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clearly observable in her“ a self-consuming style of thought.” Both as regards her mental and physical nature, she appears to have run a race with time. As her brother's companion, she had indeed been so exclusively and passionately devoted to him as to identify herself not only with his mental pursuits, but also, probably more than wisely, with his long pedestrian and mountain rambles. If it were not that the great work of her life was so signally achieved, and her satisfaction therein abundant, we should be inclined to regret that she thus drew an over-draft on the fountains of her life. It could not be expected that her frailer frame could sustain, without any mischievous effects, the physical fatigues and labors of her more robust brother; for with him she was ever ready to explore the mountain force, to climb the rocky heights, or walk over moor and fell apparently almost regardless of distance. Within due limits, no doubt all this is as healthful as it is delightful. But Nature's powers are limited; and Nature in Miss Wordsworth eventually gave way. And her spirits suffered in sympathy with her physical nature.
As an illustration of Miss Wordsworth's home rambles and adventures, I may here mention a reminiscence which is given by Mr. Justice Coleridge, of an excursion made with Wordsworth into Easedale. The poet, pointing to a precipitous and rocky mountain above the tarn, told of an incident which befell him and his sister on one occasion on their coming over the mountains from Langdale. From some cause they had become a little parted, when a heavy fog came on and Miss Wordsworth became bewildered. After wandering about for some time she sat down and waited. When the fog cleared away and she could see the valley before her, she found that she had stopped very providentially, as she was standing almost on the verge of the precipice.
It is not, however, to be supposed that Miss Wordsworth accompanied her brother over the 200,000 miles which De Quincey calculated the poet must have walked, nor is it stated by what means the figures are arrived at ! A twenty or thirty miles walk was not an uncommon thing. As an instance, I find it stated that one summer afternoon, as the Keswick coach was approaching Grasmere, it met Wordsworth, and stopped. A lady, who was going on a visit to the poet, put out her head to speak to him, whereupon he said to her: “How d'ye do? Mrs. Wordsworth will be delighted to see you. I shall be back in the evening. I'm only going to tea with Southey," who, it will be remembered, lived at a distance of about fifteen miles, and the road by no means a good one.
It is stated by Principal Shairp, in the introduction to the “ Tour in Scotland,” that in the year 1829 Miss Wordsworth “ was seized with a severe illness, which so prostrated her, body and mind, that she never recovered from it.” This can, however, hardly be the fact, as is evidenced by the following letter to Mr. Crabb Robinson, which certainly shows no indication of mental prostration, and contains no allusion to a physical one:
“Friday, Dec. 1st, 1831. “Had a rumor of your arrival in England reached us before your letter of yesterday's post you would ere this have received a welcome from me, in the name of each member of this family; and, further, would have been reminded of your promise to come to Rydal as soon as possible after again setting foot on English ground. When Dora heard of your return, and of my intention to write, she exclaimed after a charge that I would recall to your mind your written promise : ‘He must come and spend Christmas with us. I wish he would !! Thus you see, notwithstanding your petty jarrings, Dora was always, and now is, a loving friend of yours. I am sure I need not add that if you can come at the time mentioned, so much the more agreeable to us all, for it is fast approaching; but that whenever it suits you (for you may have Christmas engagements with your own family) to travel so far northward, we shall be rejoiced to see you; and whatever other visitors we may chance to have, we shall always be able to find a corner for you. We are thankful that you are returned with health unimpaired – I may say, indeed, amended — for you were not perfectly well when you left England. You do not mention rheumatic pains, so I trust they have entirely left you. As to your being grown older - if you mean feebler in mind — my brother says, ' No such thing; your judgment has only attained autumnal ripeness. Indeed, my dear friend, I wonder not at your alarms, or those of any good man, whatever may have been his politics from youth to middle age, and onward to the decline of life. But I will not enter upon this sad and perplexing subject. I find it much more easy to look with patience on the approach of pestilence, or any affliction which it may please God to cast upon us without the intervention of man, than on the dreadful results of sudden and rash changes, whether arising from ambition, or ignorance, or brute force. I am, however, getting into the subject without intending it, so will conclude with a prayer that God may enlighten the heads and hearts of our men of power, whether Whigs or Tories, and that the madness of the deluded people may settle. This last effect can only
be produced, I fear, by exactly and severely executing the law, seeking out and punishing the guilty, and letting all persons see that we do not willingly oppress the poor. One possible blessing seems already to be coming upon us through the alarm of the cholera. Every rich man is now obliged to look into the by-lanes and corners inhabited by the poor, and many crying abuses are (even in our little town of Ambleside) about to be remedied.
“But to return to pleasant Rydal Mount, still cheerful and peaceful — if it were not for the newspapers we should know nothing of the turbulence of our great towns and cities; yet my poor brother is often heart-sick and almost desponding - and no wonder, for, until this point at which we are arrived, he has been a true prophet as to the course of events, dating from the 'Great Days of July' and the appearance of the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill.' It remains for us to hope that now Parliament may meet in a different temper from that in which they parted, and that the late dreadful events may make each man seek only to promote the peace and prosperity of the country. You will see that my brother looks older. He is certainly thinner, and has lost some of his teeth; but his bodily activity is not at all diminished, and if it were not for public affairs, his spirits would be as cheerful as ever. He and Dora visited Sir Walter Scott just before his departure, and made a little tour in the Western Highlands; and such was his leaning to old pedestrian habits, that he often walked from fifteen to twenty miles in a day, following or keeping by the side of the little carriage, of which his daughter was the charioteer. They both very much enjoyed the tour, and my brother actually brought home a set of poems, the product of that journey. ..."
It was not, however, long after the date of this letter, which shows that Miss Wordsworth was still in possession of her vigorous and clear intellect, that she was seized with a more severe illness. Her growing
weakness was, in the year 1832, accompanied by an alarming attack of brain fever, from the effects of which she never altogether recovered. Mr. Myers states that the illness“ kept her for many months in a state of great prostration, and left her, when the physical symptoms abated, with her intellect painfully impaired, and her bright nature permanently overclouded.”
In June, 1833, Mr. Crabb Robinson again writes in his diary : “Strolled up to Rydal Mount, where I met with a cordial reception from my kind friends; but Miss Wordsworth I did not see. I spent a few hours very delightfully, and enjoyed the improved walk in Mr. Wordsworth's garden, from which the views are admirable, and had most agreeable conversation, with no other drawback than Miss Wordsworth's absence from the state of her health."
Wordsworth himself felt very keenly the affliction of his sister. Writing to his brother, the Rev. Dr. Wordsworth, on April 1, 1832, he says: “Our dear sister makes no progress towards recovery of strength. She is very feeble, never quits her room, and passes most of the day in, or upon, the bed. She does not suffer much pain, and is very cheerful, and nothing troubles her but public affairs and the sense of requiring so much attention. Whatever may be the close of this illness, it will be a profound consolation to you, my dear brother, and to us all, that it is borne with perfect resignation; and that her thoughts are such as the good and pious would wish. She reads much, both religious and miscellaneous works.” On June 25