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They sing a service which they feel
What harmonious pensive changes
Now a step or two her way
upon her like a breath
The following analogy will, I am apprehensive, appear dim and fantastic, but in reading Bartram's Travels I could not help transcribing the following lines as a sort of allegory, or connected simile and metaphor of Wordsworth's intellect and genius.--"The soil is a deep, rich, “ dark mould, on a deep stratum of tenacious
clay; and that on a foundation of rocks, “ which often break through both strata, lifting “ their back above the surface. The trees “ which chiefly grow here are the gigantic, “ black oak; magnolia magnifloria; fraximus “ excelsior; platane; and a few stately tulip 6 trees.” What Mr. Wordsworth will
produce, it is not for me to prophecy: but I could pronounce with the liveliest convictions what he is capable of producing. It is the First GENUINE PhilOSOPHIC Poem.
The preceding criticism will not, I am aware, avail to overcome the prejudices of those, who have made it a business to attack and ridicule Mr. Wordsworth’s compositions.
Truth and prudence might be imaged as concentric circles. The poet may perhaps have passed beyond the latter, but he has confined himself far within the bounds of the former, in designating these critics, as too petulant to be passive to a genuine poet, and too feeble to grapple with him ;—“men of palsied imagina“ tions, in whose minds all healthy action is «c languid ;—who, therefore, feel as the many “ direct them, or with the many are greedy “ after vicious provocatives.”
Let not Mr. Wordsworth be charged with having expressed himself too indignantly, till the wantonness and the systematic and malignant perseverance of the aggressions have been taken into fair consideration. I myself heard the commander in chief of this unmanly warfare make a boast of his private admiration of Wordsworth's genius. I have heard him declare, that whoever came into his room would probably find the Lyrical Ballads lying open on his table, and that (speaking exclusively of those written by Mr. Wordsworth himself, he could nearly repeat the whole of them by heart. But a Review, in order to be a saleable article, must be personal, sharp, and pointed: and, since then, the Poet has made himself, and with himself all who were, or were supposed to be, his friends and admirers, the object of the critic's revenge -how? by having spoken of a work so con
of the game.
ducted in the terms which it deserved! I once heard a clergyman in boots and buckskin avow, that he would cheat his own father in a horse. A moral system of a similar nature seems to have been adopted by too many anonymous critics. As we used to say at school, in reviewing they make being rogues: and he, who complains, is to be laughed at for his ignorance
With the pen out of their hand they are honorable men. They'exert indeed power (which is to that of the injured party who should attempt to expose their glaring perversions and misstatements, as twenty to one) to write down, and (where the author's circumstances permit) to impoverish the man, whose learning and genius they themselves in private have repeatedly admitted. They knowingly strive to make it impossible for the man even to publish * any future work without exposing himself to all the wretchedness of debt and embarrassment. But this is all in their voca, tion: and bating what they do in their vocation, “who can say that black is the white of their eye?”
months ago an eminent bookseller was asked what he thought of
? The answer was:
66 I have heard his powers very highly spoken of by some of our first-rate men; but I would not have a work of his if any one would give it me: for he is spoken but slightly of, or not at all in the Quarterly Review: and the Edinburgh, you know, is decided, to cut him up!"
So much for the detractors from Wordsworth's merits. On the other hand, much as I might wish for their fuller sympathy, I dare not Hatter myself, that the freedom with which I have declared my opinions concerning both his theory and his defects, most of which are more or less connected with his theory either as cause or effect, will be satisfactory or pleasing to all the poet's admirers and advocates. More indiscriminate than mine their admiration
may be : deeper and more sincere it can not be. “But I have advanced no opinion either for praise or censure, other than as texts introductory to the reasons which compel me to form it. Above all, I was fully convinced that such a criticism was not only wanted; but that, if executed with adequate ability, it must conduce in no mean degree to Mr. Wordsworth’s reputation. His fame belongs to another age, and can neither be accelerated or retarded. How small the proportion of the defects are to the beauties, I have repeatedly declared ; and that no one of them originates in deficiency of poetic genius. Had they been more and greater, I should still, as a friend to his literary character in the present age, consider an analytic display of them as pure gain ; if only it removed, as surely to all reflecting minds even the foregoing analysis must have removed, the strange misiake so slightly grounded, yet so widely and indus