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CHAPTER VIII.

THE CIRCLE WIDENED. — MRS. WORDSWORTH.

THE year 1802 was a memorable one to Miss

1 Wordsworth no less than to her brother. With interests so inseparable, the happiness of one was that of the other. After the somewhat agitated period of his early life, when he was for a time in danger of shipwreck, and his noble-hearted sister came to his rescue and helped to steer his course into the placid waters of content and well-grounded hope, Wordsworth was in all respects remarkably fortunate, and his life more than usually serene and happy. Next to the blessing which he possessed in his sister, Wordsworth was largely indebted to his admirable wife. In October of this year he had the good fortune to marry his cousin, Mary Hutchinson, of Penrith -- a lady whom it would be almost presumption to “even dare to praise.” As his early friend (and they had in childhood attended the same dame's school together) they had strong sympathies in common, with, at the same time, much of that contrast of temperament which, in married life, renders one the complement of the other, and contributes not a little to the completion and unity of the dual life. The marriage of those whom “friendship has early paired” can hardly be otherwise than serenely happy ; beginning their life, as they thus do, each with the same store of early memories, they have a common history into which to ingraft their new experiences and hopes. Speaking of his marriage, the poet's nephew says: “It was full of blessings to himself, as ministering to the exercise of his tender affections, in the discipline and delight which married life supplies. The boon bestowed upon him in the marriage union was admirably adapted to shed a cheering and soothing influence upon his mind.” In a poem, entitled “A Farewell,” Wordsworth has thus expressed the thoughts with which he left his cottage with his sister to bring home the bride and friend :—

“ Farewell, thou little Nook of mountain-ground,

Thou rocky corner in the lowest stair
Of that magnificent temple which doth bound
One side of our whole vale with grandeur rare;
Sweet garden-orchard, eminently fair,
The loveliest spot that man hath ever found,
Farewell!- we leave thee to Heaven's peaceful care,
Thee, and the Cottage which thou dost surround.

Fields, goods, and far-off chattels we have none :
These narrow bounds contain our private store
Of things earth makes, and sun doth shine upon;
Here are they in our sight - we have no more.

Sunshine and shower be with you, bud and bell !
For two months now in vain we shall be sought;
We leave you here in solitude to dwell
With these our latest gifts of tender thought;

Thou, like the morning, in thy saffron coat,
Bright gowan, and marsh-marigold, farewell !
Whom from the borders of the Lake we brought,
And placed together near our rocky Well.

“We go for One to whom ye will be dear;

And she will prize this Bower, this Indian shed,
Our own contrivance, Building without peer!
- A gentle Maid, whose heart is lowly bred,
Whose pleasures are in wild fields gathered,
With joyousness, and with a thoughtful cheer,
Will come to you — to you herself will wed -
And love the blessed life that we lead here.

“Dear Spot! which we have watched with tender heed,

Bringing thee chosen plants and blossoms blown
Among the distant mountains, flower and weed,
Which thou hast taken to thee as thy own,
Making all kindness registered and known;
Thou for our sakes, though Nature's child indeed,
Fair in thyself and beautiful alone,
Hast taken gifts which thou dost little need.

“ Help us to tell Her tales of years gone by,

And this sweet spring, the best beloved and best;
Joy will be flown in its mortality;
Something must stay to tell us of the rest.
Here, thronged with primroses, the steep rock's breast
Glittered at evening like a starry sky;
And in this bush our sparrow built her nest,
Of which I sang one song that will not die.

“Oh happy Garden! whose seclusion deep
Hath been so friendly to industrious hours;
And to soft slumbers, that did gently steep
Our spirits, carrying with them dreams of flowers,

And wild notes warbled among leafy bowers;
Two burning months let summer overleap,
And, coming back with Her who will be ours,
Into thy bosom we again shall creep.”

I cannot refrain from also quoting here the exquisite picture of Mrs. Wordsworth, written after the experience of two years of married life.

“She was a Phantom of delight

When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament:
Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair,
Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.

“ I saw her upon nearer view,

A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin-liberty ;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A Creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.

“ And now I see with eye serene

The very pulse of the machine ;
A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill ;

A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.”

Without the exultant spirits or rare mental endowment of Miss Wordsworth, the poet's wife was eminently fitted for his companionship, one which lasted during the fifty following years. Mr. Lockhart speaks of her as having one of the most benignant tempers that ever diffused peace and cheerfulness through a home. Although not written till some years after, perhaps the present is the most fitting place in which to quote De Quincey's description of Mrs. Wordsworth :'

“I saw sufficiently to be aware of two ladies just entering the room, through a doorway opening upon a little staircase. The foremost, a tallish young woman, with the most winning expression of benignity upon her features, advanced to me, presenting her hand with so frank an air, that all embarrassment must have fled in a moment before the native goodness of her manner. This was Mrs. Wordsworth, cousin of the poet, and, for the last five years or more, his wife. She was now mother of two children, a son and a daughter; and she furnished a remarkable proof how possible it is for a woman, neither handsome nor even comely, according to the rigor of criticism — nay, generally

For the copious description here given of Mrs. Wordsworth, and that, on a subsequent page, of Miss Wordsworth, I am indebted to the contributions of De Quincey to “ Tait's Edinburgh Magazine," which afterwards formed part of his collected works.

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