Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Wasting tea

from NYTimes 18 August 1900:

Wordsworth and His Tea

From threads from the Life of John Mills By His Wife.

We walked from Ambleside to Rydal. As we entered the gate, a lady was standing at the door, who, seeing us waited to give us welcome. She not only congratulated me, but taking my hand, gave me a kiss. I think she saw how nervous and excited I was. In the sitting room sat Mr. Wordsworth, who gave us a quiet but kindly greeting ---After we had sat a few minutes, Wordsworth rose and said to Mr. Mills, ‘Will you come into the library a while?---Mrs. Wordsworth and I then sat chatting in the sitting room. ---At five o’clock the gentlemen joined us at tea. Of that hour I can only recall two things. One that the talk between Wordsworth and my husband turned on Klopstock’s ‘Messiah,’ the other the quiet watchfulness of Mrs. Wordsworth. When her husband got excited, or went off into a sort of monologue, forgetting all about the tea, she quietly and unobserved took the cup and poured away its contents, refilling it with fresh, hot tea, and then saying, ‘William, had you not better drink your tea before it gets cold?’ He smiled and obeyed, but with no notion that it was other than the first cup poured out.

You might think this is a sweet anecdote about how doting this turn-of-the-century lady was on her husband. Not me. What a horrible waste of tea. All because he’s so absentmindedly holding ridiculous speeches while the rest of us are trying to enjoy our tea. Can you imagine a more rude teatime guest? I can’t.

Lucky for old Bill Wordsworth, I like the coot’s poetry. Really do. But his tea drinking clearly left a lot to be desired. Who holds speeches while drinking tea anyway? He sounds like he was a miserable bore. Really fun guy to no longer invite over for tea.

Now, the whole nature of a blog is that I’m holding forth a bit of a soliloquy here. I hope there’ll be a bit of dialogue. And I get more than some blogs, I assure you. But I never know what people most enjoy reading here. And the things that generate the most comments are rarely what I’d predict.

I’ll leave you with one of the old codger’s better pieces. If you’ve bothered to stick around, I’m sure you’ll dig this one. Check it out Daddyo…

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glorydo we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy
But he
Beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

-from ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’ (1807)


  1. Haha I would drink the tea first, then chat.
    Either that, or drink the tea in silence. Sometimes silence amongst a group is the best way to enjoy a tranquil moment with a special cup of tea!

  2. I agree with you,William! Silence amongst a group is eerily calming.