William Wordsworth
1794: Windy Brow

Synopsis    Detailed account

View from Latrigg towards Keswick
View from Latrigg (Windy Brow) towards Keswick and Derwent Water

Synopsis: William returned to Windy Brow in late September, where he found Raisley Calvert in poor health. The poet agreed to stay to look after him. Raisley, who had made plans to share his income with Wordsworth in order to allow him to pursue his career as poet, now proposed to leave him 600, later raised to 900, in his will. Wordsworth spent much of the latter part of 1794 looking after the sick man. On 7th November, he wrote to his friend William Mathews:
...cataracts and mountains are good occasional society, but they will not do for constant companions, besides I have not even much of their conversation, and still less of that of my books as I am so much with my sick friend, and he cannot bear the fatigue of being read to.
Raisley died on 9 January 1795 (25), and Wordsworth left shortly afterwards for London.

Detailed account: William writes from Halifax to his friend Mathews on February 17, 1794: ... since I had the pleasure of seeing you, I have done nothing and continue to do nothing. What is to become of me I know not. I cannot bow down my mind to take orders, and as for the law I have neither strength of mind, purse, or constitution, to engage in that pursuit.

Dorothy Wordsworth writes in April 1794, (recipient unknown): After having enjoyed the company of my brother William at Halifax, we set forward by coach towards Whitehaven, and thence to Kendal. I walked with my brother at my side, from Kendal to Grasmere, eighteen miles, and afterwards from Grasmere to Keswick, fifteen miles, through the most delightful country that was ever seen. We are now at a farm-house, about half a mile from Keswick. (Windy Brow)

Map showing location of Windy Brow
Map showing location of Windy Brow

William writes from his uncle Richard's in Whitehaven to his friend William Mathews on May 23, 1794: ... I am correcting and considerably adding to those poems which I published in your absence (An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches). In the same letter, he writes at length about contributing to a Periodical Miscellany to be put on foot in London by Mathews and another friend, but the project comes to nothing. On November 7, 1794 he writes again to Mathews: The more nearly we approach the time fixed for action, the more strongly was I persuaded that we should decline the field. .... You enquired after the name of one of my poetical bantlings. Children of this species ought to be named after their characters, and here I am at a loss, as my offspring seems to have no character at all. I have however christened it by the appellation of Salisbury Plain; though, A night on Salisbury plain, - were it not so insufferably awkward - would better suit the thing itself. This poem was eventually published as The Female Vagrant in Lyrical Ballads in 1798, and again, in an expanded version, as Guilt and Sorrow, or Incidents upon Salisbury Plain in 1842.

In late December 1794, William writes again to William Mathews from Penrith after the acquittals in the Treason Trials: I rejoice with you on the acquittal of the prisoners.... The late occurrences in every point of view are interesting to humanity. They will abate the insolence and presumption of the aristocracy, by shewing it that neither the violence nor the art of power can crush even an unfriended individual, though engaged in the propagation of doctrines confessedly impalatable to privilege; and they will force upon the most prejudiced this conclusion that there is some reason in the language of reformers.... To every class of men occupied in the correction of abuses it must be an animating reflection that their exertions, as long as they are temperate, will be countenanced and protected by the good sense of the country. He is here referring to the acquittal of the three reformers, John Thelwall, John Horne Tooke and Thomas Hardy, charged with High Treason by the government. It will be noted that his tone is now very reasonable and moderate, especially when compared with the angry denunciations of the Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff. He goes on to request that Mathews would have the goodness to look out for me some employment  in your way. (ie on a newspaper), but gives various reasons for various jobs that he cannot do eg he could not be a parliamentary reporter because he is subject to 'nervous headaches' which 'invariably attack me when exposed to a heated atmosphere, or to loud noises'.

On January 16, 1795, Dorothy writes to her brother Richard: No doubt William has informed you of the death of his poor friend, Raisley Calvert, and that he has made an alteration in his will by which he bequeathed to him the sum of nine hundred pounds.... William will be in London I dare say, in a fortnight or three weeks at furthest.


Poems written in youth
Lines left on a Seat in a Yew Tree  
  Descriptive Sketches
An Evening Walk 

Poems on the naming of places
Joanna's Rock  

Poems of the Fancy
   The Linnet

Poems of the Imagination
  Lines written above Tintern Abbey
   Night Piece

Miscellaneous Sonnets
   Upon Westminster Bridge
It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free  
   Composed in the Valley near Dover
The Poet's Work  

Poems dedicated to National Independence and Liberty
On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic  

Links to external sites

Recording of The Wanderer

Comprehensive poetry resource

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