1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Wordsworth

Edward Quillinan to Henry Crabb Robinson, 23 July 1843; Robinson, Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence (1870; 1872) 2:242.



Mr. Wordsworth ought to have been at Buckingham Palace at the Queen's Ball, for which he received a formal invitation: — "The Lord Chamberlain presents his compliments. He is commanded by Her Majesty to invite Mr. William Wordsworth to a ball at Buckingham Palace, on Monday, the 24th July — ten o'clock. Full dress." To which he pleaded, as an apology for non-attendance, the non-arrival of the invitation (query command?) in time. He dated his answer from this place. "The Island, Windermere," and that would explain the impossibility; for the notice was the shortest possible, even if it had been received by first post. But a man in his seventy-fourth year would, I suppose, be excused by Royalty for not travelling 300 miles to attend a dance, even if a longer notice had been given — though probably Mr. Wordsworth would have gone had he had a fortnight to think of it, because the Laureate must pay his personal respects to the Queen sooner or later; and the sooner the better, he thinks. I have been lately reading many of the old New Year and Birthday Odes, and nothing struck me so disagreeably as their idolatry. The Royal personage is not panegyrized, but idolized: the monarch is not a king, but a god. It has occurred to me that Mr. Wordsworth may, in his own grand way, compose a hymn to or on the King of kings, in rhymed verse, or blank, invoking a blessing on the Queen and country, or giving thanks for blessings vouchsafed and perils averted. This would be a new mode of dealing with the office of Laureate, and would come with dignity and propriety, I think, from a seer of Wordsworth's age and character. I told him so; and he made no observation. I therefore think it likely that he may consider the suggestion; but he certainly will not, if he hears that anything of that sort is expected from him. So do not mention it; he may do nothing in any case.