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AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORANDA DICTATED BY WILLIAM WORDS
WORTH, P. L., AT RYDAL MOUNT, NOVEMBER, 1847.
I was born at Cockermouth, in Cumberland, on April 7th, 1770, the second son of John Wordsworth, attorney-at-law, as lawyers of this class were then called, and law-agent to Sir James Lowther, afterwards Earl of Lonsdale. My mother was Anne, only daughter of William Cookson, mercer, of Penrith, and of Dorothy, born Crackanthorp, of the ancient family of that name, who from the times of Edward the Third had lived in Newbiggen Hall, Westmoreland. My grandfather was the first of the name of Wordsworth who came into Westmoreland, where he purchased the small estate of Sockbridge. He was descended from a family who had been settled at Peniston in Yorkshire, near the sources of the Don, probably before the Norman Conquest. Their names appear on different occasions in all the transactions, personal and public, connected with that parish; and I possess, through the kindness of Col. Beaumont, an almery made in 1525, at the expense of a William Wordsworth, as is expressed in a Latin inscription" carved
1 The original is as follows, some of the abbreviations being expanded: “Hoc OPUS FIEBAT ANNO DOMINI MCCCXXV EX SUMPTU WILLELMI WORDESWORTH FILII W. Fil. Jon. FIL. W. Fil. Nich.
upon it, which carries the pedigree of the family back four generations from himself.
The time of my infancy and early boyhood was passed partly at Cockermouth, and partly with my mother's parents at Penrith, where my mother, in the year 1778, died of a decline, brought on by a cold, the consequence of being put, at a friend's house in London, in what used to be called “a best bedroom.” My father never recovered his usual cheerfulness of mind after this loss, and died when I was in my fourteenth year, a schoolboy, just returned from Hawkshead, whither I had been sent with my elder brother Richard, in my
year. I remember my mother only in some few situations, one of which was her pinning a nosegay to my breast when I was going to say the catechism in the church, as was customary before Easter. I remember also telling her on one week day that I had been at church, for our school stood in the churchyard, and we had frequent opportunities of seeing what was going on there. The occasion was, a woman doing penance in the church in a white sheet. My mother commended my having been present, expressing a hope that I should remember the circumstance for the rest of my
VIRI ELIZABETI FILIÆ ET HEREDIS W. PROCTOR DE PENYSTON QUORUM ANIMABUS PROPITIETUR Deus.”
On the almery are carved the letters " I. H. S.” and “M. ;" also the emblem of the Holy Trinity.
For further information concerning this oak press, see Mr. Hunter's paper in “Gentleman's Magazine" for July, 1850, p. 43.
See Ecclesiastical Sonnets, Part iii. Sonnet xxii. “On Catechizing,” vol. iv. p. 110.
Let me here observe, that the edition of Wordsworth’s Poems to which reference will be made in the following Memoirs, is the last, in six vols. 24mo. 1849-50,
life. “ But,” said I, “ Mama, they did not give me a penny, as I had been told they would.” “Oh,” said she, recanting her praises, “if that was your motive, you were very properly disappointed.”
My last impression was having a glimpse of her on passing the door of her bedroom during her last illness, when she was reclining in her easy chair. An intimate friend of hers, Miss Hamilton by name, who was used to visit her at Cockermouth, told me that she once said to her, that the only one of her five children about whose future life she was anxious, was William ; and he, she said, would be remarkable either for good or for evil. The cause of this was, that I was of a stiff, moody, and violent temper; so much so that I remember going once into the attics of my grandfather's house at Penrith, upon some indignity having been put upon me, with an intention of destroying myself with one of the foils which I knew was kept there. I took the foil in hand, but my heart failed. Upon another occasion, while I was at my grandfather's house at Penrith, along with my eldest brother, Richard, we were whipping tops together in the large drawing-room, on which the carpet was only laid down upon particular occasions. The walls were hung round with family pictures, and I said to my brother, “Dare you strike your whip through that old lady's petticoat ?" He replied, “No, I won't.” “Then,” said I, “ here goes;” and I struck my lash through her hooped petticoat, for which no doubt, though I have forgotten it, I was properly punished. But possibly, from some want of judgment in punishments inflicted, I had become perverse and obstinate in defying chastisement, and rather proud of it than otherwise.
my earliest days at school I have little to say, but that they were very happy ones, chiefly because I was left at liberty, then and in the vacations, to read whatever books I liked. For example, I read all Fielding's works, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and any part of Swift that I liked ; Gulliver's Travels, and the Tale of the Tub, being both much to my taste. I was very
much indebted to one of the ushers of Hawkshead School, by name Shaw, who taught me more of Latin in a fortnight than I had learnt during two preceding years at the school of Cockermouth. Unfortunately for me this excellent master left our school, and went to Stafford, where he taught for many years. .
be perhaps as well to mention, that the first verses which I wrote were a task imposed by my master; the subject, “The Summer Vacation ;” and of my own accord I added others upon “Return to School.” There was nothing remarkable in either poem ; but I was called upon, among other scholars, to write verses upon the completion of the second centenary from the foundation of the school in 1585, by Archbishop Sandys. These verses! were much admired, far more than they
| Lines written by William Wordsworth as a School Exercise at Hawkshead, anno ætatis 14. (Such is the title, but he must have been at least in his fifteenth year, if the year of the foundation is stated correctly.)
“And has the Sun his flaming chariot driven
deserved, for they were but a tame imitation of Pope's versification, and a little in his style. This exercise,
But she who trains the generous British youth
" When Superstition left the golden light