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Two letters from Wordsworth to Mr. Field, in reference to his own poems, may begin this chapter:


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MY DEAR SIR,-I am truly glad that you liked The Triad.† I think great part of it is as spirited as anything I have written; but I was afraid to trust my judgment, as the airy figures are all sketched from originals that are dear to me.


I have had a Worcester paper sent me, that gives what it calls the real history of Miserrimus-spoiling, as real histories generally do, the poem altogether. I doubt whether I ought to tell it you, and yet I may; for I had heard before-though since I wrote the sonnet-another history of the same tombstone. The first was that it was placed over an impious wretch, who, in Popish times, had profaned the pyx. newspaper tale is that it was placed over the grave of a Nonjuring clergyman at his own request-one who refused to take the oath to King William, was ejected in consequence, and lived upon the charity of the Jacobites. He died at eightyeight years of age; so that, at any rate, he could not have been ill-fed; yet the story says that the word alluded to his own sufferings, on the account of his ejection only. He must

* They are from мs. Memoirs mentioned at p. 149.

+ Just published in The Keepsake for 1829.

have been made of poor stuff; and an act of duty, of which the consequences were borne so ill, has little to recommend him to posterity. I can scarcely think that such a feeling would have produced so emphatic and startling an epitaph— and in such a place-just at the last of the steps falling from the Cathedral to the Cloister. The pyx story is not probable. The stone is too recent.

I should like to write a short Indian piece, if you would furnish me with a story. Southey mentioned to me one in Forbes's Travels in India. Have you access to the book, and leisure to consult it? He has it not. It is of a Hindoo girl, who applied to a Bramin to recover a faithless lover-an Englishman. The Bramin furnished her with an unguent, with which she was to anoint his chest, while sleeping, and the deserter would be won back. If you can find the passage and (as I said before) have leisure, pray be so kind as to transcribe it for me, and let me know whether you think anything can be made of it.

Adieu! and believe me affectionately and faithfully yours, WM. WORDSWORTH."

Mr. Field sent the story from Forbes's Oriental Memoirs, vol. iii. pp. 233-5, as quoted in The Quarterly Review, and Wordsworth replied:


Rydal Mount, 19th January 1829. MY DEAR SIR,-Thank you for the extract from the Quarterly. It is a noble story. I remembered having read it; but it is less fit for a separate poem than to make part of a philosophical work. I will thank you for any notices from India, though I own I am afraid of an Oriental story. I know not that you will agree with me; but I have always thought that stories, where the scene is laid by our writers in distant climes, are mostly hurt, and often have their interest quite destroyed, by being overlaid with foreign imagery; as if the tale had been

chosen for the sake of the imagery only.-I remain, very W. WORDSWORTH."

faithfully yours,

"Rydal Mount, Kendal, 19th January [1829]. MY DEAR SIR,- I was much pleased with a little drawing by Mr. Edmund Field-exceedingly so, and I wrote opposite it two stanzas which I hope he and Mrs. Field will pardon, as I have taken a liberty with his name. The drawing is admirably done, and just of such a scene as I delight in, and my favourite river the Duddon, Lowther, Derwent, etc., abound in. . . .

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At this time Wordsworth had much correspondence about the prospects of his son John, who had taken orders, and was anxious to obtain a living or curacy. He wrote to Lord Lonsdale and others about him. The son at last accepted the curacy of Whitwick, near Ashby, Leicestershire, under Mr. Mereweather. Meanwhile-in December 1828-Lord Lonsdale offered him the living of Moresby, in Cumberland. his son was as yet only a deacon, Wordsworth asked and obtained the favour of his being allowed to remain at Whitwick for some time, and that a temporary curate might be appointed at Moresby. Obtaining priest's orders in the end of December, the son was able to accept the living of Moresby.


A letter written about this time to W. Rowan Hamilton, in reference to his own and a friend's verses, brings out Wordsworth's opinions on style, and on the structure of the Sonnet :-*

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Rydal Mount, Kendal, Feb. 12, 1829. Now for a few words upon your enclosures. own verses are dated 1826. I note this early date with pleasure, because I think if they had been composed lately, the only objections I make to them would probably not have

*See Life of Sir W. Rowan Hamilton, vol. i. pp. 327-8.

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existed, at least in an equal degree. It is an objection that relates to style alone, and to versification; for example, the last line, And he was the enthusiast no more,' which is, in meaning, the weightiest of all, is not sinewy enough in sound -the syllable the, the metre requires, should be long, but it is short, and imparts a languor to the sense. The three lines, 'As if he were addressing,' etc., are too prosaic in movement. . . .


The specimens of your young friend's genius are very promising. . . . I should say to him, however, as I said to you, that style is, in poetry, of incalculable importance; he seems, however, aware of it, for his diction is obviously studied. Thus the great difficulty is to determine what constitutes a good style. In deciding this, we are all subject to delusions; not improbably I am so, when it appears to me that the metaphor in the first speech of his dramatic scene is too much drawn out; it does not pass off as rapidly as metaphors ought to, I think, in dramatic writing. I am well aware that our early dramatists abound with these continuations of imagery, but to me they appear laboured and unnatural-at least, unsuited to that species of composition of which action and motion are the essentials. While with the ashes of a light that was,' and the two following lines are in the best style of dramatic writing; to every opinion thus given, always add, I pray you, in my judgment, though I may not, to save trouble or to avoid a charge of false modesty, express it. 'This over-perfume of a heavy pleasure,' etc., is admirable, and indeed it would be tedious to praise all that pleases me.

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Shelley's Witch of Atlas I never saw; therefore the stanza referring to Narcissus and her was read by me to some disadvantage. One observation I am about to make will at least prove I am no flatterer, and will, therefore, give a qualified value to my praise:

There was nought there

But those three antient hills alone.

* Francis B. Edgeworth.

Here the word alone being used instead of only makes an absurdity like that noticed in the Spectator-Enter a king and three fiddlers, solus.'

The Sonnet I like very much, with no drawback but what is, in a great measure, personal to myself. I am so accustomed, in my own practice, to pass one set of rhymes at least through the first eight lines, that the want of that vein of sound takes from the music something of its consistencyto my voice and ear. Farewell! I shall at all times be glad to hear from you, and still more to see you."

A portion of an earlier letter to Hamilton will show the minute earnestness of Wordsworth's criticism, his belief in the close relation of the logical to the imaginative faculty, and his opinion of the ancient as compared with modern writers.

"Rydal Mount, near Kendal,* September 24, 1827.

You will have no pain to suffer from my sincerity. You will not, I am sure, be hurt, when I tell you that the workmanship is not what it ought to be,

Some touch of human sympathy find way,

And whisper that while Truth's and Science' ray
With such serene effulgence o'er thee shone.

Sympathy might whisper, but a touch of sympathy could not.
Truth's and Science' ray,' for the ray of Truth and Science,
is not only extremely harsh, but a 'ray shone' is, if not
absolutely a pleonasm, a great awkwardness; a 'ray fell or
'shot' may be said; and a sun, or a moon, or a candle shone, but
not a ray.
I much regret that I did not receive these verses
while you were here; that I might have given you vivâ voce
a comment upon them which would be tedious by letter, and,


* See Life of Sir W. Rowan Hamilton,

pp. 266-8.


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