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along behind Stowey cease here, and were the great haunt of Coleridge and Wordsworth. They might, if they pleased, extend their rambles over them, from the abode of the one to that of the other. We find numerous evidences of their haunting of these hills amongst their poems. The ballad of the Thorn is said to be derived hence. Coleridge mentions their name occasionally. He has a poem to a brook amongst the Quantock hills; and the opening of his Fears in Solitude, written in 1798, when he was at Stowey, and quoted at p. 94, is most descriptive of their scenery.
But the views from the Quantock hills are as charming as the hills themselves. From above Allfoxden you look down directly on the Bristol Channel, the little island of Steepholms lying in the liquid foreground, and the Welsh hills stretching along in the back. On your right you see the whole level but rich country stretching away to Bridgewater, and on towards Bristol.
In this pleasant but solitary region we must recollect, however, that the young poets were not left entirely to their solitary rambles and cogitations. Coleridge had his wife and one or two young children with him. Wordsworth had his sister Dorothy, the great companion in his many wanderings through various parts of the kingdom. Then there was Mr. Poole, their common friend at Stowey; Charles Lloyd, the son of the quaker banker of Birmingham, a poet, with the usual fate of a poet, sorrow and an early death, was there part of the time, as a great admirer of and boarder at Coleridge's. Southey,, Cottle, Charles Lamb, and the two Wedgwoods, and others, visited them. We may well believe that this knot of friends, young, full of enthusiasm, of the love of nature, and the dreams of poetry, became a source of the strangest wonder to the simple and very ignorant inhabitants of that part of the country. People whose children at the present hour, as will be seen by the account of Coleridge, do not know what a poet means, were not very likely to comprehend what could bring such a number of strange young men all at once into their neighbourhood. What could they be after there? The honest people had no idea of persons frequenting a place but in pursuit of some honest or dishonest calling. They could not see what calling these young gentlemen were following there, and they very naturally set down their busines to be of the latter description. They were neither lawyers, doctors, nor parsons. They were neither farmers, merchants, nor, according to their notions, thorough gentlefolks; i. e. people who lived in large houses, kept large numbers of servants, and drove about in fine carriages. Ou the contrary, they went wandering about amongst the hills and woods, and by the sea. They were out, it was said, more by night than by day; and I have heard people of rank and education, which ought to have informed them better, assert, and who still do assert, that they led a very dissolute life! The grave and moral Wordsworth, the respectable Wedgwoods, correct Robert Southey, and Coleridge dreaming of glories and intellectualities beyond the moon, were set down for a very disreputable gang! Innocent Mrs. Coleridge, and poor Dolly Wordsworth, were seen strolling
about with them, and were pronounced no better than they should be! Such was the character which they unconsciously acquired, that Wordsworth was at length actually driven out of the country.
Coleridge, writing to Cottle, says, "Wordsworth has beeen caballed against so long and so loudly, that he has found it impossible to prevail on the tenant of the Allfoxden estate to let him the house, after their first agreement is expired, so he must quit it at Midsummer.
"At all events, come down, Cottle, as soon as you can, but before Midsummer; and we will procure a horse, easy as thy own soul, and we will go on a roam to Linton and Limouth, which, if thou comest in May, will be in all their pride of woods and waterfalls, not to speak of its august cliffs, and the green ocean, and the vast valley of stones, all which live disdainful of the seasons, or accept new honours only from the winter's snows."
This poetic trip, in company with another strange man, would, of course, be considered by the neighbours to be another smuggling or spy excursion. What else could they be going all that way for, to look at "the green sea," and at great "valleys of stones?"
Wordsworth, always a solemn-looking mortal, even in his youth, was particularly obnoxious to their suspicions, especially as he lived in that large house, in that very solitary place. Hear Cottle's account of the affair.
"Mr. Wordsworth had taken the Allfoxden house, near Stowey, for one year, during the minority of the heir; and the reason why he was refused a continuance by the ignorant man who had the letting of it arose, as Mr. Coleridge informed me, from a whimsical cause, or rather a series of causes. The wiseacres of the village had, it seems, made Mr. Wordsworth the object of their serious conversation. One said, that he had seen him wander about by night, and look rather strangely at the moon! And then, he roamed over the hills like a partridge.' Another said, 'he had heard him mutter, as he walked, in some outlandish brogue, that nobody could understand!' Another said, 'It's useless to talk, Thomas; I think he is what people call " a wise man" (a conjuror!). Another said, 'You are every one of you wrong. I know what he is. We have all met him tramping away towards the sea. Would any man in his senses take all that trouble to look at a parcel of water? I think he carries on a snug business in the smuggling line, and, in these journeys, is on the lookout for some wet cargo!' Another very significantly said, 'I know that he has got a private still in his cellar; for I once passed his house at a little better than a hundred yards' distance, and I could smell the spirits as plain as an ashen fagot at Christmas.' Another
said, 'However that was, he is surely a desperd French jacobin; for he is so silent and dark that nobody ever heard him say one word about politics.' And thus these ignoramuses drove from their village a greater ornament than will ever again be found amongst them."
Southey once thought of settling near Neath instead of the Lakes, and had pitched on a house which was to let, but the owner refused
to receive him as tenant, because he had heard a rumour of his being a jacobin.
Cottle gives an amusing adventure at Allfoxden, which must not be omitted. “A visit to Mr. Coleridge at Stowey, in the year 1797, had been the means of my introduction to Mr. Wordsworth. Soon after our acquaintance had commenced, Mr. Wordsworth happened to be in Bristol, and asked me to spend a day or two with him at Allfoxden. I consented, and drove him down in a gig. We called for Mr. Coleridge, Miss Wordsworth, and the servant at Stowey; and they walked, while we rode to Mr. Wordsworth's house, distant two or three miles, where we purposed to dine. A London alderman would smile at our bill of fare. It consisted of philosopher's viands; namely, a bottle of brandy, a noble loaf, and a stout piece of cheese; and as there was plenty of lettuces in the garden, with all these comforts we calculated on doing very well.
"Our fond hopes, however, were somewhat damped, by finding that our stout piece of cheese had vanished! A sturdy rat of a beggar, whom we had relieved on the road, with his olfactories all alive, no doubt, smelt our cheese; and, while we were gazing at the magnificent clouds, contrived to abstract our treasure. Cruel tramp! an ill return for our pence! We both wished the rind might not choke him! The mournful fact was ascertained a little before we drove into the court-yard of the house. Mr. Coleridge bore the loss with great fortitude, observing that we should never starve with a loaf of bread and a bottle of brandy. He now, with the dexterity of an adept, admired by his friends around, unbuckled the horse, and putting down the shafts with a jerk, as a triumphant conclusion of his work,-lo! the bottle of brandy that had been placed most carefully behind us on the seat, from the inevitable law of gravity, suddenly rolled down, and, before we could arrest the spirituous avalanche, pitching right on the stones, was dashed to pieces! We all beheld the spectacle, silent and petrified! We might have collected the broken fragments of glass; but the brandy, that was gone! clean gone!
"One little untoward thing often follows another; and while the rest stood musing, chained to the place, regaling themselves with the cogniac effluvium, and all miserably chagrined, I led the horse to the stable, where a fresh perplexity arose. I removed the harness without difficulty, but after many strenuous attempts, I could not get off the collar. In despair, I called for assistance, when aid soon drew near. Mr. Wordsworth first brought his ingenuity into exercise, but, after several unsuccessful efforts, he relinquished the achievement as altogether impracticable. Mr. Coleridge now tried his hand, but showed no more grooming skill than his predecessors; for after twisting the poor horse's neck, almost to strangulation, and to the great danger of his eyes, he gave up the useless task, pronouncing that the horse's head must have grown-gout or dropsy! since the collar was put on! For,' said he, 'it is a downright impossibility for such a huge os frontis to pass through so narrow a collar! Just at this instant, the servant girl came near, and understanding the
cause of our consternation, 'La, master,' said she, 'you do not go about the work in the right way. You should do like this;' when, turning the collar completely upside down, she slipped it off in a moment, to our great humiliation and wonderment; each satisfied, afresh, that there were heights of knowledge in the world to which he had not attained.
"We were now summoned to dinner; and a dinner it was, such as every blind and starving man in the three kingdoms would have rejoiced to behold. At the top of the table stood a superb brown loaf. The centre dish presented a pile of the true cos lettuces, and at the bottom appeared an empty plate, where the stout piece of cheese ought to have stood!—cruel mendicant! and though the brandy was clean gone, yet its place was well, if not better supplied by a superabundance of fine sparkling Castalian champagne! A happy thought at this time started into one of our minds, that some sauce would render the lettuces a little more acceptable, when an individual in the company recollected a question once propounded by the most patient of men-How can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt?' and asked for a little of that valuable culinary article. Indeed, Sir,' said Betty, 'I quite forgot to buy salt.' A general laugh followed the announcement, in which our host heartily joined. This was nothing. We had plenty of other good things; and while crunching our succulents, and munching our crusts, we pitied the far worse condition of those, perchance as hungry as ourselves, who were forced to dine alone, off ether. For our next meal, the mile-off village furnished all that could be desired, and these trifling incidents present the sum and the result of half the little passing disasters of life."
In September of 1798, Wordsworth, his sister, and Coleridge, set out for Germany. On his return to England he settled at Grasmere, about the beginning of this century. At Grasmere, he resided in two or three different houses; one was Town-end, where his friends the Cooksons now reside; another at Allan-bank, at a white house on the hill-side, conspicuous in our vignette; a third, the parsonage. He continued to live at Grasmere fifteen years, and in 1811 removed to Rydal Mount, where he spent the remainder of his years.
His patrimony could not have been large, as I have heard Mrs. Wordsworth say, that, at the time of their marriage, they had in joint income about one hundred pounds a-year. This, however, would go a good way with a young couple, of simple habits, in a place like Grasmere at that time of day; and he did not hesitate in those circumstances to expect any one staying with him to pay for their board. Mrs Wordsworth was a Miss Hutchinson of Cockermouth. Poetry was Wordsworth's real business from the first, and it continued the great business of his life. His sister Dorothy, also gifted with considerable poetic power, as may be seen in the Address to a Child during a boisterous winter evening, and The Mother's Return, at pp. 9 and 12 of the first volume of his poems, as well as in the Journal of their Wanderings together, was his great and congenial companion. She had a passion for nature not less ardent
than his own, and went on at his side, fearless of rain, or cold, or tempest, nor shrinking from heat. She was ready to climb the mountain, to cross the torrent, or slide down the slippery steep, with equal boldness and skill, derived from long practice. With him she traversed a great part of Scotland, Wales, and parts of England. He describes their thus setting out from Grasmere:
"To cull contentment upon wildest shores,
To this ramble, chiefly on foot, we are indebted for some of the most vigorous and characteristic lyrics that Wordsworth ever wrote. He was young, ardent, and overflowing with enthusiasm; and the soil of Scotland, on which so many deeds of martial fame had been done, or where Ossian had sung in the misty years of far-off times, or other bards whose names had for centuries been embalmed in the strains which the spirit of the people had perpetuated, kindled in him a fervent sympathy. We can imagine the delighted brother and sister marching on, over the beautiful hills, the dark heaths, and down the enchanting vales of the Highlands, conversing eagerly of the scenes they had seen, and the incidents they had heard, till the glowing thoughts had formed themselves, in the poet's mind. into almost instant song. These poems have all the character of having been cast, hot from the furnace of inspiration, into their present mould. There is a life, an original freshness, and a native music about them. Such are Ellen Irvine, or the Braes of Kirtle; To a Highland Girl; Glen Almain, or the Solitary Glen: Stepping Westwood; The Solitary Reaper; Rob Roy's Grave; Yarrow Revisited; In the Pass of Killicranky; The Jolly Matron of Jedburgh and her Husband; The Blind Highland Boy; The Brownie's Cell; Cora Linn, &c.
It was to this beloved companion of his wanderings that he, the year afterwards, addressed the beautiful verses, on revisiting Tintern.-Vol. II. p. 179.
Was there something in "the shooting gleams of those wild eyes, which foretold that, like the lights of a fitful sky, they should flash and quickly disappear? The mind of that beloved sister went for many years, as it were, before her, and she lived on in a second infancy, carefully cherished in the poet's home.
Wordsworth, as I have observed, devoted himself to no profession but that of poetry. He followed the stream of life as it led him down the retired vale of poetic meditation, but not without, at times, being visited by fears of what the end might be. Of this he gave a graphic description in his poem of Resolution and Independence, the hero of which is the old leech gatherer.
"I heard the skylark warbling in the sky: