Imágenes de páginas

friend was as clear-eyed, as his insight into the unique greatness of that work was profound, and his praise of it generous and unstinted.

The letter to Richard Sharp, printed at pp. 9-12, is sufficient evidence both of the depth of his sympathy and the incisiveness of his criticism: but additional letters exist although they have not yet been published-which make this as clear, as the Biographia Literaria disclosed the other side of the picture. That the two men should sometimes misunderstand one another was inevitable. With all their affinities, there were radical (even constitutional) differences of temperament and of character within them; and these differences became greater as years advanced.

[ocr errors]

Coleridge used to complain of the "self-involution of Wordsworth. He lamented that so much was done for him by his sister and wife, that they even spoiled him by their devotion. He had an honest dread lest this should do his friend permanent harm, shutting him up more and more within himself. He even lamented the fact that Wordsworth's genius turned so much to "lyrical ballads," and to "sonnets,"―small poems dealing with small themes,instead of flowing freely forth, toward what he (Coleridge) told him, in season and out of season, should be the great work of his life, viz., the projected poem of The Recluse. His desertion of this to write smaller lyrics,--poems of

the fancy" or the "imagination," of "the affections," or of "sentiment and reflection," he likened to his friend's forsaking a mountain track, to wander in lanes and alleys; or to his haunting waterfalls, rather than sailing out over the great ocean of poetic work, under the steady wind of inspiration. And there was truth in the criticism. The majority of the reviews that had appeared, hostile to Wordsworth, were so blind and ignorant, that he not only ignored them, but defied them; and in his defiance-grand

though it was, and magnificent as its results were-he overshot the mark, and certainly wrote some trifles that the world would now "willingly let die."

The urgency of Coleridge was not without its good effect. Wordsworth's chief work during the years 1804-5 was the continuation and completion of The Prelude. I must X refer the reader to the prefatory note to this poem (vol. iii. pp. 120-127) for details as to its composition. Several facts, however, unknown to me when that note was written, are contained in another letter of Wordsworth's to his friend, Richard Sharp, which I have recently received (with several others) from Mrs Drummond, Fredley, Dorking. It will be seen that from the first he had no intention of publishing the autobiographical introduction to The Recluse in his own lifetime, and that this reluctance was due to modesty. Although The Prelude had only reached the seventh book, he says "it is a frightful deal to say about myself."


"GRASMERE, April 29, 1804.

MY DEAR SIR,-I have long considered myself as owing you a letter, though Coleridge was so good as to be my amanuensis some time ago, and express my acknowledgments of your kindness in writing to me, and your present of the Minstrelsy of the Border. You did flatter me with a sort of hope that I should receive from you a MS. poem of your own, which I have expected with no little eagerMy sister writes to Charles Lamb to-day. Among the many inducements which I have had to write to you, a wish to return the thanks of my family, joined with my own, for your kindness, and more than kindness, to our dear and honoured friend Coleridge, during his late residence in town, has not been the least. spoke in the warmest terms of the many affectionate attentions he received from you, and believe me, dear sir, it gave


me the greatest pleasure to think, not on his account, but on yours also, that such an intercourse had taken place between you; as I am sure nothing could be more grateful to your heart than to be useful to such a man, going upon an errand in which all his friends must be deeply interested. I need not say how much our fireside has suffered upon the melancholy occasion, and what a loss he will be to us.


We are indebted to you for a world of pleasure in our Scotch tour, the how, the when, and the where I will explain when we have the satisfaction of seeing you here again. .. The leaves which ought to have been out a month ago are now budding fast, and our little orchard is in the full height of its primrose beauty. Summer will soon be here; and, as I take for granted you don't mean to expose yourself to be kidnapped in Germany, and most other parts of the Continent are probably too distant for your limited tour, we may look forward with some confidence to the pleasure of seeing you here. You will be very welcome; and I have made some discoveries in Grasmere, which I shall be delighted to show you, little unthought of nooks, that are as beautiful as they are shy. You will perhaps see in the London papers an estate at Troutbeck advertised for sale. It consists of a furnished cottage, a decent sort of a house for this country, that is considerably better than mine, and thirty acres of land. The house is on the side of Troutbeck Vale, opposite to your chosen spot, and about a mile further up the valley, but in every respect inferior to yours; no view of Windermere; and in my opinion by no means an eligible situation. It is at present occupied by Mr Ibbetson the painter.

I have been very busy these last ten weeks; having written between two and three thousand lines-accurately

* He probably referred to suggestions made by Sharp of places to visit during the tour.

near three thousand—in that time; namely, four books, and a third of another, of the poem which I believe I mentioned to you on my own early life. I am at present in the seventh book of this work, which will turn out far longer than I ever dreamt of. It seems a frightful deal to say about myself, and, of course, will never be published (during my lifetime, I mean) till another work has been written and published, of sufficient importance to justify me in giving my own history to the world. I pray God to give me life to finish these works, which I trust will live, and do good; especially the one to which that I have been speaking of as so far advanced is only supplementary. Farewell. Re-X member me kindly to Mr Rogers, and believe me, with best regards from my wife and sister, and with the greatest esteem and respect on my part, yours sincerely,




THE earlier half of Wordsworth's life is much more easily divided into chapters, which correspond with his movements from place to place, than the later half of it, when he was a constant resident in the land he has made illustrious by his poems, except during visits to friends, and excursions in Britain or the Continent. After he took up his abode at Grasmere, the most significant thing in his life was the quiet development of his poetic genius along its selected and somewhat secluded pathway. Add to this frequent visits to London, and to such places as Coleorton in Leicestershire, and Brinsop Court in Hereford, to Lowther or to Cambridge, the tours he made in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the Continent of Europe, which he afterwards memorialised in his poems, the issue of successive volumes of these poems-inappreciative notices, and hostile criticism giving place, by slow degrees, to recognition and to famethe arrival of friends and visitors to his household, his walks and conversations with these friends in the district of the Lakes, the work (increasingly laborious) of his office as distributor of stamps for the counties of Westmoreland and Cumberland, his interest in gardening, and the practical assistance he gave to his friends in laying out their gardengrounds, the part he took in local county politics, and the usual incidents, the joys and sorrows of domestic life, through a long, and on the whole a very tranquil career.

Shortly before he started on his first Scottish tour, his

« AnteriorContinuar »