Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 63.djvu/37

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Wordsworth
Wordsworth
13

tained every counsel on the circuit, and came down with a cloud of fivescore witnesses.’ The case was ordered to stand over, and nothing was done until Lonsdale's death (24 May 1802). Montagu gives erroneous figures, and his statement of facts maybe also exaggerated (Report of commission in 1840, not 1846, vol. i. p. 150, quoted in Knight, ii. 38). The uncles, Richard Wordsworth and Christopher Crackanthorpe (previously Cookson), were guardians of the children. Dorothy lived partly with her grandparents at Penrith, and for a time with a Miss Threlkeld at Halifax. The guardians managed to ‘scrape together’ funds enough to send William and his younger brother, Christopher, to college; while Richard became an attorney in London, and John was sent to sea about 1787 (Knight, i. 49).

William went up to St. John's College, Cambridge, in October 1787. His rooms were in the first court above the college kitchens; and from them he could see the antechapel of Trinity. At Cambridge he enjoyed even more thoroughly than at Hawkshead whatever advantages might be derived from the neglect of his teachers. He had acquired enough knowledge of Euclid and arithmetic to be ahead of his contemporaries. He took advantage of this by employing himself in the study of Italian with Isola (a refugee who had known Gray, and was grandfather of the girl adopted by the Lambs, afterwards Mrs. Moxon). He neglected the regular academical course, partly, it seems, because he thought it narrow, and disliked the excessive competition (Prelude, iii. 497, &c.), and partly by way of spiting his guardians by ‘hardy disobedience’ (ib. vi. 28). The ‘northern villager’ appeared uncouth enough to the ‘chattering popinjays’ whom men called fellow-commoners, and looked with little reverence upon the dons of the time, quaint ‘old humorists,’ who left the youths to themselves, and in whose hands the chapel services seemed to him a ‘mockery.’ He managed to indulge in his poetic reveries even in the ‘level fields of Cambridgeshire’. He was sociable enough with his contemporaries, talked and lounged, galloped in ‘blind zeal of senseless horsemanship,’ and ‘sailed boisterously’ on the Cam. He remembered the haunts of Chaucer and Spenser, and ‘poured out libations’ in Milton's old rooms till, for the only time in his life, his brain ‘grew dizzy.’ He was able even then to run back to chapel. In the long vacation of 1788 he revisited Hawkshead, revived his old friendships, and, after a night spent in dancing, was deeply moved by a splendid sunrise. He felt that he was henceforth ‘a dedicated spirit’ (ib. iv. 337). His last two years at Cambridge were spent in desultory reading, while he began to lose his awe of ‘printed books and authorship’ and to asspire to the fellowship of letters. In 1789 he made an excursion through Dovedale to Penrith, and rambled with his sister and her friend, Mary Hutchinson, who had been his schoolfellow at Penrith. In 1790 he resolved to make a foreign tour with his friend Robert Jones of Plas-yn-llan, Denbighshire, afterwards fellow of St. John's. They took 20l. apiece, carried all they required in pocket-handkerchiefs, and made their tour on foot. They left Dover on 13 July 1790, found the French people ‘mad with joy’ in the early stages of the revolution, and were welcomed as representatives of British liberty. They crossed the country to Chalon-sur-Saône, descended the Rhone to Lyons, visited the Grande Chartreuse, went thence to Geneva, and, after an excursion to Chamonix from Martigny, crossed the Simplon; went by Locarno to Gravedona on the Lake of Como, thence to Soazza in the Val Misocco, and by the Bernardino to Hinter-Rhein; traversed the Via Mala to Reichenau, and then crossed the Oberalp Pass, and went through the Canton Uri to Lucerne, Zurich, and Schaffhausen. They returned to Lucerne, visited Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, and finally travelled through Basle to Cologne and Calais. Wordsworth heartily enjoyed an expedition which seemed to be ‘unprecedented’ to his friends and the college authorities. He ought to have been reading for his degree. He graduated as B.A. without honours in January 1791. His grandfather, Cookson, had died in 1787, when his sister left Penrith to live with her uncle, Dr. William Cookson, canon of Windsor, who had been a fellow of St. John's, and also held the college living of Forncett, near Norwich. Wordsworth went to Forncett after taking his degree, then spent three months in London, which he had first seen in 1788 (Prelude, vii. 65), and in the summer visited his friend Jones in Wales. The London visit bad an effect upon him, described in the ‘Prelude.’ He was a diligent sightseer, heard Burke speak, and saw Mrs. Siddons act; admired clowns and conjurors at Sadler's Wells and shows of every variety at Bartholomew fair; visited Bedlam and St. Paul's, and gazed at the tragic and comic sights of London streets. The general result, he says, was to introduce human sympathies into his thoughts of nature, and make him recognise ‘the unity of man,’ though he looked at the ‘moving pageant’ (Prelude, vii. 637) as at a dream, and with a