Cockermouth, in Cumberland, on the 7th of April, 1770, the great poet, William Wordsworth, was born. The house in which he first saw the light that cheered and gladdened him for more than eighty years, and from which came the light that will cheer and gladden hundreds of millions as long as man endures — the house is still standing, and I have pictured it. It is a gentleman's residence now, as it was then; for he was of a good family, was educated at Hawkshead School, and graduated at St. John's, Cambridge, in 1787.
His is not a "full" life in the ordinary sense of the term; and it may be told in a few sentences. He has said that "a poet's life is written in his works:" of himself it is especially true.
He was never "at home" at the University; and he has left few records of his residence there.
"He was not for that hour nor for that place." Feeling "How gracious, how benign is solitude," he ever yearned for his native vales. Visiting them in 1788, his heart was won to his first love, and with few brief intervals they became his "home" till death:—
When to the attractions of this busy world,
Preferring studious lessons, I had chosen
A habitation in this peaceful vale.
"The child is father of the man." From the "dawn of childhood" he had been sanctified by "sweet discipline:—
Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,
But with high objects and enduring things,
With life and nature.
Before he found his "loophole of retreat," he had other "discipline," painful and humiliating, but which, happily, left no evil influence on his heart and mind. While little more than a youth, he was tainted by that which tainted also Southey and Coleridge; he avowed himself a republican, an enemy to hereditary monarchy and hereditary peerage. On his return from a residence in France he writes,—
I brought with me the faith
That if France prospered, good men would not long
Pay fruitless worship to Humanity.
He was soon taught, however, by a merciful Providence, that a house "mortared with blood" must inevitably fall; he had seen the wicked Republic only begin her "maniac dance," while the "sleeping snakes were covered with flowers;" when "the atheist crew" were preparing their foul orgies, with smiles and greetings in the holy name of Liberty:—
From hell came sanctified like airs from heaven;
and he mournfully, and in a deeply repentant spirit, writes, that when thanksgivings for victories gained by the arms of England were offered up in her churches,
I only, like an uninvited guest
Whom no one owned, sate silent.
Yet it was he who, in after life, so heroically addressed the "Vanguard of Liberty — ye men of Kent!" when threats of invasion came across the narrow strait that divides England from France; and who, in 1803, exclaimed with all his heart and soul — " Shout! for a mighty victory is won."
He was not, indeed, as Southey was, branded as "a renegade," for the even tenor of his way was such as to create no personal or political enemies; but, happily for himself and for mankind, the Laureate Wordsworth was as thorough an "apostate" from the devilish faith of his youthhood as was the Laureate Southey.
There is not much to tell of the earlier years of the poet; he was drinking his fill from the pure fountain of Nature; grounding himself to become her great High Priest; learning from the Book that cannot be closed to the student; preparing to spread for Humanity a feast that never satiates, and to make millions after millions his debtors for delights enjoyed, instruction received, and benefits incalculable conferred on the whole human family.
Just at the most critical period of his life, when his prospects were so little cheering that, it is said, he was seeking employment in connection with the London press, a friend died, and left him a considerable sum of money. That "event" — for such it was — no doubt determined the after-career of the poet; it gave him vigour for the race that was set before him, armed him for the fight of life, enabled him to array "His temples with the Muse's diadem."
"That friend bore the name of Calvert" — Raisley Calvert — and no Memory of the poet can be without an expression of gratitude to him:—
He cleared a passage for me, and the stream
Flowed in the bent of Nature.
Other aids came from other friends. Good Sir George Beaumont, who some years before had warned the painter Haydon against. "the terrific democratic notions of William Wordsworth," bequeathed to him an annuity; he was appointed to the office of "Stamp Distributor" for his native county; was placed on a list called a "Pension-list," the record of England's meagre boons to her worthies; ultimately he became Poet Laureate, and throughout his long life was, in a word, INDEPENDENT.
Blessed be the God
Of Nature and of man that this was so
He never felt, as so many poets have felt, "The influence of malignant star;" never tolled for the bread that is often bitter to the high of soul; it was not his destiny to "Learn in suffering what he taught in song."
In 1799 Wordsworth first found a home at Town-end, Grasmere — a comparatively humble cottage. In 1802 he was married to Mary Hutchinson; they had known each other from childhood, and had been playfellows in youth. In 1808 they removed to Allan Bank, near at hand, and in 1813 to RYDAL MOUNT, a house that any pilgrim to English shrines may yet visit — a house that, if it perish, can never be forgotten. There, for thirty-seven years, they lived; and there, on the 23rd of April, 1850, his spirit was called from earth.
There was another light in his home beside that which was sent to be the darling of his heart; a "phantom of delight," his "second self:"—
A creature, not too bright or good,
For human nature's daily food;
his companion, his friend, his adviser, his encourager, his comforter, his trust, his hope, and his wife. They had five children, two of whom, Thomas and Catherine, died young; "sweet Dora" became the wife of Mr. Quillinan; and of his surviving sons, William, the second, is now Distributor of Stamps residing at Carlisle; the eldest, John, is the Rector of Plumbland and Vicar of Brigham, Cumberland.
Quillinan was under sixty when he died in 1851. His first wife was a daughter of Sir Egerton Bridges. He was Irish by birth and descent, and was bred a Roman Catholic; but the shackles of his church hung loosely about him, and he was a Liberal, at least in creed. He was esteemed by all who knew him, and dearly loved in the family of the poet. His own poems were of a high, if not of the highest order; and he would, no doubt, have taken rank in the world of letters if circumstances had made his position depend on his writings.
The "other light" was his sister Dorothy, — "Dorothea, given of God." Matronly duties never called her from his side; from his earliest boyhood, from the time when his mother's prophecy was uttered, "William will be remarkable either for good or for evil," she had been ever near him:—
The blessing of my later years
Was with me when I was a boy.
To the poet, who loved her with devout affection, she was a perpetual blessing; it was she who, in his early days of peril,
Maintained for me a saving intercourse
With my true self.
To her he owed much, and to her, therefore, mankind owes much. "She gave me," writes the poet,—
She gave me eyes, she gave me ears,
And humble cares, and delicate tears,
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears,
And love, and thought, and joy.
She did more than that: she dispelled foreboding shadows; "softened down an over-sternness;" planted the rock with flowers; and the heart that might have been biassed to evil — indeed, at one time the peril was great — she led, God-guided, into the pleasant paths of Peace, and Love, and Hope, and Joy. We have not only the poet's tribute to this guardian and ministering angel; De Quincey, who knew her well, and it is said worshipped her as "a star apart," testifies to her quick and ready sympathy with every living thing. And when Wordsworth brought his wife to be the house-mate of his sister, she became the true friend of the one as she was the true friend of the other.
There are few of what are termed "leading incidents" in the poet's after life. In 1842 he resigned his office of Stamp Distributor in favour of his son William, who still holds it, and received from Sir Robert Peel one of the Crown pensions, £300 a year — "part of the limited fund which Parliament has placed at the disposal of the Crown, on the condition that it shall be applied to the reward and encouragement of public service, or of eminent literary and scientific merit."
On the death of Southey, in 1843, he was appointed Poet Laureate. The office was at first declined, but Sir Robert Peel pressed its acceptance, writing him that "the offer was made, not as imposing any onerous or disagreeable duty, but as a tribute of respect which is justly due to the first of living poets." And Wordsworth's reply was — "The being deemed worthy to succeed my lamented and valued friend, Southey, enhances the pleasure I receive." In 1845 he visited London to "kiss hands," and it must have been a touching sight when the venerable white-haired man bent his knee to the young Queen, then barely commencing a reign which has been so fruitful of blessings over a realm on which "the sun never sets."
Soon after his eightieth birthday his warning came.
When his mind was losing consciousness, his venerable wife said to him, "William, you are going to Dora" — his beloved daughter. The words were at the time unheeded, but next day, when some one drew aside the curtain, he murmured, "Is that Dora?" And who will venture to say it was not Dora, "sent of God" to companion him from earth to heaven, who stood, in the spirit, at that moment by the side of him to whom Death was giving Freedom and Life?
Hast thou been told that from the viewless bourne,
The dark way never hath allowed return?
That all, which tears can move, with life is fled,
That earthly love is powerless on the dead?
Believe it not!
He died on the 23rd of April, 1850, passing away almost insensibly while the cuckoo clock was striking the hour of twelve at noon.
Thirty years before, the poet had received high promptings from that familiar sound-the cuckoo clock; and such thoughts as he breathed then — so long ago — may have solaced the last moments of his earthly life:—
Well may our hearts have faith that blessings come
Streaming from founts above the starry sky,
With angels when their own untroubled home
They leave, and speed no nightly embassy
To visit earthly chambers — and for whom?
Yea, both for souls who God's forbearance try,
And those who seek His help and for His mercy sigh.
"So lived he till his eightieth year was past;" in venerable age, as in energetic youth, labouring to give "delights" that will be healthy stimulants for ever.
Such is an outline — and it may suffice — of the long, yet comparatively undisturbed, even, and uneventful, life of the poet, William Wordsworth.
His person and his character have both been abundantly portrayed by his contemporaries. In middle life Hazlitt thus pictured him: "He reminds one of some of Holbein's heads, grave, saturnine, with a slight indication of sly humour." At a period somewhat later, Wilson, in the "Noctes," says, "The eyes were dim and thoughtful, and a certain sweetness of smile occasionally lighted up the strong lines of his countenance with an expression of courteousness and philanthropy." Lockhart, in "Peter's Letters," notes "his large, dim, pensive eye," his "smile of placid abstraction," and " his long, tremulous, melancholy lips." And thus De Quincey writes: "Many such heads, and finer, have I seen among the portraits of Titian, and in a later period among those of Vandyke, but none that has more impressed me in my time." "It was a face of the long order." "His eyes small, rather than large; not under any circumstances bright, lustrous, or piercing," yet often "solemn and spiritual;" sending forth "a light that seemed to come from unfathomed depths;" "the nose a little large and arched." He was tall — five feet eleven inches — but seemed taller when he stood or sat, although "in walking he had a slouched or sliding gait that took from his height." Thus Leigh Hunt pictures him: "I never beheld eyes that looked so inspired or supernatural. They were like fires half burning, half smouldering, with a sort of acrid fixture of regard, and seated at the further end of two caverns. One might imagine Ezekiel or Isaiah to have had such eyes." He adds, "He had a dignified manner, with a deep and roughish, but not unpleasing voice, and an exalted mode of speaking." In later life one of his acquaintances writes of "his venerable head; his simple, natural, and graceful attitude in his own chair; his respectful attention to the slightest remarks or suggestions of others in relation to what was spoken of; his kindly benevolence of expression as he looked round now and then on the circle." His nephew, Dean Wordsworth, writes of "the broad, full forehead, the silver hair, the deep and varied intonations of the voice." An American writer describes his eyes in his eightieth year as giving to his countenance its high intellectual expression.
Such, according to these authorities, was the "outer man," Wordsworth. Having quoted them, I scruple to give my own portrait; yet I must do so, as I drew it in 1832, during one of his brief visits to London.
His features were large, and not suddenly expressive; they conveyed little idea of the "poetic fire" usually associated with brilliant imagination. His eyes were mild and up-looking, his mouth coarse rather than refined, his forehead high rather than broad; but every action seemed considerate, and every look self-possessed, while his voice, low in tone, had that persuasive eloquence which invariably "moves men."
Perhaps it was impossible to find two men whose "faces" more thoroughly differed than did those of Southey and Wordsworth.
Wanderers in Westmoreland will see the same type in every third peasant they meet: a face long and narrow, a forehead high, a long and rather aquiline nose, with eyes meek and gentle, expressing little strength, and nothing of strong passion.
There are many portraits of him. He "believed he had sat twenty times." That which I prefer, excepting, perhaps, the bust by Thrupp, which brings him more thoroughly before me, is by Pickersgill, painted for St. John's College, Cambridge, and which Wordsworth himself greets in some lines: — "Go, faithful portrait," &c. It is the portrait I have engraved at the head of this Memory, and which I also engraved (full length) in the "Book of Gems;" it was painted sitting under a rock at the side of a mountain. That by the American artist, Inman, seems to have been the one he and his family liked best. It was that, or rather a copy of it, which hung in his own dining-room. Wordsworth writes about "an engraving, from a picture by Mr. Haydon, of me in the act of climbing Helvellyn." I have never seen it. Southey says that Hazlitt painted a portrait of Wordsworth so "dismally," that on seeing it, one of his friends exclaimed — "At the gallows, deeply affected by his deserved fate, yet determined to die like a man."
To "the inner man" of Wordsworth there are abundant testimonies. Coleridge, when he first knew Wordsworth in early youth, at Allfoxden, says, "Whose society I found an invaluable blessing, and to whom I looked up with equal reverence as a poet, a philosopher, and a man;" and he writes to Cottle, about the same period, "He is one whom, God knows, I love and honour as far beyond myself as both morally and intellectually he is above me." Thus Lockhart — "Peter's Letters" — "His poetry is the poetry of external Nature and profound feeling, and such is the hold which these high themes have taken of his intellect, that he seldom dreams of descending to the tone in which the ordinary conversation of men is pitched." Haydon thus speaks of Wordsworth: "With his usual cheerfulness, he delighted us by his bursts of inspiration;" and adds, "His purity of heart, his kindness, his soundness of principle, his information, his knowledge, and the intense and eager feeling with which he pours forth all he knows, interest and enchant me;" and again, "He follows Nature like an apostle, sharing her solemn moods and impressions." This is the testimony of his old and familiar friend, Southey: "The strength and the character of his mind you see in 'The Excursion'" — "The Prelude" then existed only in MS." — and his life does not belie his writings, for in every relation of it, and in every point of view, he is a truly exemplary and admirable man."
Dr. Wordsworth wrote these lines in a volume of his brother's poems: — "In diction, in nature, in grace, in variety, in purity, in philosophy, in morals, in piety, does he not surpass all our writers?"
This is Mrs. Hemans' compliment to Wordsworth:—
True bard, and holy! thou art even as one
Who by some secret gift of soul or eye,
In every spot beneath the smiling son,
Sees where the springs of living waters lie.
She also describes him in prose: — "There is an almost patriarchal simplicity about him — an absence of all pretension; all is free, unstudied, — 'The river winding at its own sweet will,' in his manner and conversation. There is more of impulse about him than I had expected, but in other respects I see much that I should have looked for in the poet of meditative life; frequently his head droops, his eyes half close, and he seems buried in quiet depths of thought.... His reading is very peculiar; but to my ear, delightful, slow, solemn, earnest in expression, more than any I have ever heard. When he reads or recites in the open air, his deep, rich tones seem to proceed from a spirit-voice, and belong to the religion of the place — they harmonise so fitly with the thrilling tones of woods and waterfalls." And again she says, "His voice has something quite breeze-like in the soft gradation of its swells and falls." "His manners are distinguished by that frank simplicity which I believe to be ever the characteristic of real genius his conversation is perfectly free and unaffected, yet remarkable for power of expression and vivid imagery." She speaks also of his gentle and affectionate playfulness in his intercourse with all the members of his family. "There is a daily beauty in his life which is in such lovely harmony with his poetry, that I am thankful to have witnessed and felt it." "True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home."
Sir John McNeill, proposing the health of Wordsworth at the Burns Festival, thus spoke of him: "Dwelling in his high and lofty philosophy, he finds nothing that God has made common or unclean; he finds nothing in human society too humble, nothing in external nature too lowly, to be made the fit exponent of the bounty and goodness of the Most High." I copy these lines from a poem by Laman Blanchard:—
Who looked on common life, with all its rare,
And found a beauty, and a blessing there
Who steered his course by Nature's sacred chart,
And shed a halo round the human heart.
And Talfourd, in the course of a speech in the House of Commons in 1837, thus spoke of him: "He has supplied the noblest antidote to the freezing effects of the scientific spirit of the age, and while he has done justice to the poetry of greatness, has cast a glory round the lowest conditions of humanity, and traced out the subtle links by which they are connected with the highest. His habits were almost those of an anchorite; he had no artificial wants; his luxuries were those which abundant Nature supplied—
Rich in the wealth
Which is collected among woods and fields.
It may be that his intense love of nature induced forgetfulness of that eternal truth — "The proper study of mankind is man;" for he mixed but little with society, and his happiest hours were those he passed "at home," in the bosom of a family by whom he was reverenced as well as loved, and among a few chosen friends by whom he was almost adored.
I may, perhaps, venture to give my own appreciation of his character as I wrote it ("Book of Gems") in 1837. I know it gave the poet pleasure.
"The style of Wordsworth is essentially vernacular, at once vigorous and simple. He is ever true to nature, and therefore, if we except Shakspeare, no writer is so often quoted; passages from his poems having become familiar as household words, and are perpetually called into use to give strong and apt expression to the thoughts and feelings of others. This is, perhaps, the highest compliment a poet can receive; it has been liberally paid to him even by those who knew little of the rich mine of which they are but specimens. With him, the commonest objects—
Bare trees, and mountains bare,
The grass, and the green fields—
are things sacred: he has an alchemy of his own, by which he draws from them 'a kind of quintessence,' and rejecting the 'gross matter,' exhibits to us the present ore. He sees nothing loftier than human hopes — nothing deeper than the human heart; and while he worships nature, he so paints her aspect to others that he may succeed in 'linking to her fair works the human soul.' His poems are frill of beauties peculiarly their own, of original thoughts, of fine sympathies, and of grave, yet cheerful wisdom."
My readers will not consider out of place some touching and eloquent lines, written on visiting the scenes of the poet's triumphs, by the late John Dillon, Esq., a gentleman who in the active discharge of duties connected with commercial life, had leisure to cultivate and cherish the arts that refine and elevate, and did not find the labours incident to trade antagonistic to the enjoyments derivable from intercourse with the Muses.
I understand him better, that I've seen
His mountains and his valleys, and those lakes,
The near lake and the distant; sate me down
In his own garden, where he thought and felt;
For thought to him was feeling; seen his house,
Tasted the freshness of the air he breathed,
And knew the world he lived in, sung, and loved;
Beheld that purple mountain, those green hills....
Nature to him was faith, and earth a heaven.
Man was to him a shepherd on the fells,
And human life the grey and winding path
That wanders up the mountains, and then fades
In mist and distance....
His mind was as that flying cloud of light
Which rushes o'er the mountains and the plains,
Then mingles in the waters like a dream.
The earth and skies, the sunshine and the storm,
The mighty mountain and the gurgling stream,
Fell on his vision, till his sense became
A mind like his
Sees in the merest nook where verdure dwells
The smallest flower that springs there, and the dew,
The single dewdrop that weighs down its lids,
Rich specimens of nature, to be kept
And hoarded 'mid the treasures of his thoughts
Even as a wonder, and a proof of God.
The poet's "ways" were, of course, familiar in the neighbourhood where he had lived so long. A good walker, he was acquainted with every spot within twenty miles of him, and he was often found a stroller at night. The people used to hear him "maundering" about the roads, talking to himself — composing, of course; but much of his poetry was produced while moving up and down "the Poet's Walk" — the walk that led from his hall-door to the end of the plantation.
Neighbours, when they saw him pacing the floor of his "study," which was ever out of doors, used to say, as they listened to his solemn voice, "Ah! there he is — maundering about again!" Ay, he was drinking deep draughts from that eternal fountain which furnished living water to mankind. His mind was ranging over the whole domain of nature, while on-lookers thought him an idler on the waste of life; intensely enjoying all that met his eye or ear, and revelling in sights and sounds to which those about him were blind and deaf.
It is notorious that the poet lived to be an old man before the world had learned to appreciate his genius. Yet so early as 1804 this is the opinion of Southey, the soundest and safest, while the most generous, of critics: — "He will rank among the very first poets, and probably possesses a mass of merits superior to all, except only Shakspeare." Again he writes, in reference to Wordsworth's "Lyrical Ballads," "I do not hesitate to say that in the whole compass of poetry, ancient or modern, there is no collection of miscellaneous poems comparable to them, nor any work whatever which discovers greater strength of mind, or higher poetical genius." And again, "It is by the side of Milton that Wordsworth will have his station awarded by posterity."
But Southey was one of the very "few:" Charles Lamb did, indeed, greet him with the "All hail hereafter!" and De Quincey, when a youth, worshipped at his shrine. Yet, although from the beginning he "fit audience found," and was ever emphatically "a poet for poets," Fame was slow with acknowledgment, and tardy with reward; and he was aged before his recognition as a poet for universal man. For many years, with a consciousness of power not to be suppressed, he lived with a knowledge that he was "scorned." The word is not too strong to express the general sentiment with which he was regarded. All the critics were "down upon him." The "oracles" were not merely dumb: they jeered, they pitied, and thought they paid him but fairly, and dealt with him only leniently, when they gave him contempt for the "puerilities" and "absurdities" that most of them lived to see immortalities.
No wonder that intercourse with humanity became distasteful to him; that he sought, instead, converse with nature-the vales, and skies, and — "common things!"
Not only were the critics his foes; even loving friends often shook their heads, and smiled at the poet's simplicity in fancying the world could ever accept verses such as his. One of them ventured to intimate that among the lyrics there was a piece that at all events ought to be cancelled, as the printing of it would make the writer "everlastingly ridiculous." It was the poem "We are Seven," which is now placed among the most touching and delicious poems in the language of our land.
The "Lyrical Ballads," published originally in 1798, was an edition of five hundred copies. "The sale was so slow," arising from "the severity of reviewers," that its progress to oblivion seemed certain. When the publisher, Cottle, sold his copyrights to Longman, that copyright was valued at nil, and was given back to Cottle for nothing, as of no worth, who gave it to the author on the same terms. "This will never do," wrote Jeffrey, with admirable prescience, when reviewing "The Excursion;" and in reference to the critic's opinion of the poet, Lamb writes to Southey, "Jeffrey is resolved to crush it." "He crush 'The Excursion'" exclaimed the Laureate; "tell him he can as easily crush Skiddaw!" That most wonderfully sweet and powerful poem (there are tens of thousands who consider it fulfils the prophecy of Southey, and gives him rank with Milton), the result of many years of labour, thought, reflection, knowledge, observation, study, not from books — for, like his own "Wanderer," "He had small need of books" — was pooh-poohed away among "rubbish." Even Giffard, although he yielded to Southey's wish, and let Lamb review it in the Quarterly, clipped the friendly critic's wings, erasing so many laudatory passages, that the very soul of "gentle-hearted Charles" was wrung with anguish.
He was, in the estimation, or at least according to the description, of those whose business was to lead and guide public opinion, neither more nor less than "one of the school of whining and hypochondriacal poets that haunt the Lakes."
Such were his reviewers — as Coleridge writes,
Disinterested thieves of our good name,
Cool, sober murderers of their neighbour's fame.
It would have been opposed to nature had the self-conscious poet in no way murmured against this dispensation of the critics, representing the public. He did murmur, no doubt, and very frequently complained, — even so late as 1831, when I knew him, — at the miserable recompense that rewarded his many years of labour; but, at the period to which I refer, indifference was gradually giving way, the fruit was ripening to reward toil, and the "hereafter" that was to bring the "All hail!" was gradually looming into sight.
When "The Excursion" was "crushed," Wordsworth wrote to Southey: — "Let the age continue to love its own darkness; I shall continue to write, with, I trust, the light of Heaven upon me."
Critics will do well to bear perpetually in mind that a not far-off "thereafter" may reverse a sentence that will, at the moment, be accepted as just. A hundred modern instances may be quoted: that so generally pronounced against Wordsworth will, perhaps, suffice. I cannot say if Jeffrey repented him of the evil; probably at the last, as at the first, he was unable to comprehend the great High Priest of Nature — the poet who, next to that of Shakspeare, has his name written in the book of British Worthies. He did not "crush 'The Excursion,'" neither did he extinguish the poet; but no doubt he so thoroughly "stifled" his aspirations as to extort a brief resolve to write on, but to print no more — to leave the benefits of publication to his heirs and assigns. Is it
No public harm that Genius from her course
Be turned, and dreams of truth dried up, even at their source?
Yes, the history of authors is full of "calamities" of that kind. Unhappily, there is ever a strong temptation to unsympathising and ungenerous and harsh criticism. Though it may be rare — perhaps it has never been — that an author has died of a review, at least it is certain that the "this will never do" of the critic has depressed and saddened, nay, blighted a whole life, and deprived generations of the fruits of labours that might have been productive of much good. I speak from my own knowledge when I say this; and I could, if I pleased, describe a score of such cases that are within my own experience. If critics could witness the agonies that harsh judgment has brought to a working home, when hands have been shackled and brain has been paralysed by heedless injustice, or even by justice ministered not with reluctance, but with relish, there would be less of misery among those whose "sensitiveness" is proverbial — authors and artists.
In estimating the full effect of unjust or severe personal criticism, we must not confine our thoughts to the author attacked. Often it affects literature. Some scholars in easy circumstances have ceased to write rather than be the butt of ignorant critics. Such was the case with Francis Douce, whose illustrations of Shakspeare are a text-book for students. He was so bitterly assailed that he determined never again to publish. He gave his manuscripts to the British Museum, locked in iron-bound boxes, with a legal proviso that they should not be opened until a century after his death. His valuable and curious library he left to the Bodleian at Oxford.
No book is better known and appreciated than Percy's "Reliques of Ancient Poetry." It had, too, a salutary effect on popular literature, by substituting simple nature in ballad poetry for foolish conventionalism. Yet the bishop was so bitterly attacked, particularly by Ritson, that it embittered his life. He never ceased lamenting that he had published the book, and in his later days could not bear to hear it named.
It would be easy to multiply examples.
Even so it was with great Wordsworth: very nearly he had resolved to write, or at all events to print, no more. But, as I have said, he lived to see his faith in himself gradually but surely becoming the faith of all mankind.
One morning in 1831, when Mr. Wordsworth honoured me with his company at breakfast, our talk fell on his lack of popularity. I, who was among the most devout of his worshippers, sought to argue him out of so depressing a belief, and I showed how I had become so familiar with his writings by placing before him a copy of Galignani's edition of his works, collected in a form, and at a price, that brought the whole of them within my reach. I expressed a belief that of that book many hundreds, probably thousands, were annually sold in England. That led to an appointment with a view to inquiry, and next day I accompanied him to a bookseller's in Piccadilly — a firm with the encouraging and ominous name of "Sustenance and Stretch." The sale of the work, as of all English reprints, was strictly "prohibited." I asked for a copy of Galignani's edition: it was produced. I asked if I could have six copies, and was told I could; fifty copies? yes, at a month's notice; and further questions induced conviction that by that one house alone between two hundred and three hundred copies had been sold during the year. I believe Wordsworth was far more pleased than vexed to know that although he derived no profit from them, at least his poems were read.