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had he been born a Papist, the course of life, which in all probability would have been his, was that of a Benedictine monk in a convent, furnished with an inexhaustible library. Books were, in fact, his passion; and wandering, I can with truth affirm, was mine ; but this propensity in me was happily counteracted by inability from want of fortune to fulfil my wishes'.
Sir Geo. Beaumont, of whose kind and enduring friendship for our author we shall have to make frequent mention, aware of his roaming propensities, bequeathed him a sum of money towards the expenses of an annual tour.
Another notice in the sister's Diary is significant. — "We walked round the two lakes, Grasmere and Rydal. The sun shone out before we reached Grasmere. We sat by the roadside, at the foot of the lake, close by M's name. William cut it to make it plainer'.
Here we see him haunted and waylaid by thoughts of her whom he describes as a 'Phantom of delight', and are prepared for the entry of a later date. 'On Monday, October 4, 1802, Wordsworth was married at Brompton Church, near Scarborough, to Mary Hutchin
We arrived at Grasmere, at six in the evening, on October 6, 1802'.
Many of his literary friends, or at least acquaintances, were perplexed to imagine how this marriage was ever brought about, as they could not conceive of Wordsworth as submitting his faculties to the humilities and devotion of courtship. Much of the difficulty, however, disappears when we learn that he and his bride had known each other from childhood, having learned their letters from the same old dame at Penrith, and that Mary Hutchinson and his sister were warm friends.
This important step was further made easy to Words
worth, by the opportune repayment to his family, by Lord Lowther, of a sum amounting, with principal and interest, to £8500, already mentioned as having been so strangely withheld from them by his predecessor, Lord Lonsdale. Of this sum, £1800 a-piece fell to the poet and his sister. This improved state of affairs, rendering them comparatively affluent.
Returning with his bride to the little nook of mountain-ground, with its
'Happy garden, whose seclusion deep Had been so friendly to industrious hours'.
Again he enjoyed
‘Days of sweet leisure, taxed with patient thought,
Descriptions of scenery for the most part pall upon the ear, but when they relate to some spot remarkable for its intrinsic beauty, or hallowed by some interesting association, we listen to them with pleasure ; no apology, therefore, is required for presenting the reader with a passage from the pen of Dr. Channing, vividly portraying the impression made upon him by the scenery surrounding the poet's retreat.
Next we visited Grasmere, a sacred spot, a seclusion from all that is turbulent and unholy in life. It was near sunset as we approached this water. We found ourselves descending a mount called Loughrigg, into a valley in which reposed this sweet lake, unruffled, smooth, hemmed in by sheltering mountains. The solemn heights towards the setting sun, shewed to us their dark sides, reflected with wonderful distinctness in the still bosom of the lake, within whose waters they seemed to find a still quieter abode than in the tranquil heavens into which their tops ascended. This repetition of the dark sides of the mountains threw a solemn shade over the part of the lake to which the reflection was confined, whilst beyond this line a mild light, answering to that of the heavens, and of other mountains, gleamed from the water, investing it at one moment with various, but not inharınonious, forms of beauty.
'The effect of this lake on the spirit was immediate, deep, penetrating the inmost soul, and awakening a feeling of something profound in one's own nature. Windermere was tranquil, but it had a cheerful tranquillity. Its genius was peace, but peace with a smiling aspect, wooing society and sympathy. Grasmere appeared to be spread out in the mountain recesses as an abode for lonely, silent, pensive meditation, for the inspired imagination, which in still abstraction from vulgar realities, would give itself up to ideal beauty,for the spirit of love, which, wearied with man's strifes and passions would meet and commune with a kindred spirit in nature, - for piety to approach God without distraction, to see him in the harmony, to hear him in the silence of his own creation.
'The lake has not left very definite traces of figure, &c. on my mind, for in such a scene the mind is not stimulated to analyse,-- the heart and the imagination are too absorbed for curious observation. It is rather circular, and wants the multiplied diversities of outline, the points, bays, and recesses of Windermere ; and this perhaps aids the effect, for the eye is not excited to wander in search of beauties half hid in the mazy openings. The soul is free to receive an unmixed im
pression from the simple harmonious scene. When, it is said, that the surrounding mountains are bold, some precipitous, and one of them a rugged steep seamed with storms and strewed with rocky fragments, it may seem strange that the lake can have the character of mild repose which is ascribed to it ; but, spreading as it does in a circle, it so parts the surrounding mountains that they cannot be grouped as if they bordered a narrower stream, and thus they became subordinate accompaniments to, instead of being the chief feature of, the prospect. Then the immediate shore of the lake is level and verdant, and blends singularly with the peaceful water. This is particularly true with respect to the vale, properly so called, which spreads between the head of Grasmere and Helm Crag, whose surface is almost as unbroken as the lake, and which, clothed as it is with the freshest verdure, varied by hedgerows, and combining with its natural beauty the most affecting tokens of humanity by its simple cottages and Gothic church, communicates an inexpressible character of peace and benignity, and of gentle and holy sweetness to the whole scene.'
At the time of Channing's visit, (1822,) Grasmere was much more secluded than now, many houses haveing since sprung up and a large hotel overlooks the lake. How different was the accommodation then afforded to the traveller may be gathered from a letter addressed to his sister, in which he writes :
I could not but think of the amusement I should have afforded you, could you have taken a peep at me. I had spent Sunday morning at Grasmere, and in the afternoon being unable to attend church, I resolved to visit Mr. Wordsworth, who resides two miles and a half from the inn. Unluckily, Grasmere, whilst it supplied
the wants of the imagination and heart most abundantly, could not supply me with any vehicle for the body more easy or dignified than a cart, dragged by a horse who had caught nothing of the grace of the surrounding scene.
‘After an interview of great pleasure and interest I set out to return, and unwilling to lose Mr. Wordsworth’s company I accepted his proposition that we should walk together until I was fatigued. At the end of half a-mile my strength began to fail, and finding my companion still earnest in conversation I invited him to take a seat with me, which he did, and in this state we re-entered the delightful valley. You perhaps might have promised me the honour of being introduced with the horse and cart into a 'lyrical ballad'; but to me who, as you know, profess to be greatly indebted to Mr. Wordsworth's genius, and whose respect and affection were heightened by personal intercourse, there seemed a peculiar felicity in riding through this scene of surpassing loveliness, with a man of genius and sensibility who had caught inspiration from the lakes and mountains in whose beauty I had been rejoicing'.
Twenty years after this sunset ride, an American traveller was visiting Wordsworth, when the poet incidentally mentioned this interview and said that one remark then made by Dr. Channing had remained fixed in his memory, and all the more deeply from the impressive tone of sincere feeling with which it was uttered. It was to this effect : -'That one great evidence of the Divine origin of Christianity was, that it contained nothing which rendered it unadapted to a progressive state of society, that it put no checks upon the activity of the human mind, and did not compel it to tread always blindly in a beaten path'.