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Memoir of William Wordsworth, Esq.
Tas tranquillity of a life devoted to letters, and bridge; whose acute and erudite Letters on the the seclusion which is esteemed most favourable to Greek definitive article, in confirmation of the the inspirations of the Muse, afford few materials late Granville Sharpe's rule, procured him the for the pen of the biographer. The poverty which patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury, repervades this interesting department of English cently deceased, to whom he was indebted for literature has long been a subject of deep and the highly valuable preferments he now so dejust regret to all who appreciate the learning and servedly enjoys. genius of former days. It is true that endea- The brothers were educated at the same school, vours have been made in many instances to and though their pursuits have since been dissisupply the deficiency, and to redeem the cha- milar, yet from much congeniality of taste, they racters, habits, and feelings of those who have were remarkable for their affectionate attachgraced the literary annals of our own times from ment to each other. The classical attainments the obscurity which veils those of their illus- of our poet are described to have been superior trious predecessors : yet it frequently occurs that to his young contemporaries; and his English -either from the retiring nature of pre-eminent compositions both in verse and prose were distalent, or the delicacy of private friendship, the tinguished at a very early age, as possessing the authentic information which is only to be derived germs of those high talents which were hereafter I from primary sources is not sufficiently copious to confer such celebrity on their possessor: his to gratify the scarcely illegitimate curiosity of chief amusement even at that period consisted in the public, respecting those from whose labours the study of our best poets, and in the recitation they have derived instruction and delight.
of their most splendid passages. The contracted limits within which our Memoir Having profited largely by his studies at Hawkesof the distinguished Poet who is the subject of it head, Mr Wordsworth removed to the University is comprised, has strongly forced this observation of Cambridge in 1787, where he was matriculated upon us. In the present instance, liowever, our a student of St John's. Here he remained a suffitask is abridged by a circumstance fortunately cient length of time to attain his Bachelor's devery favourable to the reader, namely, that Mr gree, without aspiring, it would appear, to higher
Wordsworth's writings are in their very nature academical honours. While yet a student, he | and essence a species of auto-biography, and pre-made a pedestrian excursion through part of
sent the reader with a perfect and most interest- France, Savoy, Switzerland, and Italy, accompaing exposition of the feelings under which they nied by a college friend. On this tour he comwere composed. Added to which the introduc- posed the greater part of those delightful lines tory notices, or essays, prefixed to his poems, at sabsequently published under the title of « Devarious times as they were published (all of which scriptive Sketches in Verse," which, as also an will be found in the succeeding pages) are unusu- Epistle in verse addressed to a young Lady from ally copious, and afford such ample explanations the Lakes in the North of England, was given 10 of the literary opinions of the author, that any the world in 1793; being, we believe, the first of additional remarks— (information is out of the Mr Wordsworth's productions formally submitted question) - of ours would be a work of idle super- to the ordeal of public criticism. erogation.
In a short time after his return from the conOur Author is descended from a family of tinent, Mr Wordsworth quitted the University, high respectability in Cumberland, where he was aud, indulging his taste for contemplating the boru, at Cockermouth, on the 7th April, 1770. beauties of nature, to which he had been from At the age of eight years he was sent to Hawkes- early childhood enthusiastically attached, visited head school in Lancashire, one of the best semi- most parts of the country where the character of naries in the north of England. It was founded the scenery promised to gratify his prevailing and endowed in the reign of Elizabeth, by the passion, of which England and Scotland exhibit venerable Sandys, Archbishop of York. Two of its a rich and almost unequalled variety. «Thou, living ornaments are Mr Wordsworth the subject Nature, art my goddess,w is a sentence which of this Memoir, and his brother, Dr Christopher would indeed befit the lips of Mr Wordsworth; Wordsworth, formerly Chaplain to the House of for never did a more fervent worshipper kneel Commons Rector of Lambeth and Dean of Bocking, before her altar, or celebrate her mysteries with and at present master of Trinity College, Cam- an idolatry at once so glowing and so profound.
expresses this feeling, which many respects similar to his own, and who then breathes through every page of his writings, the resided in the neighbouring village. In this following passage, taken almost at random, will remote part of the kingdom they lived in almost attest:
entire seclusion, exploring the adjacent country
by day, and by night arranging the plans of fuO then what soul was his, when on the tops
ture literary works. This apparently unobjecOf the high mountains, he beheld the sun Rise up, and bathe the world in light! He look'd tiovable mode of life was not, however, from the Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth,
critical and perilous nature of the times, free And ocean's liquid mass beneath him lay
from inconvenience. The violence of the French In cladness and deep joy. The clouds were touch'd, Revolution had by this period subsided, but its And in their silent faces did he read Unutterable love. Sound needed none,
influence had extended itself to the obscurest Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank
nook of the British isles, and even the retired The spectacle; sensation, soul, and form,
neighbourhood in which our young philosophers All melted into him; they swallow'd up
had taken up their abode had not escaped its conHis animal being: in them did lie live, And by them did he live; they were his life.
tagion. At the little inn of the village, which was
occasionally visited by Mr Wordsworth and bis It is difficult for those who are acquainted - friend, politics were the general topic of converand who is not ? — with the writings of Lord By-sation. In these discussions, Mr Coleridge, whose ron, to read the above magnificent lines without previous conduct at Bristol had attracted the being struck with the almost startling resem- notice of Government (being at that time a zeablavce borne to them by a passage in a poem lous reformist), took an active and vehement part. of the noble Lord's, who, it is evident, from Mr Wordsworth was generally on these occasions many other parts of his works, had studied our a silent listener; but it will not surprise those Poet with advantage. Far be it from us to en- who are acquainted with the eloquence and deavour to depreciate the genius of Byron, or 10 powers of argument which distinguish Mr Coletear one leaf from the laurels that shadow his ridge, to learn that his discourse, in such a place immortal name. Yet that he should have par- and in such society, must have produced an exsued with unrelenting satire' a poet by whose traordinary impression; his opinions being, as labours he did not scruple to profit, and that we have hinted, liberal in the utmost possible largely, is surely one of those unaccountable and
sense of the word. This circumstance, taken in wayward inconsistencies which seem scarcely re- conjunction with the evident superiority of the concileable with that erect and lofty moral de- habits and manners of our two literary compaportment which, in the blindness of erring huma- nions, their solitary walks and their unusually renity, we would fain assign as the concomitant tired manner of living, created a strong distrust of high intellectual superiority.
among their uncongenial occasional associates; in But to retura to our subject. — Mr Wordsworth fine, our two poets became first objects of curiosity, was at Paris during a considerable time before, and at length of suspicion. All their proceedings and at the commencement of the French Revolu- were guarıledly watched, in their walks they tion. He was acquainted with many of the lead- were now cautiously followed at a distance, and, ers of the revolutionary party, and lodged in the directed by the sagacity of the lawyer of the vilsame mansion with Brissot. He was driven from lage, a complete system of espionage was estathe capital by the tremendous horrors of the blished over them. These absurd suspicions, of Reign of Terror. On his return to England, our course, were removed in a little time, and the juthor again resumed his periestrian excursions, innocent objects of the alarm were only acquaintand afterwards resided for some time in Dorsel- ed with the dangerous opinions which had been shire, without, however, relaxing in his favourite formed of them, long after their termination. pursuit.
It was in this retreat that the « Lyrical Ballads » At length, it would appear that, weary of wan were commenced. «They were intended,” says dering, Mr Wordsworth became, in the year 1797, Mr Coleridge, « as an experiment whether subjects a resident at Alfoxden, an ancient Mansion in a which from their nature rejected the usual ornahighly picturesque dell about two nuiles from ments and extra-colloquial style of poems in Nether Stowey, in the northern part of Somer-general, might not be so managed in the lan. setshire; where he formed an intimacy withi Mr Coleridge, whose pursuits and habits were in
• Mr Coleridge has always considered himself—jastly, no
doubl—the principal cause of this unseemly and ridiculous We are informed upon good authority, that so little vigilance. Ile attributes it to his having, during a long and interest has Mr Wordsworth himself felt on the subject of abstruse conversation (we presume, with Mr Wordsworth), bis Lordship's satire, that to this day he has never perused on scholastic and other topics, pronounced several times. « English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. »
with extraordinary emphasis, the name of Spinoza.
MEMOIR OF WILLIAM WORDS WORTH.
guage of ordinary life as to produce the pleasure- Mr Wordsworth in private life is described, by able interest which it is the peculiar business of all who have the honour of his intimacy, as amipoetry to impart.,
able in the highest degree, and as discharging In the year 1798, MrWordsworth, accompanied every duty in the various relations of society by his sister Dorothea, made a tour through part with affectionate tenderness and scrupulous fiof Germany, where he joined Mr Coleridge.' delity. To his regular and temperate course of life How long the travellers remained abroad we are it may probably be attributed that, during a space not informed, but in 1800, we find Mr Words- of nearly sixty years, Mr Wordsworth has never
worth settled at Grasmere, a small village in experienced a day's illness. It is not to be under| Westmorland, from whence he removed to his stood, however, that our author is so inuch attach
present elegant residence at Rydal. In 1803 he ed to his own native vales and mountains as not inarried Miss Mary Hutchinsoni, the daughter of to feel and appreciate the natural beauties of other a merchant at Penrith, a young lady of highly countries. That he has done so is indeed known respectable family and exemplary character; two to all who are acquainted with him only through sons and a daughter are the living produce of the medium of his writings; por is he so much ibis union. The picturesque beauties in the neigh- of a recluse as not to have felt a warm interest bourliood of Pydal prove more attractive to Mr in the moral and political condition and proWordsworth than the charms of the metropolis spects of all Europe: he is not an indifferent (to which, however le pays an annual visit), or spectator of events which affect the glory of his the pleasures of artificial society; and here, his own nation, or the happiness of the whole civileisure devoted to poetry and contemplation, in lized world. But here we may refer the reader the enjoyment of an extensive circle of acquaint- to the succeeding pages, which are his best bioance, comprising the most distinguished charac- graphy. Mr Wordsworth's prose writings are
wers in the kingdom for rank, literature, or science, vot numerous; the most remarkable is a large I in the bosom of a happy domestic circle, he painphlet published in 1809, now rarely to be
spends most of his time. In point of fortune, Mr met with, under the following remarkable title : Wordsworth enjoys • an elegant sufficiency,» Concerning the Relations of Great Britain, | arising from a patrimonial estate, and the emolu- Spain, and Portugal to each other, and to the
ments of a situation under the Government, for common enemy at this crisis, and specifically as | which, we understand, he was indebted to the affected by the Convention of Cintra; the whole personal friendship of the Earl of Lonsdale. brought to the test of those principles by which
Mr Wordsworth in his person is above the alone the independence and freedom of Nations raiddle size, with, says the author of the « Spirit can be preserved or recovered.» In this per
of the Age, » marked features, and a some formance Ministers were blamed for not assisting | what stately air. « lle reminds one of some the Spaniards in their struggle against the then of Holbein's heads, grave, saturnine, with a Imperial Ruler of France, with sufficient zcal; slight indication of sly humour, kept under and urged to do that which they afterwards did, by the manners of the age, or by the preten- io pour all their military strength into the heart sions of the person.
lle bas a peculiar sweet- of Spain. This political essay is powerfully writness in his smile, and great depth and manli- ten, and it is scarcely fanciful to suppose, that it ness and a rugged harmony in the tones of his might have been one of the causes of the change voice. Iis manner of reading his own poetry is in the proceedings of Government, which ultiparticularly imposing, and in his favourite pas- mately led to so glorious and happy a termination sages liis eye brams with preternatural lustre, for all Europe. While on this subject, we may and the meaning iabonrs slowly up from his add, that by no writer have the opinions and the swelling bosom, to one who has seen him at literature, we might almost say, the political litethese moments, could go away with an impres-rature of his day, been more coloured and influsion that he was a man of no mark or likeli- enced, not only by his writings, which, however, lood."
are sufficient, in our opinion, for a proof of what
we affirm; but also by his conversation, which Thirts tears after this date, that is, during the
is always open to extensive acquaintance. Mr Wordsworth and Me Coleridge have again visited locemuany together. In the autumn of 1820, our author From these rich sources many original and philoalso, with Miss Wordsătortle and a friend, made a long sophical observations have been derived, and pedestrian tour in Switzerland,
presented from various channels to the public, *The best likenes, of him is a bust esecuted by Chan-who were little aware to whom the credit of their trey for Sir George Beauinout, one of Mr Wordswortli's desrest friends. Mis portrait was also introduced into Me invention should be given. Haydon's picture of Christ's entry into Jerusalem.
The following analysis of Mr Wordsworth's 1
genius, with which we shall conclude, is ex an old acquaintance; the cuckoo haunts him tracted from the work we have quoted above; with sounds of early youth not to be expressed; a it is in Mr Hazlitt's most felicitous style. linnet's nest startles him with boyish delight; an
« Prevented by native pride and indolence old withered thorn is weighed down with a heap from climbing the ascent of learning or great- of recollections; a grey cloak, seen on some wild ness, taught by political opinions to say to the moor, torn by the wind or drenched in the rain, vain pomp and glory of the world, 'I hate ye,' afterwards becomes an object of imagination to seeing the path of classical and artificial poetry him: even the lichens on the rock have a life and blocked up by the cumbrous ornaments of style being in his thoughts. He has described all these and turgid common-places, so that nothing more objects in a way and with an intensity of feeling could be achieved in that direction but by the that no one else had done before him, and has most ridiculous bombast or the tamest servility; given a new view or aspect of nature. He is in he has turned back, parily from the bias of his this sense the most original poet now living, and mind, partly perhaps from a judicious policy- the one whose writings could the least be spared: has struck into the sequestered vale of humble for they have no substitute elsewhere. The vullife, sought out the muse among sheep-cots and gar do not read them; the learned, who see all hamlets and the peasant's mountain-haunts, has things through books, do not understand them: discarded all the tinsel pageantry of verse, and the great despise, the fashionable may ridicule endeavoured (not in vain) to aggrandize the tri- them; but the author has created himself an invial, and add the charm of novelty to the faini- terest in the heart of the retired and lonely stuliar. No one has shown the same imagination in dent of nature, which can never die. Persons of raising trifles into importance; no one has dis- this class will still continue to feel what he has played the same pathos in treating of the simplest felt; he has expressed what they might in vain feelings of the heart. Reserved, yet haughty, wish to express, except with glistening eye aud having no unruly or violent passions (or those faltering tongue! There is a lofty philosophic passions having been early suppressed), Mr tone, a thoughtful humanity, infused into his Wordswortlı has passed his life in solitary musing, pastoral vein. Remote from the passions and or in daily converse with the face of Nature. He events of the great world, he has communicated exemplifies in an eminent degree the power of interest and dignity to the primal movements of association; for his poetry has no other source the heart of man, and engrafted his own conscious or character. He has dwelt among pastoral reflections on the casual thoughts of hinds and scenes, till each object has become connected shepherds. Nursed amidst the grandeur of with a thousand feelings, a link in the chain of mountain scenery, he has stooped to have a thought, a fibre of his own heart. Every one is nearer view of the daisy under his feet, or by habit and familiarity strongly attached to the plucked a branch of white-thorn from the spray; place of his birth, or to objects that recall the but, in describing it, his mind seenis imbued with most pleasing and eventful circumstances of his the majesty and solemnity of the objects around life. But to the author of the Lyrical Ballads him. The tall rock lifts its head in the erectness nature is a kind of home; and he may be said to of his spirit; the cataract roars in the sound of take a personal interest in the universe. There his verse ; and in its dim and mysterious meanis no image so insignificant that it has not in ing, the mists seem to gather in the hollows of some mood or other found the way into his heart: Helvellyn, and the forked Skiddaw hovers in the vo sound that does not awaken the memory of distance. There is little mention of mountainous
scenery in Mr Wordsworth's poetry; but by inTo him the meanest flower that blows can give
ternal evidence one might be almost sure that it Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
was written in a mountainous country, from its
bareness, its simplicity, its loftiness, and its The daisy looks up to him with sparkling eye as depth..