Imágenes de páginas

confined to Cumberland and Durham, and are unlikely to have married anyone from South Yorkshire before that; and they certainly did not after my great-greatgrandfather came into Cumberland. The story arose in this way. My grandfather's uncle, Dr Cookson of Windsor, married a daughter of my grandmother's great aunt, which would enable someone to say that the families were already connected. Hence the myth. . . . One of my grandmother's few recollections of her mother is her weeping on her return from the funeral of the poet's mother."


Two other things may be mentioned before I acknowledge my debt to those who have helped me in this work. I have elsewhere spoken of Wordsworth's profound appreciation of the results of Science, and his grasp of its principles. other important point is his insight into the great Questions of the Ages, those ultimate philosophical problems, which he never handled speculatively, but of which he had his own intuitive solution, a solution that was at once luminous and vital. A second feature of exceeding interest is the way in which a profoundly liberal instinct, and a genuine conservative tendency were so balanced in him, as to raise him, in all his deeper teachings, above party. He had unbounded reverence for the past. That reverence, however, was consistent with antagonism to much that we inherit from it. He was conservative in the bent of his mind, and his habitual attitude toward the past; but he was liberal in his revolt from its thraldom, its mannerism, and artificiality. He felt, as few have done, that the conservative instinct of Human Nature keeps it from disintegration and collapse; while its liberal instinct keeps it from stagnation, and leads to forward movements and new developments. The radicalism of his youth came out nowhere so explicitly as in his letter to the Bishop of Landaff, written shortly after he had left the University. The common opinion, however,

is that Wordsworth soon afterwards became a conservative of the most rigid type, and that he remained one to the close of his life. It is true that politically he was a conservative, and his dread of the overthrow of our Institutions produced in him an unreasoning horror of Reform. His dislike to change deepened, with the deepening of his love for our great inheritances, in Church and State. Sara Coleridge writes of a visit he paid to her father at Hampstead in 1834. "How well do I remember Mr Wordsworth, with one leg upon the stair, delaying his ascent, till he had uttered, with an emphasis which seemed to proceed from the very profoundest recesses of his soul, I would lay down my life for the Church.'"* An anecdote, however, for which I am indebted to Lord Coleridge, shews the other side of the picture, and proves that while in party politics he was conservative, Wordsworth remained liberal in heart to the very end of his life.

[ocr errors]

The story refers to his later years. The father of the present Chief-Justice, while a judge in the Northern Circuit, spent some time at Ambleside; and calling at Rydal Mount, Wordsworth proposed that he should accompany him on a visit to Lord Lonsdale. He did so. They drove by Kirkston Pass, with the ladies of the household; and after descending at Ullswater the poet proposed that Mr Coleridge and he should leave the carriage, and walk the remainder of the way through the woods to Lowther. Soon after they started on their walk they left the highway, and proceeded across a field by a disused track, towards a blank wall at the opposite side. Seeing there was no gate in view, and no apparent stile to cross, Mr Coleridge asked if they were on the right path. "Yes," said Wordsworth, "you will soon see;" and approaching the loosely built wall, put his foot


* See Memoir and Letters of Sara Coleridge, vol. i. p. 107.

against it, and made a breach sufficient to let them pass on their way. Wordsworth then resumed, "There used to be a right-of-way for the people here, time out of mind; but the land has been recently bought by Lord and he has closed this ancient footpath against the people. I am determined, however, to have it kept open, so far as I am able; and I will walk no other way to Lowther. I wouldn't be surprised, now, if we met Lord

to-night at the Castle, and if so, I shall probably let him know what I think of his action." And so it was. After dinner the new proprietor, who had shut up the footpath, referred at considerable length to the Radicals, who broke down his walls, and entered his grounds without permission. Wordsworth listened for some time, and then rising, said, "Yes, Lord, I am the person who broke down your wall, and I shall do it again; for there is an ancient right-of-way through that field, a right of the people, and I am determined to maintain it. You bought your property with that right attached to it, and, Conservative as I am, scratch me thus, and you'll find the Radical underneath."

We may connect with this anecdote, what Wordsworth once said to Henry Crabb Robinson, "I have no respect whatever for the Whigs, but I have a great deal of the Chartist in me."

Wordsworth had a genuine and clear insight into the principles and rights that underlie all change; and though he deprecated innovation, and strangely saw destruction in every departure from established usage, his poetic teaching is no more conservative than it is liberal, because it is both the one and the other, and fits equally well into a new order of things as into the old. It is my strong conviction that what Matthew Arnold so happily called the "healing power of Wordsworth—his tranquillising and restorative powermay be as profoundly felt by the masses, and by the most


advanced radicals (when they come to know it), as by the most conservative minds amongst us.

My indebtedness to those who have helped me in this Biography is almost too great to be mentioned in detail, and it extends to many who can no longer be thanked in person.

First of all, I must thank the representatives of the Wordsworth family. To the great kindness of the late William Wordsworth, the poet's son-of Willow Bank, Eton, when I first knew him, and afterwards of the Stepping Stones, Ambleside-and of his wife, the late Mrs William Wordsworth, in placing at my disposal the Journals, the MSS. of the Poems, and the Letters, in the rich collection at the Stepping Stones, I owe more than to anything else in the preparation of this Life. To their son, Mr Gordon Wordsworth, I have a similar debt of friendship to acknowledge, for his sending me, and kindly allowing me to publish, so many letters and memoranda regarding his grandfather. From the late Bishop of Lincoln, the nephew and biographer of the poet, I learned many things about Wordsworth, and received a generous permission to make free use of the materials he had collected, both those incorporated in the Memoirs, and others which he supplied to me. To the Bishop of St Andrews my thanks are also due for much information regarding his uncle.

By the late Dr Cradock, the Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford, I was informed of many facts, and directed to several sources of information. During walks and visits with him in the Lake Country, I learned more of the local allusions which the poems contain than from any one else. To Miss Quillinan at Loughrigg Holme, to Miss Arnold at Foxhowe, and to the late Matthew Arnold I acknowledge obligations manifold.

Miss Quillinan supplied me with the

original MS. of the Fenwick notes to the poems, and with other memoranda. The late Lady Richardson of Lancrigg gave me many personal reminiscences of the poet, and Mrs Stanger of Fieldside, Keswick, has done the same. To Sir George and Lady Beaumont of Coleorton, Leicestershire, I am indebted for access to all the letters from Wordsworth, his wife and sister, to their ancestors--the Beaumonts with whose names those of Coleridge, Southey, Scott, and many others as well as the Wordsworths, are associated. Mention should also be made of the kindness of the Rev. W. Beaumont, at the Rectory, Coleorton. To Mr Ernest Coleridge-to whose biography of S. T. C. the lovers of English Literature are looking forward with rare expectancy-I am deeply grateful for permission to use the letters of his grandfather to Wordsworth ;* to the late Rev. Cuthbert Southey for liberty to make use of any letters of his father that it might seem desirable to publish; to the Hon. Mrs Maxwell Scott for a similar permission to examine and use the unpublished letters of Wordsworth to Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford; and to Mrs Sandford, Chester, and the Bishop of Gibraltar for the use of those written to Thomas Poole of Nether Stowey.

To Mr Locker-Lampson I am obliged for permission to copy his large collection of one hundred and thirty-six letters by Wordsworth to Mr Moxon. I have further to express my cordial thanks for access to the still larger store of letters now at Lowther Castle, addressed by Wordsworth to the late Lord Lonsdale, and to Viscount Lowther. Mr Morrison of Fonthill has also allowed me to copy several in his remarkable collection of autographs.

To Lord Coleridge I am indebted for letters from Wordsworth to his father, Mr Justice Coleridge, for access to the


Many of Wordsworth's letters will appear for the first time in the forthcoming Biography of Coleridge.

« AnteriorContinuar »