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Aunt; it is a blasty morning – it does blast so.' And the next morning, not more encouraging, she said, 'It is a hailing morning - it hails so hard. You must know that our house stands on a hill, exposed to all hails and blasts. ...
From the above letter it will be seen, as can be well understood, that Miss Wordsworth was a great favorite with the poet's children, of whom there were then born the four mentioned. To these children, and the interests and enjoyments of their young lives, she devoted herself with the unselfish devotion and zeal which so pervaded her life and animated her conduct.
Sara Coleridge, the daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, between whose family and that of Wordsworth the most cordial relations always existed, in the record of her early life has a pleasant recollection of a visit paid by her to Allan Bank when she was six years old. She writes : — “That journey to Grasmere gleams before me as the shadow of a shade. Allan Bank is a large house on the hill overlooking Easedale on one side and Grasmere on the other. Dorothy, Mr. Wordsworth's only daughter, was at the time very picturesque in her appearance, with her long thick yellow locks, which were never cut, but curled with papers, a thing which seems much out of keeping with the poetic, simple household. I remember being asked by my father and Miss Wordsworth, the poet's sister, if I did not think her very pretty. “No,' said I, bluntly, for which I met with a rebuff, which made me feel as if I was a culprit.”
Miss Coleridge also gives the following reminiscence: -“Miss Wordsworth, Mr. Wordsworth's sister, of most poetic eye and temper, took a great part with the children. She told us once a pretty story of a primrose, I think, which she espied by the wayside when she went to see me soon after my birth, though that was at Christmas, and how this same primrose was still blooming when she went back to Grasmere."
The life of Miss Wordsworth had hitherto been, on the whole, one of serene and calm enjoyment. In the social circle bound so closely in mutual affection, and so richly endowed with the faculty of making herself happy — of truly living — the only cloud during many years of brightness had been the death of her brother John. It could not, however, but have been expected that the happy circle would become still more acquainted with the common lot of mortal life.
During their residence at the parsonage at Grasmere, where they were living in 1812, the circle was broken by the loss of two of their children, then five in number. In the case of one, the interesting and delicate little Kate, then about four years old, the circumstances were peculiarly distressing. The way in which her very brief illness was caused has not been very clearly stated. De Quincey has attributed it to what he calls by the harsh name of the “criminal negligence" of one of the children of the George and Sarah Green before-mentioned, whom the Wordsworths had taken to live with them. He relates that while little Catherine was under the care of Sarah Green she was allowed to eat a number of raw carrots, in consequence of which she was very shortly seized with strong convulsions. Although she partially recovered the immediate effect, her left side remained in a disabled condition.
It was some months after this that little Kate, having gone to bed bright and happy at the hour of a June sunset, was discovered in a speechless condition about midnight, and died in convulsions after a few hours' suffering. While, as may be imagined, the grief of her parents at the loss was great, that of De Quincey (who was not at Grasmere at the time, and was informed of the event by Miss Wordsworth) was so poignant and extravagant as to become romantic. The dear child had got so near the heart of the little dreamy opium-eater - had, in fact, found so warm a corner there — that he seemed to be almost overwhelmed. The heart was empty, and the eyes that could no longer gaze upon the living form were filled with its image. He used to imagine that he saw her. So great was his grief that we are told he often spent the night upon her grave. This may appear very extravagant, as it doubtless is; but we cannot measure a man like De Quincey by any ordinary standard. Possessing as he did a gigantic and immortal genius, he was at the same time one of the most unimaginable and eccentric, unreal and dreamy of beings that ever owned a warm human heart. The Wordsworth children were especially dear to him, and particularly so little Catherine. And they returned his affection. Three weeks before her death he had seen her for the last time. In his letter to Miss Wordsworth he says: -“The children were speaking to me altogether, and I was saying one thing to one and another to another, and she, who could not speak loud enough to overpower the other voices, had got on a chair, and putting her hand upon my mouth, she said, with her sweet importunateness of action and voice, ‘Kinsey, Kinsey, what a bring Katy from London?' I believe she said it twice; and I remember that her mother noticed the earnestness and intelligence of her manner, and looked at me and smiled. This was the last time that I heard her sweet voice distinctly, and I shall never hear one like it again.”
The death of Catherine was followed six months later by that of her brother Thomas, six and a half years old. This double affliction made the Wordsworths glad to remove from the neighborhood of the churchyard, which so constantly reminded them of their loss. It was for this reason that, in 1813, they went to reside at Rydal Mount, which was thenceforth the home of Miss Wordsworth until her death - a period of more than forty years.
REMOVAL TO RYDAL MOUNT. — DORA WORDSWORTH.
CINCE their settlement in Grasmere, the worldly W circumstances of Wordsworth, as well as those of his sister, had considerably improved. We have seen upon what slender, combined means they began housekeeping, living in “ noble poverty” — and were happy. Shortly afterwards the then Earl of Lonsdale honorably paid to the Wordsworths the large sum of money which, as has been before mentioned, had been withheld by his father. The share of each of them of this is said to have been about £1,800. In addition to this the poet's muse had begun to be more profitable to him. Though he had not then been awarded that high and foremost rank in the inspired choir which he has since attained, yet his power as a great poet was beginning to be acknowledged by more than the select number who had from the first recognized his genius.
About this time he also had conferred upon him the appointment as distributor of stamps for Westmoreland. While the emoluments of this office formed a substantial addition to the poet's income, its duties were such that they could be chiefly performed by deputy.