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with Wordsworth, who remarked that it was the only good one in the poem, and immediately began to recite his own lines on the same subject.
It is remarkable in how many interviews with the Rydal bard we find mention of his starting off with the recitation of his own verses, and it is curious to observe how differently the fact impresses his various hearers,—some receiving the utterance reverently, and admiring in the deep tones of his voice a resemblance to the roll of far-off thunder-others, and these mostly brother poets, turning restive under it, as an infliction.
The annals of 1805-6, record within twelve months the deaths of Nelson, Pitt, and Fox. . Wordsworth seems, from his own remarks, to have recalled the virtues of his lost brother, and combined them with Nelson's heroism, in his poem entitled 'The Happy Warrior', and, being then a liberal in politics, he expressed his grief for the loss sustained by the nation in the death of Fox, in the lines beginning, “The Vale is up'. Of Pitt he gives his candid opinion in a letter to Sir George Beaumont. 'Mr. Pitt is gone ! by tens of thousands looked upon in like manner as a great loss. For my own part, I have never been able to regard his political life with complacency. I believe him, however, to have been as disinterested a man, and as true a lover of his country, as it was possible for so ambitious a man to be. His first wish (though probably unknown to himself), was that the country should prosper under his administration; his next, that it should prosper. Could the order of these wishes have been reversed, Mr. Pitt would have avoided many of the grievous mistakes into which I think he fell’.
We learn, from many sources, the earnestness with which Wordsworth watched the course of political events, both at home and abroad, and often he has been known to walk from the vale of Grasmere, up to Raise Gap, on the Keswick road, to forestall the carrier bringing newspapers from that town, even as late as two o'clock in the morning.
He also wrote a pamphlet on the Convention of Cintra, which, however, was little read, and has not been republished; but, it is interesting to find that the love of liberty and hatred of oppression which called it forth, found a more enduring voice in some of his finest sonnets, amongst them, one 'On the feelings of a high-minded Spaniard', is known to have been a favourite with him.
Southey, in a letter to Walter Scott, dated July 30, 1809, thus predicts the fate of this political brochure. “Wordsworth's pamphlet will fail of producing any general effect, because the sentences are long and involved ; and his friend De Quincey, who corrected the press, has rendered them more obscure, by an unusual system of punctuation. This fault will outweigh all its merits. The public. never can like anything which they feel it difficult to understand. They will affect to like it, as in the case of Burke, if the reputation of the writer be such that not to admire him is a confession of ignorance. .... I impute Wordsworth's want of perspicuity to two causes, — his admiration of Milton's prose, and his habit of dictating instead of writing : if he were his own scribe, his eye would tell him where to stop ; but, in dictating, his own thoughts are to himself familiarly intelligible, and he goes on unconscious either of the length of the sentence or the difficulty a common reader must necessarily find in following its meaning to the end, and unravelling all its involutions'.
There had been a demand, though small, for the
first volume of the ' Lyrical Ballads', which had now reached a fourth edition. His biographer notes the slow but steady progress which his uncle's poetical reputation was making. He therefore, in 1807, ventured on the publication of two new volumes, containing upwards of one hundred poems. Of course the critics were immediately on the wing to attack every vulnerable point, but not content to stop there, they assailed with equal virulence what was weak as well as what was really admirable ; and, if we do not find any who reached the height of inveteracy which Dr. Johnson assigns to the critics of his day, who proceeded with a gloomy malignity, as if dragging to justice an assassin or an incendiary, yet there were many who, like flies, delighted to sting and suck a little blood, to take a gay flutter and return for more.
Confident as to the future destiny of his poems, Wordsworth did not trouble himself concerning their present reception. He reminds a friend who wrote to sympathize with him, of an observation made by Coleridge, that every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished; he must teach the art by which he is to be seen. He elsewhere claims for his poems, that there is scarcely one which does not aim to direct the attention to some moral sentiment, or some general principle, or law of thought, or of our intellectual constitution. And he further expresses "an invincible confidence that his writings will co-operate with the benign tendencies in human nature and society, wherever found ; and that they will, in their degree, be efficacious in making men wiser, better, and happier'.
The cottage at Town End, Grasmere, proving too small for comfort in winter, the poet and his family, moved in November, 1806, to a house at Coleorton, in Leicestershire, which belonged to Sir George Beaumont. It was near the Hall, which was then being rebuilt, and the grounds laid out anew. Wordsworth considered himself to have a special aptitude for three things, poetry, judgment in works of art, and landscape gardening. In this latter pursuit he had many opportunities of manifesting his skill, when advising upon and directing the progress of the improvements which his friend had in hand, and in fact, throughout the long intimacy of nearly a quarter of a century, it was a never-failing source of interest to the two friends, to consult as to the best mode of developing the natural beauties of the place.
Several inscriptions for urns, tablets, seats, and grottoes, were written in these grounds. Those who are interested in such efforts will find them in their proper niche, in the volume of Poems. Sir George Beaumont, on his part, painted several pictures illustrative of Wordsworth's poems.
One wooed the silent Art, with studious pains ; These groves have heard the other's pensive strains ; Devoted thus, their spirits did unite, By interchange of knowledge and delight'. In the spring of 1808, Wordsworth returned to Grasmere, taking possession of Allan Bank, a new house of ampler dimension than his cottage home. But it had discomforts of its own, which, added to the disturbing influences of change, proved adverse to poetic inspiration, and we consequently find that this was an unproductive year, though additions were made to the 'Excursion'.
The cottage deserted by Wordsworth, did not long remain untenanted. That eccentric genius, De Quincey, was fascinated to the spot, and took up his abode there. Strange as it may appear, considering De Quincey's early homage to the genius of the poet, and his continued literary sympathy during a season of indifference or contempt from the world, yet there was but little congeniality between them. Wordsworth seems to have coldly declined to render some service of countenance or support, which his young and ardent admirer thought he might reasonably have looked for, and he hints that female predjudices were arrayed against him. The vagaries of the 'Opium Eater', may have shocked the susceptibilities of the wife and sister, and have rendered so prudent a man as Wordsworth unwilling to admit him freely within the hallowed circle of his home, or indeed to any close friendship, which, we have already seen, he held to be so serious and sacred a claim.
De Quincey, the victim of overwrought sensitiveness, had decamped from Oxford in a sudden panic, just when his friends felt assured that he was about to take a brilliant degree, in the same year with Sir Robert Peel. He is described, at a somewhat later period, during a protracted visit at Christopher North's, as generally to be found during the hours when ordinary beings are awake, stretched in profound opium-slumber, upon a rug before the fire, and it was only about two or three in the morning, that he gave unequivocal symptoms of vitality, and suddenly gushed forth in streams of wondrous eloquence to the delight of those detained for the purpose of witnessing the display.
Two great characteristics of his opium-dreams were a deep-seated melancholy, and an exaggeration of the