Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 63.djvu/42

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Wordsworth
Wordsworth
18

living at Eusemere, on Ulleswater), and others — but lived in the quietest, fashion. Among Wordsworth's first employments was the publication of the second edition of the ‘Lyrical Ballads.’ The first volume had sold ‘much better than we expected,’ as Dorothy said (Knight, i. 212), and had, she hoped, ‘prepared a number of purchasers’ for the second, which was now added with some of Wordsworth's finest poems. The enlarged ‘Lyrical Ballads’ gained some popularity, as Jeffrey admitted in his review of Wordsworth's next book (1807), and Wordsworth made about 100l. from the sale. By Poole's advice copies were sent to Wilberforce and the Duchess of Devonshire, and one, with a remarkable letter from the author, to Fox. To Fox he explains the intention of his poems, especially of the two noble idylls ‘The Brothers’ and ‘Michael.’ They were meant to illustrate the strength of the domestic affections among the ‘statesmen’ of the north. The‘rapid decay’ of such affections, caused by the growth of manufactures, the war taxes, and the poor law, was, he thought, the greatest curse which could befall a land. The letter is the most explicit statement of the sentiment embodied in much of Wordsworth's best work. Fox made a civil but not very appreciative reply (Memoirs, i. 166−71). Another noteworthy letter explaining his poetical principles was in answer to John Wilson (‘Christopher North’), who at the age of seventeen had written a very appreciative letter (24 May 1802). The enthusiasm of the younger generation was beginning to be roused.

The death of Lord Lonsdale in 1802 improved Wordsworth's financial position. The sum originally due was 5,000l., and the second earl [see under William Lowther, third Earl of Lonsdale], on succeeding to his cousin's estates, repaid the original debt with interest, making altogether 8,500l. (Knight, i. 98). William and his sister were each to have about 1,800l.; of this they had lent 1,200l. to John Wordsworth, and in February 1805 (ib. i. 98) William was still uncertain as to the final result. The prospect of a better income probably encouraged him to marry Mary Hutchinson (b. 10 Aug. 1770), who had been his schoolfellow at Penrith, and was the daughter of a man in business at Penrith. She was not, as has been said, his cousin, though there was a remote family connection, Wordsworth's uncle, Dr. Cookson, and her uncle, W. Monkhouse, having married sisters. Her parents had died in her childhood, and she lived with relations at Penrith, till in 1792−3 she went to keep house for her brother Thomas, who had a farm at Sockburn. In 1800 they moved to another farm at Gallow Hill, Brompton, near Scarborough (ib. i. 192, 336, 343). Mary Hutchinson and the Wordsworths had kept up the old relations; she had been with them in his vacation rambles in 1790, and had visited them at Racedown and at Dove Cottage; while they had stayed with her at Sockburn. The marriage was thus the quiet consummation of a lifelong intimacy. If there was no romantic incident, it proved at least that a poet might be capable of perfect domestic happiness. Wordsworth's wife had not the genius nor the remarkable acquirements of his sister, but she was a gentle, sympathetic, and sensible woman. He described her apparently with as much fidelity as love in the verses ‘She was a phantom of delight.’

In July 1802 Wordsworth and his sister left Grasmere, and, after visiting the Hutchinsons, made an expedition to Calais. Passing through London, he wrote (31 July) the famous sonnet upon Westminster Bridge. He had been struck by Milton's sonnets when read to him by his sister on 21 May 1802 (note to ‘I grieved for Buonaparte,’ cf. Knight, i. 320), and at once tried his skill on a form of poetry his best efforts in which are unsurpassed by any English writer. The narrow limits prevented deviations into prosaic verbosity and allowed a dignified expression of profound feeling. The Wordsworths returned at the end of August, and, after three weeks in London, went to Gallow Hill, where he was married to Mary Hutchinson on 4 Oct. 1802. The same day the three drove to Thirsk, and on the 6th reached Grasmere, and settled down to the old life. Dorothy could not ‘describe what she felt,’ but accepted her sister-in-law without a trace of jealousy.

From this time Wordsworth's life was uneventful. His five children were born: John on 18 June 1803; Dorothy, 16 Aug. 1804; Thomas, 16 June 1806; Catharine, 6 Sept. 1808; and William, 12 May 1810. In the autumn of 1801 Wordsworth made a walking tour in Scotland, briefly mentioned in his sister's ‘Recollections.’ While crossing Solway Moss he composed the verses ‘To a Skylark,’ first published in 1807, and he probably wrote some other poems at the same time. In August 1803 he started for a second tour in Scotland with his sister and Coleridge, leaving his wife with her infant son (John) at Grasmere. Coleridge's bad health, his domestic discomforts, of which the Wordsworths soon became cognisant, and his resort to opium, which they