ON THE WING May 1802--December 1803
DURING the summer of 1802 Wordsworth was making preparations for his marriage to Mary Hutchinson. Dove Cottage was likely to prove too small for an enlarged household, and there was some thought of a move to Keswick, where the Wordsworths might either share Greta Hall or take a neighbouring Brow Top. On 20 May, however, they had a letter from Coleridge, asking them not to go to Keswick, and two days later they met him at 'Sara's rock', and had 'some interesting, melancholy talk, about his private affairs'. Dorothy wrote to Mrs. Coleridge, probably abandoning the plan, and had an unsatisfactory answer.1
Mrs Coleridge is a most extraordinary character--she is the lightest weakest silliest woman! She sent some clean clothes on Thursday to meet C. (the first time she ever did such a thing in her life) from which I guess that she is determined to be attentive to him--she wrote a note, saying not a word about my letter, and all in her very lightest style. . . . Is it not a hopeless case? So insensible and so irritable she can never come to good and poor C!
A month later the Wordsworths left Grasmere, on their way to France, where William had to close his relations with Annette Vallon, and did not return until 6 October, after the marriage. Perhaps their absence contributed to the establishment of better terms between Coleridge and his wife. After a violent quarrel, which threw him into spasms, he made up his mind to the 'awful step' of threatening a separation. It wounded her pride, he says, and made her serious.
She promised to set about an alteration in her external manners and looks and language, and to fight against her inveterate habits of puny thwarting and unintermitting dyspathy, this immediately, and to do her best endeavours to cherish other feelings. I, on my part, promised to be more attentive to all her feelings of pride, etc., etc., and to try to correct my habits of impetuous censure.