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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
Fields, goods, and far-off chattels we have none :
Sunshine and shower be with you, bud and bell !
Thou, like the morning, in thy saffron coat,
“We go for One to whom ye will be dear;
And she will prize this Bower, this Indian shed,
“Dear Spot! which we have watched with tender heed,
Bringing thee chosen plants and blossoms blown
“ Help us to tell Her tales of years gone by,
And this sweet spring, the best beloved and best;
“Oh happy Garden! whose seclusion deep
And wild notes warbled among leafy bowers;
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;
“ I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
“ And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine ;
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
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.