Between October 1798 and February 1799, Wordsworth worked on the first draft of the "Lucy poems" together with a number of other verses, including the "Matthew poems", "Lucy Gray" and The Prelude. Coleridge had yet to join the siblings in Germany, and Wordsworth's separation from his friend depressed him. In the three months following their parting, Wordsworth completed the first three of the "Lucy poems": "Strange fits", "She dwelt", and "A slumber". They first appeared in a letter to Coleridge dated December 1798, in which Wordsworth wrote that "She dwelt" and "Strange fits" were "little Rhyme poems which I hope will amuse you". Wordsworth characterised the two poems thus to mitigate any disappointment Coleridge might suffer in receiving these two poems instead of the promised three-part philosophical epic The Recluse.
In the same letter, Wordsworth complained that:
As I have had no books I have been obliged to write in self-defense. I should have written five times as much as I have done but that I am prevented by an uneasiness at my stomach and side, with a dull pain about my heart. I have used the word pain, but uneasiness and heat are words which more accurately express my feelings. At all events it renders writing unpleasant. Reading is now become a kind of luxury to me. When I do not read I am absolutely consumed by thinking and feeling and bodily exertions of voice or of limbs, the consequence of those feelings.
Wordsworth partially blamed Dorothy for the abrupt loss of Coleridge's company. He felt that their finances—insufficient for supporting them both in Ratzeburg—would have easily supported him alone, allowing him to follow Coleridge. Wordsworth's anguish was compounded by the contrast between his life and that of his friend. Coleridge's financial means allowed him to entertain lavishly and to seek the company of nobles and intellectuals; Wordsworth's limited wealth constrained him to a quiet and modest life. Wordsworth's envy...