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things of space and time. Nightly, he descended into chasms and sunless abysses, depths below depths, from which it seemed hopeless he could ever re-ascend. His dreamy vision traversed over landscapes and buildings too vast for the human eye to comprehend. He seemed to live through vast ages of time during the night. No wonder if his eloquent word-pictures, portraying such stupendous scenes, were listened to with feelings akin to awe. How and where he acquired his scholarship seemed a mystery ; but there were few such learned and accomplished men, in his day, as De Quincey. He had read enormously, without ever seeming to have books about him. He had made himself his own encyclopedia, and wherever he was, could quote all that was needful for his purpose, date and references included, from memory. The English language seemed in his hands to acquire fresh power, his impassioned prose developing every charm of poetry but its rhythm. Yet with all these acquirements he made an impression only as of a wandering voice, scattering his inimitable writings here and there in magazines and reviews. Towards the close of his life, however, he settled in Edinburgh, to superintend through the press, a collected edition of his works, in fourteen volumes.
Though he and Wilson (Christopher North) were together at Oxford, their acquaintance did not commence till about 1808, when they met at Wordsworth's residence. Wilson having asked him to dinner, he went, and the result was that he remained an inmate, for twelve months, at Elleray, a beautiful estate at Windermere, which his host had just purchased.
Nor is it surprising that they should not have fraternized at Oxford, whither Wilson repaired after com
pleting his career at Glasgow, for the one as we have seen was all nervousness and shrinking timidity, and of diminutive stature; the other of Herculean frame, fearless and athletic. In 1807, John Wilson passed a glorious examination for his B. A. degree, the more remarkable, as he entered into all the pleasures and diversions of Oxford, open to a spirited young man possessed of abundant resources ; his father having left him £50,000. He studied hard, but, at the same time, he patronized the cock-pit, and was noted for pugilistic skill, and as the best wrestler and leaper. He was known, on one occasion, to leap 23 feet on a dead level at a bend of the Cherwell : but we must refer those who would read the history of his adventurous life to the Memoir of him by his daughter, Mrs. Gordon.
In the beautiful retirement of Elleray, Wilson was at liberty to enjoy all the varied delights of poetic meditation, of congenial society, and of those endless out-door recreations which constituted so important an element of his life. Within a short range of country, he found such friends as Coleridge and Southey at Keswick, Wordsworth and De Quincey at Rydal, Charles Lloyd at Brathay, Bishop Watson at Calgarth, the Rev. Mr. Fleming at Rayrigg.
On the way to Coleorton and back, Wordsworth halted in London, and his friends and admirers naturally seized every such opportunity of meeting him, and we read of breakfast and supper parties arranged with this object, while T. Moore, and others, have left many memorials of dinner parties at Rogers's and elsewhere. There was not however, by any means, a complete recognition of Wordsworth's claims, or a general assent to his theories, among those who assembled on these occasions, but this only added gist to conversation
which would have flagged under a tame uniformity of opinion.
It does not appear, however, that Wordsworth shone in these rencontres, or was a general favourite among the literary circles in London. His deficiency in those qualities of wit and humour which there abounded, would tell heavily against him. He did not seem to acquiesce in Dr. Johnson's dictum that a man should spend part of his time with the laughers, in order that anything peculiar about him might be presented to his view and be corrected : indeed, had he possessed some sense of the humourous, he would never have adınitted into his writings, those epithets and lines, which, to minds attuned to mirth, appeared absurd.
In the concluding volume of Moore's Journal, written when Wordsworth's fame was well established, we trace many passages indicative of a certain dislike to him, or to the tone of his conversation. For instance, when happening to be left tete-a-tete with the Rydal bard at Rogers's table, he says, “My companion, according to his usual fashion, very soliloquacious, but saying much, of course, that was interesting to hear'. 'In giving me an account of the sort of society he has in his neighbourhood in the country, and saying that he rarely went out to dinner, he gave a very intelligible picture, of the sort of thing it must be when he does go out. “The conversation”, he said, “may be called catechetical; for as they do me the honour to wish to know my opinions on the different subjects, they ask me questions, and I am induced to answer them at great length till I become quite tired”. And so he does, I'll warrant him ; nor is it possible, indeed, to edge in a word, at least in a tete-a-tete, till he does get tired'. Moore has, however, the grace to add that he was well pleased to be a listener. “Wordsworth talked of Coleridge, and praised him not only as a poet but as a man, to a degree which I could not listen to without putting in my protest. Hinted something of this in reply to Wordsworth’s praises, and adverted to Southey's opinion of him, as expressed in a letter to Bowles (saying, if I recollect right, that he was lamented by few, and regretted by none); but Wordsworth continued his eulogium ; defended Coleridge's desertion of his family on the grounds of incompatibility, &c., between him and Mrs. Coleridge : said that Southey took a rigid view of the whole matter, and in short made out as poor a case for his brother bard (and proser) as any opponent of the latter could well desire'.
At one of these gatherings in the Temple, at Charles Lamb's, Wordsworth first became acquainted with Henry Crabbe Robinson, one of his most staunch, yet independent and judicious supporters, and this acquaintance ripening into intimacy, he accompanied the poet on his foreign tours, and eventually came to be looked for as a genial and welcome guest at Rydal Mount, every Christmas. It was also on one of these occasions, that Lamb introduced Talfourd, saying, Mr. Wordsworth, I present to you my only admirer'.
The discomforts of Allan Bank, proving, as before stated, adverse to poetic composition, may have led Wordsworth to direct his attention more keenly to the passing events of the day, and to write his pamphlet 'On the Convention of Cintra’, to which De Quincey added an appendix, and revised the whole of the proofs.
At a somewhat later period he published an Address to the Freeholders of Westmorland, on the general election, which was written in a clear style, and was held to be a spirited vindication of the claims of the
two Lowthers to represent the county, as opposed to the Liberal candidate, Brougham. He was also much engaged in assisting Coleridge in the bringing-out of a weekly paper, literary, moral, and political, called 'The Friend'. In this publication first appeared the Essay on Epitaphs, which is reprinted among the notes to the
Excursion'. 'The Friend' was short-lived and terminated abruptly, as did most of the schemes undertaken by Coleridge. The first number appeared, June 1, 1809, the last, March 5, 1810. An eminent critic, remarking upon the grandeur of design, yet incompleteness, of so many of Coleridge's works, says, 'He gives us here the Torso of a church, there the fragments of a constitution, and, moreover, he indulges in Leviathan sentences, digression upon digression, parenthesis upon parenthesis, distinctions the most refined, transitions the most abrupt, and positions the most paradoxical'.
On some occasion, when the merits of a noted controversialist were being discussed, the question was put by one of his admiring followers, ‘ But do you not allow that he goes very deep'? 'True', was the reply, 'he often dives deep, and — comes up muddy. And perhaps under this aspect Coleridge appeared to many, who might not, however, be prepared to echo the caustic remark of one who, after listening for a whole evening to one of his monologues, exclaimed, “Excellent talker ! if you let him start from no premises and come to no conclusion'. Southey confessed himself to be one of the number who could not comprehend him. Wordsworth, on the contrary, maintained that there was always a logical sequence in his friend's dissertations, and professed himself indebted to them for the valuable principles and truths propounded in them. There existed certain mental affinities between Wordsworth