1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bernard Barton

William Wordsworth to Bernard Barton, 12 January 1816; Letters, ed. Knight (1907) 3:396-97.



RYDAL MOUNT, NEAR AMBLESIDE, Jan. 12, 1816.

Dear Sir,

Though my sister, during my absence, has returned thanks in my name for the verses which you have done me the honour of addressing to me, and for the obliging letter which accompanies them, I feel it incumbent on me, on my return home, to write a few words to the same purpose with my own hand.

It is always a satisfaction to me to learn that I have given pleasure upon rational grounds; and I have nothing to object to your poetical panegyric but the occasion which called it forth. An admirer of my works, zealous as you have declared yourself to be, condescends too much when he gives way to an impulse proceeding from the —, or indeed from any other Review. The writers in these publications, while they prosecute their inglorious employment, cannot be supposed to be in a state of mind very favourable for being affected by the finer influences of a thing so pure as genuine poetry; and as to the instance which has incited you to offer me this tribute of your gratitude, though I have not seen it, I doubt not but that it is a splenetic effusion of the conductor of that Review who has taken a perpetual retainer from his own incapacity to plead against my claims to public approbation.

I differ from you in thinking that the only poetical lines in your address are "stolen from myself." The best verse, perhaps, is the following:

Awfully mighty in his impotence,

which, by way of repayment, I may be tempted to steal from you on some future occasion.

It pleases, though it does not surprise me, to learn that, having been affected early in life by my verses, you have returned again to your old loves after some little infidelities, which you were shamed into by commerce with the scribbling and chattering part of the world. I have heard of many who, upon their first acquaintance with my poetry, have had much to get over before they could thoroughly relish it; but never of one who, having once learned to enjoy it, had ceased to value it or survived his admiration. This is as good an external assurance as I can desire that my inspiration is from a pure source, and that my principles of composition are trustworthy.

With many thanks for your good wishes, and begging leave to offer mine in return, I remain, dear sir,

Respectfully yours,

WM. WORDSWORTH.