THE LOVE LETTERS OF WILLIAM AND MARY WORDSWORTH by Beth--Ed. Darlington

THE LOVE LETTERS OF WILLIAM AND MARY WORDSWORTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An engaging travaille: 31 letters written by the poet to his wife and vice versa during two longish separations in 1810 and 1812. Though the tone, especially on William's side, tends to be connubially relaxed and intimate rather than openly passionate, these letters (first discovered in 1977) do give us an attractive and sometimes affecting glimpse of the Wordsworths. Of the two, Mary is the livelier and more appealing correspondent, pouring out her thoughts in a brisk, even ecstatic tumble. Bits of news, the joys and pains of mothering her brood of five (soon, alas, to be three), the myriad distractions of a harried household--all this rushed from her pen with a scatterbrained gusto that suggests a chaste and homey Molly Bloom. Mary makes no bones about her feelings for William, which often verge on adoration: "". . . now that I sit down to answer thee in the loneliness & depth of that love which united us / which cannot be felt but by ourselves, I am so agitated & my eyes are so bedimmed that I scarcely know how to proceed--I have brought my paper, after having laid my baby upon thy sacred pillow, into my own, into THY own room,"" etc. William, by contrast, is restrained and decorous, except for one splendid letter, written just before the couple's reunion in June 1812, that crackles with unabashed desire. While much of the correspondence revolves around the banal ephemera of tourism--William's trip to London, Mary's visit to Tintern Abbey, some intriguing and only half-expressed themes emerge: Mary's greater sympathy for the poor versus William's growing conservatism, William's veiled hints that if Mary put on weight she would be more sexually desirable and Mary's intermittent efforts to do so, Mary's admirable unselfishness vis-à-vis William's earlier affair with Annette Vallon, etc. Darlington's editing is enthusiastic and unpedantically helpful, the letters themselves have the unstudied freshness of lived life, and their publication constitutes a major event for students of English Romanticism.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press