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In citing quotations from the prose of Coleridge and the poetry of Wordsworth, I have tried to retain the original punctuation and spelling, because they represent the usage of the authors themselves. In most other cases it has seemed best to standardize the spelling and punctuation for the sake of greater clearness and smoothness of reading.
To those who read the poetry of Wordsworth in the light of Matthew Arnold's criticism, with the enthusiasm of all good Wordsworthians, the poet is primarily a teacher, a philosopher, la pure soul with a message of healing for a feverish world. So, indeed, he regarded himself. 'I wish either to be considered as a teacher, or as nothing," he writes; and his wish has been fulfilled. But too often he is so considered to the exclusion of a proper interest in his merits as a stylist, as a great and peculiarly self-conscious artist'in a kind absolutely unborrowed and his own.'
To the two most finely gifted critics of his own generation he presented himself in a quite different light. It was not Wordsworth's philosophy that primarily interested Coleridge and Lamb; it was his style. To his philosophy they were both more or less antagonistic. Coleridge objected to the 'misty, rather than mystic, confusion of v God with the world in poems like Tintern Abbey, though at the same time he believed Wordsworth capable of writing the first genuine philosophical poem in English. Lamb was inclined to make merry over Wordsworth's devotion to stocks and stones, and other inanimate objects, and to celebrate the superior attractions of the London streets.3. But both immediately gave full recognition and homage to Wordsworth's unique gift of imaginative expression'the original gift of spreading the tone, the atmosphere, and with it the depth and height of the ideal world around forms, incidents, and situations, of which, for the common view, custom had bedimmed all the lustre, had dried up the sparkle and the dew drops.'4
* L. W. F. 1. 331.
This gift, they felt, expressed itself in a diction 'highly individualized and characteristic'
la 'diction peculiarly his own, ... a style which cannot be imitated, without its being at once recognised as originating in Mr. Wordsworth.” This style both Coleridge and Lamb believed they could distinguish without hesitation, wherever they encountered it. 'That
"Uncertain heaven received
I should have recognised anywhere,' writes Coleridge,3 ‘and had I met these lines running wild in the deserts of Arabia, I should have instantly screamed out, “Wordsworth !" Lamb seems to hold a similar opinion. In his characteristic remarks on the edition of 1815, in which he proceeds from poem to poem, commenting with the refined Epicurean enjoyment of a connoisseur in language on the lines and phrases that most please his taste, he continually implies that Wordsworth has a distinct and recognizable manner. ""Laodamia” is! a very original poem,' he writes. 'I mean original with reference to your own manner. You have nothing like it. I should have seen it in a strange place, and greatly admired it, but not suspected its derivation.' Again, in speaking of the extracts from An Evening Walk and the Descriptive Sketches included in the volumes of 1815, he remarks: ‘All the rest of your poems are so much of a piece, they might have been written in the same week; these decidedly speak of an earlier period. They tell more of what you had been reading.'
1 B. L. I. 77. ? B. L. 1. 80. 3 Memoirs I. 139. * Letters of Charles Lamb 1. 353. 5 Ibid. 1. 354.