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May 11 1812: Reconciliation


On Monday, May 11, 1812, Henry Crabb Robinson worked with William Wordsworth to rewrite a response to Samuel Taylor Coleridge that would end their quarrel. Robinson used all his legal skills to draft, soften and redraft the response. The finished document conveyed the basic point that Wordsworth categorically denied having authorized or commissioned Montagu to say anything to Coleridge on his behalf. He also wrote: “I also affirm as sacredly that though in some of the particulars enumerated by C. as having wounded his feelings there is something of the form of truth there is absolutely nothing of the Spirit in any of them.” [1] Robinson delivered the document to Coleridge in the afternoon at around 3 p.m. Coleridge found Wordsworth's document "perfectly acceptable". Coleridge proceed to draft a letter to Wordsworth where he wrote: “I declare before God Almighty that at no time even of my sorest affliction did even the possibility occur to me of ever doubting your word. I never ceased for a moment to have faith in you, to love & revere you: tho’ I was unable to explain an unkindness, which seemed anomalous in your character.” The two friends reconciled but they would never be as close again. [2] Coleridge's letter to Wordsworth of May 11 1812 is reproduced below.


71, Berners Street,
Monday afternoon, 3 o'clock, May 11, 1812.

Mt dear Wordsworth, — I declare before God Almighty that at no time, even in my sorest affliction, did even the possibility occur to me of ever doubting your word, I never ceased for a moment to have faith in you, to love and revere you ; though I was unable to explain an unkindness, which seemed anomalous in your character. Doubtless it would have been better, wiser, and more worthy of my relation to you, had I immediately written to you a full account of what had happened — especially as the person's language concerning your family was such as nothing but the wild general counter-panegyric of the same person almost in the same breath of yourself — as a converser, etc., — could have justified me in not resenting to the uttermost . . . All these, added to what I mentioned in my letter to you, may not justify, but yet must palliate, the only offence I ever committed against you in deed or word or thought — that is, the not writing to you and trusting instead to our common friends. Since I left you my pocket books have been my only full confidants, — and though instructed by prudence to write so as to be intelligible to no being on earth but yourself and your family, they for eighteen months together would furnish proof that in anguish or induration I yet never ceased both to honour and love you.

S T. Coleridge.

I need not say, of course, that your presence at the Lectures, or anywhere else, will be gratifying to me.

Notes
1. Richard Holmes Coleridge: Darker Reflections (New York: Harper Colins, 2000), page 56
2. Juliet Barker, Wordsworth A Life (New York, Harper Collins,2000), page 302.




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