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“It chanced — Eternal God that chance did guide.”
Writing of Miss Wordsworth at this time, her nephew, the late Bishop of Lincoln, says: “She was endowed with tender sensibility, with an exquisite perception of beauty, with a retentive recollection of what she saw, with a felicitous tact in discerning and admirable skill in delineating natural objects with graphic accuracy and vivid gracefulness. She weaned him from contemporary politics, and won him to beauty and truth.”
A writer in The Quarterly Review, many years ago (I believe the late Mr. J. G. Lockhart), referring to this period, writes : “Depressed and bewildered, he turned to abstract science, and was beginning to torment his mind with fresh problems, when, after his long voyage through unknown seas in search of Utopia, with sails full set and without compass or rudder, his sister came to his aid, and conducted him back to the quiet harbor from which he started. His visits to her had latterly been short and far between, until his brightening fortunes enabled them to indulge the wish of their hearts to live together, and then she convinced him that he was born to be a poet, and had no call to lose himself in the endless labyrinth of theoretical puzzles. The calm of a home would alone have done much towards sobering his mind. While he roamed restlessly about the world he was drawn in by every eddy, and obeyed the influence of every wind; but when once he had escaped from the tur
moil, into the pure and peaceful pleasures of domestic existence, he felt the vanity and vexation of his previous course.”
Wordsworth himself, afterwards writing of this same period of his life, says :
“Depressed, bewildered thus, I did not walk
Then it was —
We thus find Miss Wordsworth keeping house with her brother, who, having at length determined upon his course of life, was, in 1795, living at Racedown Lodge in Dorsetshire. From this time forth, amid all the changes of fortune and condition, they were close and life-long companions.
However great may have been her influence upon him previously, it now became a moulding and educating power. They were both in the strength of their youth — that time of radiant enjoyment - bound not only by that most endearing of natural ties, but by tastes, aims, and hopes most singularly mutual. The close association of daily intercourse and community of thought, together with a thorough sympathy, seemed now, as only an ardent enthusiasm and devoted love of kindred objects can do, to cement their lives. In this their first home, the only one which they had really known since childhood, and to which they had so longingly looked forward, they were all in all to each other. Separation from the busy world, and from society, was no hardship to them, so long as they were uninterrupted in the society of each other, and in the pursuits they loved. Though in a part of the country, then so remote that they had only a post once a week, they went into raptures over their lot. The house which they temporarily occupied was, we are informed, pretty well stocked with books, and they were industrious in both indoor and outdoor occupations. They read, and thought, and talked together, rambling through the lovely combs and by the everchanging sea. “My brother,” she says, “ handles the spade with great dexterity," while she herself was engaged in reading Italian authors.
A writer in Blackwood, a few years ago, referring to Miss Wordsworth at this time, says: “She had been separated from her brother since their childhood, and now at the first moment when their re-union was possible, seems to have rushed to him with all the impetuosity of her nature. Without taking his sister into consideration, no just estimate can be formed of Wordsworth. He was, as it were, henceforward, the spokesman to the world of two souls. \ It was not that she visibly or consciously aided and stimulated him, but that she was him — a second pair of eyes to see, a second and more delicate intuition to discern a second heart to enter into all that came before their mutual observation. This union was so close, that in many instances it becomes difficult to discern which is the brother and which the sister. She was part not only of his life, but of his imagination. He saw by her, felt through her, at her touch the strings of the instrument began to thrill, the great melodies awoke. Her journals are Wordsworth in prose, just as his poems are Dorothy in verse. The one soul kindled at the other. The brother and sister met with all the enthusiasm of youthful affection, strengthened and concentrated by long separation, and the delightful sense that here at last was the possibility of making for themselves a home.” After referring to their pecuniary means, the writer adds: “And with this, in their innocent frugality and courage, they faced the world like a new pair of babes in the wood. Their aspirations in one way were infinite, but in another modest as any cottager's. Daily bread sufficed them, and the pleasure to be derived from Nature, who is cheap, and gives herself lavishly without thought or hope of reward.”
Although at this remote place friends and visitors were few, it was here the Wordsworths first made the acquaintance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who, in conjunction with Southey, had already begun to make a name. This acquaintance ripened into a close and uninterrupted friendship, only to be ended by death. It was here also that Wordsworth composed his tragedy The Borderers and “The Ruined Cottage," which latter poem afterwards formed the first part of the “Excursion.” The ardor with which the young poets entered into each other's plans, and the enthusiasm of the sister, who was in such perfect rapport with them, is gathered from her statement that the “first thing that was read when he (Coleridge) came was William's new poem, “The Ruined Cottage,' with which he was much delighted ; and after tea he repeated to us two acts and a half of his tragedy Osorio. The next morning William read his tragedy The Borderers."
The following description of Coleridge, from the pen of Miss Wordsworth, cannot fail to be of interest. Writing to a friend, she says: “You had a great loss in not seeing Coleridge. He is a wonderful man. His conversation teems with soul, mind, and spirit. Then he is so benevolent, so good-tempered and cheerful, and, like William, excites himself so much about every little trifle. At first I thought him very plain — that is, for about three minutes. He is pale, thin, has a wide mouth, thick lips, and not very good teeth; longish, loose-growing, half-curling, rough, black hair. But if you hear him speak for five minutes, you think no more about them. His eye is large and full, and not very dark, but gray - such an eye as would receive