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The Christmas Eve Letter: reading

Professor Keith Hanley, Lancaster University, reads from the Wordsworths' Christmas Eve letter, written to Coleridge in 1799.
The Christmas Eve letter.
My Dearest Coleridge, we arrived here last Friday, and have now been four days in our new abode. Dorothy is now sitting by me, wracked with a toothache. This is a grievous misfortune, as she has so much work for her needle among the bed curtains, et cetera, that she’s absolutely buried in it. We have both caught troublesome colds in our new and almost empty house, but we hope to make it a comfortable dwelling. Our two first days were days of fear, as one of the rooms upstairs smoked like a furnace. We have since learned that it is uninhabitable as a sitting room, on this account.
The other room, however, and which is fortunately the one we intended for our living room, promises uncommonly well. That is, the chimney draws perfectly, and does not even smoke at the first lighting of the fire. In particular winds, most likely we shall have puffs of inconvenience. But this, I believe, will be found a curable evil.
Dorothy is much pleased with the house and appurtenances, the orchard especially. In imagination, she has already built a seat with a summer shed on the highest platform, in this our little domestic slip of mountain. The spot commands a view over the roof of our house of the lake, the church, Helm Crag, and 2/3 of the vale. We mean also to enclose the two or three yards of ground between us on the road. This for the sake of a few fires, and because it will make it more our own.
The manner of the neighbouring cottages have far exceeded our expectations. The people we have uniformly found kind hearted, frank, and manly, prompt to serve without servility. This is but an experience of four days, but we have had dealings with persons of various occupations, and have had no reason whatsoever to complain. We do not think it will be necessary for us to keep a servant. We have agreed to give a woman who lives in one of the adjoining cottages two shillings a week for attending, two or three hours a day, to light the fires, wash dishes, et cetera, et cetera.
The weather since our arrival has been a keen frost. One morning, 2/3 of the lake were covered with ice, which continued all the day. But to our great surprise, the next morning that there was no intermission, the frost had entirely disappeared. The ice had been so thin that the wind had broken it up, though most likely driven it to the output of the lake. Rydell is covered with ice, clear as polished steel. I have procured a pair of skates. Tomorrow, mean to give my body to the wind– not, however, without reasonable caution.

The Christmas Eve letter is a letter written by the Wordsworths to Coleridge on first arriving in their new home, Dove Cottage (24 December, 1799).

As you listen, think about what subjects most concern the letter writer.

What do they most urgently want to communicate?

Did anything surprise you here?

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William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place

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