likely to suit the taste of the times; and lastly, much the most important part of my efforts cannot meet the public eye for many years, from the comprehensiveness of the subject. I may also add (but it is scarcely worth while), a fourth reason, viz.: an utter inability on my part to associate with any class or body of literary men, and thus subject myself to the necessity of sacrificing my own judgment, and of lending, even indirectly, countenance or support to principles, either of taste, politics, morals or religion, which I disapprove ; and your lordship is not ignorant that, except writers engaged in mere drudgery, there are scarcely any authors but those associated in this manner, who find literature, at this day, an employment attended with pecuniary gain.
The statement of these facts has been made, as your lordship will probably have anticipated, in order that if any office should be at your disposal (the duties of which would not call so largely upon my exertions as to prevent me from giving a considerable portion of time to study), it might be in your lordship's power to place me in a situation where, with better hope of success, I might advance towards the main object of my life, I mean the completion of my literary undertakings; and thereby contribute to the innocent gratification, and perhaps the solid benefit of many of my Countrymen.
I have been emboldened to make this statement from a remembrance that my family has for several generations been honoured by the regard of that of your lordship, and that, in particular, my father and grandfather did, conscientiously I believe, discharge such trusts as were reposed in them from that connection. 
In response to this appeal, Lord Lonsdale applied to Lord Liverpool on Wordsworth's behalf, but failed. In 1813 Wordsworth was appointed, under Lonsdale's patronage, to the post of Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland and Penrith.
*See Juliet Barker, Wordsworth A Life (New York, Harper Collins,2000), page 298. 

No comments:

Post a Comment