Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 63.djvu/46

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Wordsworth
Wordsworth
22

book up to that time, an edition of five hundred copies having been sold in the year and a second published. From ‘want of resolution to take up a longer work,’' he says (Knight, iii. 95), he spent much time in writing sonnets. The sonnets on the Duddon, chiefly written about 1820, show his true power. The longest and least successful series was that called ‘Ecclesiastical’ ‘Sketches,’ published in 1822. In fact Wordsworth's productive power had declined, and henceforth appeared only in occasional ‘effusions.’ He had become respectable and conservative. To the liberals he appeared to be a renegade. Shelley expresses his view in a sonnet and in ‘Peter Bell the Third,’ the first ‘Peter Bell’ being the parody by John Hamilton Reynolds [q. v.], brought out when Wordsworth's poem was advertised. Browning's ‘Lost Leader’ (see his letter to Dr. Grosart in Wordsworth's Prose Works) gives a later version of this sentiment. Wordsworth's ‘Thanksgiving Ode’ in 1815 (to which Shelley refers) shows how completely he shared the conservative view. Although the evolution of Wordsworth's opinions was both honest and intelligible, it led to a practical alliance with toryism. He took a keen interest in local politics, as appears from his letters to Lord Lonsdale (partly published by Professor Knight), and in 1818 published two addresses to the Westminster freeholders in support of the tory party. He was alarmed by the discontent of that period, and fully approved of the repressive measures. At a later period he was strongly opposed to catholic emancipation, and thought the Reform Bill would lead to a disastrous revolution (see W. Hale White's Examination of the Charge of Apostasy against Wordsworth, 1898, for an interesting discussion of his religious and political views). On 13 Jan. 1819 he was placed on the commission of the peace for Westmorland.

During his later years Wordsworth made a good many tours and widened his circle of friends. Samuel Rogers had seen him at the lakes in 1803, and was a helpful friend. Another friend, who had first met him at Coleorton in 1809, was B. R. Haydon, who in 1815 took a cast of his face and introduced him to Leigh Hunt. In 1817 he had a famous dinner at Haydon's studio with Keats and Lamb (Taylor, Haydons, i. 384−7). Keats saw ‘a good deal’ of him, and regarded him with reverence (Works by Buxtcn Forman, iii. 45, 107). Crabb Robinson, introduced to him by Lamb in 1808, was always a most attentive disciple and something of a Boswell. In later visits he saw much of Rogers and his younger admirer (Sir) Henry Taylor, who asked some of the utilitarians to meet him at a breakfast party. In 1820 he made a four months' tour with his wife and sister and other friends up the Rhine to Switzerland, met Robinson at Lucerne, and, after visiting the Italian lakes, returned by Paris. In 1823 he visited Belgium with his wife, and in 1828 went again to Belgium and up the Rhine with his daughter and Coleridge (see T. C. Grattan's Beaten Paths, ch. iv., and Memoir of C. Mayne Young for notices of this tour). In 1829 he went to Ireland to visit (Sir) William Rowan Hamilton [q. v.], an ardent admirer, to whom he often wrote criticising poems written by Hamilton and his sister kindly and judiciously. In 1831 he went to Scotland, chiefly to see Scott, whom he visited in September at Abbotsford. A fine sonnet ‘Yarrow Revisited’ (1835), commemorates this last meeting. A final tour through the Isle of Man to Scotland was made in 1833, and produced another series of poems in the same volume. The death of James Hogg (1770−1835) [q. v.] on 21 Nov. 1835 suggested an ‘Effusion,’ with touching allusions to the deaths of Scott (1832), Crabbe (1832), Coleridge (1834), Lamb (1834), and Mrs. Hemans (1835). The old generation was vanishing. Wordsworth was deeply affected by the death of Coleridge, though the close intimacy had never been restored. The death of his sister-in-law, Sarah Hutchinson, on 23 June 1835, was a still severer blow. Dorothy Wordsworth had never really recovered from a severe illness in 1829, and by this time was sinking into incurable ill-health. The disease, as he tells Rogers in February 1836, had to some degree affected the brain. In 1837 Wordsworth made his last continental tour, attended by H. C. Robinson, who in later years spent several Christmases at Grasmere. Between 19 March and 7 Aug. they went through France, and by the Corniche road through Italy to Rome; back to Florence, Milan, and the lakes to Venice, and thence through the Tyrol, Salzburg, Munich, and Heidelberg, and back by Brussels and Calais. Wordsworth enjoyed his tour and still wrote poems. Dr. Arnold built his house at Fox How in 1833. He and his family and Mrs. Fletcher [see Fletcher, Eliza], with her daughters, Lady Richardson and Mrs. Davy, were valued neighbours in later years.

Admiration of Wordsworth's poetry was now becoming part of the orthodox creed. Coleridge's criticisms in the ‘Biographia Literaria’ expounded the true faith, and Coleridge had become a prophet. In 1823