June 11 1812: Wordsworth Learns of Daughter's Death

On June 11, 1812, William Wordsworth receives the letter from his sister Dorothy telling him that his daughter Catherine has died. He receives the letter a week after her death on June 4  and three days after her funeral. Dorothy's letter was delayed so that by the time William receives it Mary Wordsworth in Hindwell, Wales has already learned of Catherine's death. William's first thought is to go to his wife. He finds her inconsolable. She is "tortured by the belief that, had she been there, a mother's instinct might have enabled her to save her child". [1] Mary will recover from her grief only to be shaken anew when their younger son Thomas Wordsworth will die in December, 1812.  A few years later, William will write Surprised by Joy about the loss of his daughter.

Surprised by joy – impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport – Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind –
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss? – That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.


1. Juliet Barker, Wordsworth: A Life (New York, Harper Collins,2000), page 307

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