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Concerning these, the author gave the following reminiscences 1 :
Inscriptions, No. 1.-" In the grounds of Coleorton, these verses are engraved on a stone, placed near the tree which was thriving and spreading when I saw it in the summer of 1841."
No. 2.-"This niche is in the sandstone rock in the winter-garden at Coleorton, which garden, as has been elsewhere said, was made under our direction, out of an old unsightly quarry. While the labourers were at work, Mrs. Wordsworth, my sister, and I, used to amuse ourselves, occasionally, in scooping this seat out of the soft stone. It is of the size, with something of the appearance, of a stall in a cathedral. This inscription is not engraven, as the former of the two following are, in the grounds."
Some of these Inscriptions may suggest a comparison with poems of Theocritus and the Greek Anthology, and with some of the minor pieces of Catullus, and other productions of antiquity, inscribed on the rocky walls of grottos, or on pedestals of statues in fair gardens or cool alcoves. This kind of composition has not been much cultivated in England. Our climate does not seem favourable to hypathral versification. And where it has been attempted, it has in general been marked by too great diffuseness and redundancy, faults not easily pardoned by in-door readers, and liable to severer criticism in out-door compositions.
While Mr. Wordsworth was in Leicestershire, 1806–7, his mind often travelled northward, and reverted to his earlier associations. It recurred to the
I MSS. I. F.
neighbourhood of Penrith. The Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle ", was then composed. “This poem," he says", " was composed at Coleorton while I was walking to and fro along the path that led from Sir George Beaumont's farm-house, where we resided, to the Hall, which was building at that time.”
He wrote, Two voices are there, in the “Sonnets to Liberty,” at the same time.
In the spring of 1807, he and Mrs. Wordsworth went to London, where they remained a month, Miss Wordsworth and the children still remaining at Coleorton; and it was on this occasion, on the eve of their return from London, that she wrote the poem, “ The Mother's Return." 3
“ A month, sweet little ones, is past,
dear mother went away ;
Wordsworth was accompanied by Walter Scott on his return to Coleorton, where he remained till the summer of 1807. He passed a part of the winter of that year at Stockton-on-Tees, at the house of Mr. John Hutchinson, and in the spring of 1808 returned to Grasmere.
The following letters, written some time after his return to Grasmere, refer to the Inscriptions at Coleorton, and may conclude this chapter.
“My dear Sir George, “ Had there been room at the end of the small avenue of lime-trees for planting a spacious circle of the same trees, the urn might have been placed in the centre, with the inscription thus altered :
I Vol. ii. p. 144.
2 MSS. I. F.
3 Vol. i. p.
• Ye lime-trees, ranged around this hallowed urn,
Here may some painter sit in future days,
Fletcher's associate, Jonson's friend beloved.' “The first couplet of the above, as it before stood, would have appeared ludicrous, if the stone had remained after the tree might have been gone. The couplet relating to the household virtues did not accord with the painter and the poet; the former being allegorical figures; the latter, living men.
“What follows, I composed yesterday morning, thinking there might be no impropriety in placing it, so as to be visible only to a person sitting within the niche which we hollowed out of the sandstone in the winter-garden. I am told that this is, in the present form of the niche, impossible; but I shall be most ready, when I come to Coleorton, to scoop out a place for it, if Lady Beaumont think it worth while.
“ These inscriptions have all one fault, they are too long; but I was unable to do justice to the thoughts in less room. The second has brought Sir John Beaumont and his brother Francis so lively to my mind, that I recur to the plan of republishing the former's poems, perhaps in connection with those of Francis. Could any further search be made after the * Crown of Thorns ?' If I recollect right, Southey applied without effect to the numerous friends he has among the collectors. The best way, perhaps, of managing this republication would be, to print it in a very elegant type and paper,
and not many copies, to be sold high, so that it might be prized by the collectors as a curiosity. Bearing in mind how many excellent things there are in Sir John Beaumont's little volume, I am somewhat mortified at this mode of honouring his memory; but in the present state of the taste of this country, I cannot flatter myself that poems of that character would win their way into general circulation. Should it appear advisable, another edition might afterwards be published, upon a plan which would place the book within the reach of those who have little money to spare. I remain, my dear Sir George,
"Your affectionate friend,
“ W. WORDSWORTH."
“ Grasmere, Sat., Nov. 16. 1811. My dear Sir George, “I have to thank you for two letters. Lady Beaumont also will accept my acknowledgments for the interesting letter with which she favoured me.
“I learn from Mrs. Coleridge, who has lately
heard from C—, that Alston, the painter, has arrived in London. Coleridge speaks of him as a most interesting person. He has brought with him a few pictures from his own pencil, among others, a Cupid and Psyche, which, in C.'s opinion, has not, for colouring, been surpassed since Titian. C. is about to deliver a Course of Lectures upon Poetry, at some Institution in the city. He is well, and I learn that the • Friend' has been a good deal inquired after lately. For ourselves, we never hear from him.
“I am glad that the inscriptions please you. It did always appear to me, that inscriptions, particularly those in verse, or in a dead language, were never supposed necessarily to be the composition of those in whose name they appeared. If a more striking, or more dramatic effect could be produced, I have always thought, that in an epitaph or memorial of any kind, a father, or husband, &c. might be introduced, speaking, without any absolute deception being intended : that is, the reader is understood to be at liberty to say to himself,— these verses, or this Latin, may be the composition of some unknown person, and not that of the father, widow, or friend, from whose hand or voice they profess to proceed. If the composition be natural, affecting, or beautiful, it is all that is required. This, at least, was my view of the subject, or I should not have adopted that mode. However, in respect to your scruples, which I feel are both delicate and reasonable, I have altered the verses; and I have only to regret that the alteration is not more happily done. But I never found anything more difficult. I wished to preserve the expression patrimonial grounds, but I found this impossible, on account of the awkwardness of the pronouns, he and