Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 63.djvu/44

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Wordsworth
Wordsworth
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ship remained unbroken until the death of Sir G. Beaumont (7 Feb. 1827). He left an annuity of 100l. to Wordsworth to pay the expenses of an annual tour. At the end of 1806 Coleridge came with Hartley to stay with the Wordsworths at Coleorton. In January 1807 Wordsworth recited the ‘Prelude’ to Coleridge, who thereupon wrote his verses ‘To a Gentleman’ (the first version given in Coleorton letters, i. 213, contains some affectionate lines upon Wordsworth, afterwards suppressed). From Coleorton Wordsworth went to London for a month in the spring of 1807, coming back with Scott. The Wordsworths returned to Grasmere in the autumn. He afterwards went to the Hutchinsons at Stockton, where he wrote part of the ‘White Doe of Rylstone.’ A collection of poems in two volumes appeared this year, including the odes to ‘Duty,’ and upon the ‘Intimations of Immortality,’ ‘Miscellaneous Sonnets,’ sonnets dedicated to ‘Liberty,’ and poems written during a tour in Scotland. Though containing some of his finest work, the new publication was sharply attacked upon the old grounds. Southey wrote to Miss Seward (Knight, ii. 97) that had he been Wordsworth's adviser a great part of the last volume would have been suppressed. The ‘storm of ridicule’ might have been foreseen, and Wordsworth, though he despised, was ‘diseasedly sensitive to the censure which he despises.’ Wordsworth, however, himself expressed great confidence as to the ultimate success of his work, misunderstood by a frivolous public (to Lady Beaumont, 21 May 1807). Jeffrey in the ‘Edinburgh’ (October 1807) treated Wordsworth as a man of great ability, led into error by a perverse theory; but the ridicule was more pointed than the praise, and was thought to have stopped the circulation of the poems.

Wordsworth went to London to see Coleridge, who was ill, and heard him lecture in the beginning of 1808. He had now decided to leave Dove Cottage, where he had to work in the one room also used by the family, the children, and visitors. He moved to a house called Allan Bank, recently built under Silverhowe on the way to Easedale. There he settled in the autumn of 1808, and Coleridge came to be his guest. De Quincey, who had recently become Coleridge's friend, was another guest, who at the end of 1809 settled in Dove Cottage. John Wilson, Wordsworth's old admirer, had built his house at Elleray, and now became personally intimate with the Wordsworths. The whole country was at this time in a passion of excitement over the convention of Cintra. Wordsworth's interest in political matters appeared to have subsided; and in June 1805 he wrote to Sir G. Beaumont wondering at his own indifference to current affairs, such as Nelson's voyage to the West Indies. The Spanish rising, however, roused him thoroughly. He sympathised heartily with the patriotic resistance to Napoleon, and was shocked by the permission granted to the French army to return to their own country. He expressed his feelings in a pamphlet, which Canning is said to have regarded as the most eloquent production since Burke's. It takes a high moral ground, and, if rather magniloquent, is forcibly written. Unluckily it was entrusted to De Quincey, who was unbusinesslike, and worried the printers by theories of punctuation. The publication was delayed, but, as Southey wrote to Scott, it would have failed in any case from its ‘long and’ ‘involved’ sentences. Wordsworth, he says became obscure, partly because he imitated Milton, and partly because the habit of dictating hides a man's obscurity from himself. The series of sonnets ‘dedicated to national independence and liberty,’ written about this time, represent the same mood.

Coleridge was now bringing out the ‘Friend,’ of which the first number appeared on 1 June 1809, and the last on 15 March 1810. He dictated much of it at Grasmere to Sarah Hutchinson, sister of Mrs. Wordsworth. Wordsworth gave some help by replying to a letter by John Wilson (signed ‘Mathetes’) and contributing an essay upon ‘Epitaphs.’ In 1810 appeared the first version of his prose book upon the lakes. Coleridge, after the failure of the ‘Friend,’ had decided to go to London with Basil Montagu, at whose house he meant to reside. Wordsworth, having had painful experience of Coleridge's habits as a guest, thought it his duty to warn Montagu of the responsibilities which he was incurring. Montagu, three days after reaching London, took the amazing step of communicating this statement to Coleridge. Wordsworth, according to him, had said, ‘Coleridge has been a nuisance in my house, and I have no hope for him;’ and had commissioned Montagu to deliver this agreeable opinion to its object. Coleridge, in his unfortunate condition, was thrown into a paroxysm of distress. He left Montagu to settle with the Morgans, and, instead of appealing to Wordsworth himself, confided more or less in the Lambs, the Morgans, Mrs. Clarkson, and other friends. For a time a complete alienation followed. In the spring of 1812 Coleridge was on the lakes, but refused, in spite of Dorothy's entreaties, to visit Grasmere.