Understanding the Letter from Goslar

In December, 1798, both Coleridge and William and Dorothy Wordsworth were in Germany in an attempt to learn the language and engage with German ideas. Although they travelled over together to Hamburg, Coleridge then went to Ratzeburg and Gottingen, whilst William and Dorothy went to Goslar. They separated largely because the Wordsworths needed to live somewhere relatively inexpensive.

Once William and Dorothy were settled in Goslar, they wrote to Coleridge and by December were sending him copies of some of the material entered in MS JJ and elsewhere. One letter included a copy of "There was a boy", whilst the long letter from Goslar written on the 14th or 21st December, 1798 contained a considerable amount of poetry from MS JJ and another manuscript now missing.

The letter is written on one large sheet of paper (34 x 42 cm), folded in half down the middle and then into 3 parts to make it into a letter.

On one half of the sheet (back and front) was copied two "Lucy" poems and early material for "Nutting".

On the other half of the sheet, (back and front) and around the address, was the material relating to the early Prelude: the skating scene and the boat-stealing episode. (The Cornell edition only reproduces these two sides of the letter). This is the first surviving version of the skating scene, which was not present in MS JJ. The material is entered on the front and back of the same side of the sheet, not on facing pages.

The letter from Goslar is physically and materially attractive. It also allows us to engage, in an act of imaginative re-construction, with the first reading of this famous material by Coleridge.