The manuscript Album now reproduced was a Christmas gift in 1819 from Wordsworth to the Lady Mary Lowther, and the collection of poems need not be regarded as aiming at being more than its title states: 'Poems and Extracts from the Works of the Countess of Winchelsea and Others.' But even the formation of a private selection of poetical extracts demanded from Wordsworth 'the service of a mind and heart ... heroically fashioned.' The little volume bears ample witness to the care and judgement, the 'high and excellent seriousness' and the moral and didactic tendency of its compiler.
These Parnassian 'riflings' elucidate the Sonnet to the Lady Mary Lowther in an exceptionally satisfactory way.
The Parnassian ore may be only 'mildly gleaming,' not of the richest quality perhaps; but the true metal is there; the sparkle is of gold, not of any baser material. The poet has assayed it and can vouch for its genuineness and purity.
The tests that Wordsworth applied to poetry are well known, and need not be recapitulated; but Lady Winchelsea—therein differing from the artificial verse-writers of the eighteenth century—seemed to him to fulfil one of them to an exceptional degree. She kept her eye fixed upon her object. To do this was, in Wordsworth's view, essential for imaginative truth to nature.