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AN INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR.
I WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, one of the very greatest of
great poets, was born at the small market-town of Cockermouth, in Cumberland, on the 7th April, 1770. 2 His earliest days were passed by the banks of the river 50 Derwent, and within sight of the mountains whose names 71 he afterwards made famous. From the garden at the
4 back of his father's house he could look up the valley to - the rocky height on which stands Cockermouth Castle,
ind behind it, rising dim and majestic at a distance of welve miles, he would behold the gloomy brow of kiddaw. Within a short distance of his native town are tuated the best features of that particular scenery for hich the Lake District is celebrated, and to these the are poet was, no doubt, often taken by some member of
family. His poems give evidence of the truth of the It that, from his nearness in infancy to the lakes and fountains, he received impressions which never wore off his mind, and which ever afterwards influenced the haracter of his poetic genius.
His father, John Wordsworth, came of an old northcountry stock, and was law-agent to the Earl of Lowther, whose family owns a great portion of the land round Cockermouth. His son has left no picture of him in any of his poems, and but few details are known respecting his life. His children evidently had a good example set before them in their father, for each turned out well in after years. One of the sons, Christopher, afterwards Dr. Wordsworth, became Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and was justly celebrated for his learning and scholarly attainments. Another rose through the merchant service to be commander of an East Indiaman, the Abergavenny, and perished when that vessel was wrecked in 1805. One of John Wordsworth's daughters, Dorothy, was the constant companion of the poet's life, and was a woman of no mean genius and taste. WORDSWORTH has commemorated her in some of his best poems, particularly in those of his lyrics which refer to their childhood, and it is evident from this that between them there existed a very strong affection, and that WORDSWORTH's love for his sister was really much more than an ordinary domestic v friendship.
Very little is known of the poet's early life, but it is tolerably certain that he was sent to the Grammar School of his native town,-a building still in existence, though in a dilapidated condition. From this he was removed, at the age of eight years, to Hawkshead Grammar School, which was just then under the mastership of one of his own relations. Of his doings at this school we hear little, but it is said that he diligently studied the works of the classical writers. His desk is shown to the tourist in the old school-room, standing before a window from which a vine view may be had. We do not know whether the young poet was an arduous labourer in the fields of learning, but it is quite certain that the great lessons of his life were first taught him during his residence at Hawkshead,
and that it was there that his acquaintance, which commenced by the banks of the brawling Derwent, ripened; into intimacy with that great power for which he had so intense a love all through his life,--the spirit of nature. He was close to~it might be said, in the midst of-the most beautiful scenery in England, and was constantly able to observe the witchery and charm of bright mornings and glorious sunsets, of all the various changes and subtle effects which belong only to mountainous districts. Nine valleys, -Coniston, Duddon, Ennerdale, Langdale, Eskdale, Keswick, Borrowdale, Buttermere, and Wastdale, were at his feet; six others, -Ullswater, Grasmere, Rydal, Ambleside, Hawes water, and Wytheburn,-were within an hour or two hours' journey. Amid their loveliness he wandered whenever he was able to do so, breathing in poetry at every inspiration of the mountain air, and having the remembrance of those scenes which he afterwards so well described, fixed firmly on his imagination and memory.
WORDSWORTH, unlike most poetic spirits, did not begin to write at an early age. Pope wrote largely and well at eight, and Cowley at ten. Macaulay, who, though not a great poet, was undoubtedly largely possessed of the divine faculty, made fine verses at seven, and astonished his friends with epics and tragedies when he was very little older. But WORDSWORTH's earliest verses were probably not written till he was fourteen or fifteen years of age, and even then they did not give much promise of the superior work that their author was to do in after years. About them there was a maturity of language, a richness of style which was not in keeping with the homely diction of his later work, and their melody was not often surpassed afterwards. But apart from these distinguishing features, his juvenile productions contained very little that was good..