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He therefore follows up his absolute decree, 'Let no other Life be composed,' with the counter-declaration that 'a biographical manual to illustrate the poems ought to exist.' He still professes, it is true, to exclude everything relating to the man except what is connected with something in his works: this, however, is a vague principle, of which he has not attempted to define the limits, and which he has applied so capriciously that it becomes additionally hard to guess what meaning he attaches to it. In the strictest use of the words it might be understood to shut out all that was not explanatory of the actual sense of the poems; in its widest signification it might comprise whatever influenced the genius of the author, whatever related to his mode of conceiving and executing his works, and whatever in his life, habits, or conversation, was either in contrast or in keeping with his verse. The latter latitudinarian interpretation would seem to have found some favour with Dr. Wordsworth, for he has touched upon every branch of the subject, though in most cases, in his fear of plucking forbidden fruit, he has mainly served up the leaves. The volumes comprise not a few interesting letters and memoranda—but they are scattered among many more which have neither life of their own, nor any proper connexion with the life of the poet ;— while the portion of the text which proceeds from the Canon himself is, almost without exception, as vapid as verbose. His example is ill-calculated to recommend his theory, which we believe to be altogether unmanageable in practice. The perplexity of distinguishing between the author and the man, of deciding whether facts had any bearing upon the writings, would soon induce a biographer, worthy of the name, to break through the cobwebs which fettered his pen, and adopt 'the good old rule, the simple plan' of giving a full-length portrait of the original. If the Wordsworth system were possible, it would, at best, be undesirable :—it would produce a deceptive as well as an imperfect narrative—it would take from biographies what has always been felt to be the larger half of their use and entertainment, and, in a word, would deteriorate and nearly destroy a department of literature which Dr. Johnson pronounced to be the most delightful of any.

The signal failure of Dr. Wordsworth to convey an adequate idea of his uncle's character and career left the stage empty for Mr. January Searle. Again the performer has proved unequal to his part. Mr. Searle-whose Life of Ebenezer Elliott we never met with-seems never to have set eyes upon his new and greater hero, nor even to have conversed with any one who had. His 'authentic sources' are the materials already


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before the public-some of them exceedingly apocryphal― and in the process of compilation,' as he may well call it, he has used his scissors more than his pen. Instead of vitality,' he says of the official Memoirs, we have dry facts-which are the mere bones of biography-and these are often strung together with very indifferent tendons.' Mr. Searle's tendons are likewise indifferent. What narrative belongs to him is feeble to silliness, and his occasional remarks are made doubly absurd by ostentatious accompaniments of which his predecessor had set him no example-most pitiable affectation and most laughable egotism.

A family of Wordsworths were anciently landowners at Penistone, near Doncaster, and from them the poet supposed himself to be descended. The particular branch from which he was inclined to derive his origin was that of William Wordsworth of Falthwaite, in Yorkshire, who, in a will dated 1665, styles himself yeoman, and a year later, gent.; but the genealogy was conjectural, and his authentic pedigree terminates with his grandfather. His father was John Wordsworth, an attorney, apparently much esteemed, who superintended part of the Lowther estates, and occupied an old manor-house of that family, at Cockermouth, in Cumberland :—his mother was Anne Cookson, daughter of a mercer at Penrith. The poet, their second child, was born April 7, 1770. Mrs. Wordsworth was not one of those nervous mothers who conjure up dangers ghostly and bodily when their children stray beyond the tether of the apron-string. At five years old he was allowed to range at will from dewy morn to dewy eve over the surrounding country, and among other amusements of that tender age, indulged largely in bathing. Porson, who hated water in all its applications, inward and outward, and who used to say that bathing was supposed to be healthy because there were people who survived it, would have looked with wonder upon the infant Laker, whose custom it was to make one long bathing of a summer's day,' only leaving the stream to bask, dressed in nature's livery, upon the bank, and then plunging back into the cooling current. His fifth was probably the most amphibious year of his life, for he was soon after put to a school at Cockermouth, kept by a clergyman. The school-house stood by the church; and a woman one week-day being sentenced to do penance in a white sheet, young William was praised by his mother for his virtuous zeal in attending the spectacle. He had been enticed by a rumour that he would be paid a penny for his services in looking on, and when he proceeded to complain that the fee was not forthcoming, 'Oh,' said Mrs. Wordsworth, if that was


your motive, you were very properly disappointed.' It is a proof of the fondness with which men dwell upon their earliest recollections, that when the venerable Laureate dictated half-adozen pages of autobiographical memoranda for the public eye, he thought this anecdote worthy to be included in so brief a chronicle of his long existence.

At eight years of age he lost his mother, who died from the effects of a cold brought on by sleeping at a friend's house in London, amid the damp dignity of a best bed room.' The only one of her children about whom she was anxious was our worthy William, whose indomitable self-will and violent temper led her to predict that he would be steady in good, or headstrong in evil. Among other wanton freaks to show his courageous contempt of authority, he asked his eldest brother, Richard, as they were whipping tops in the drawing-room of their maternal grandfather, which was hung round with portraits, whether he dare strike his whip through a hooped petticoat of peculiar stiffness. Richard, who considered that the pleasure of insulting the old lady's dignity would be dearly purchased by a flogging to himself, replied,No, I won't.' 'Then here goes,' said the gallant and ungallant William, and he lashed his whip through the canvas. Revengeful children occasionally commit suicide in the fits of spleen stirred up by punishmentand once, it seems, our future poet-moralist, when smarting from mortification, retired to his grandfather's garret to stab himself with a foil. His courage, or more properly his conscience, failed him, and he continued to brave the slings and arrows produced by his own ill-conditioned temper. He soon acquired a Spartan feeling, and thought the heroism of endurance an ample recompense for the humiliation of chastisement. No one could have detected in the wilful and wayward boy the father of the man, but what was common to the two was the force of character, which, however disorderly it may be shown in childhood, is the real element of future power.

In his ninth year he was sent to a school at Hawkshead, in the most picturesque district of Lancashire, and here is opened to us a scene unlike anything of which most English boys of the present generation have heard or read before, and which will make them look back with envy to the good old times when Wordsworth wore a jacket and carried a satchel. The scholars, instead of being housed under the same roof with a master, were boarded among the villagers. Bounds were unknown. Out of school-hours they went where they liked and did as they pleased. In the summer they played in Hawkshead marketplace, till heaven waked with all his eyes,' and every soul, but


themselves, was asleep; or they angled in the pools of the mountain-brooks; or boated on the Lakes of Esthwaite and Windermere; or landed at an excellent tavern on the banks of the latter to recreate themselves with bowls, and strawberries and cream. Picnics were a favourite pastime upon sunny days—and with the verdant ground for their table, a rippling stream at their feet, and a canopy of leaves above their heads, these fortunate youths enjoyed a banquet rendered doubly delicious by the contrast with the frugal cottage fare of their ordinary experience. Riding was too expensive to be frequent, but when they did get into the saddle, they managed, before getting down again, to extract work for a week out of the costly animal-to which end they employed 'sly subterfuge with courteous inn-keeper' (poeta loquitur), and persuaded him that some half-way house was their goal. In winter Hawkshead saw another sight. The jovial crew, if it was wild weather, gathered over the peat-fire to play whist and loo; or if it was clear and frosty, buckled on their skates and played hunt-the-hare upon the ice by the glimmer of the stars; or wandered half the night upon the surrounding heights, setting springes for woodcocks. Wordsworth in his retrospect says, that the sun of heaven did not shine upon a band who were richer in joy, or worthier of the beautiful vales they trod. Of the joy there can be little doubt; and a lad who was educated at Hawkshead might very possibly have re-echoed with truth the insincere adage, that school-days are the happiest days of life; but as to the worth, we suppose they had neither more nor less than any other chance-medley of boys whose sole qualification is that their parents can afford to pay at a certain rate per quarter.


The pedagogic government seems to have been nearly as mild within doors as without. But if Wordsworth was little troubled with Greek and Latin, he read English largely for his own amusement. When told by one of his school-fellows that his copy of the Arabian Nights was but a meagre abridgment-a block from the quarry-the prospect of obtaining the complete collection seemed to him a promise scarcely earthly.' He immediately entered into a covenant with a kindred spirit to save up their pocket-money, and make a joint-purchase of fairy-land. For several months they persevered in their vow; but, as their hoard increased, so did the temptation to spend it—and, finally, it went to the tavern-keeper or pastrycook; nor did he ever possess the coveted treasure while his imagination could be led captive by conjuring genii. He found full compensation in the more masculine fictions of Fielding and Swift, of Cervantes and Le Sage, which were among his father's stores. His love of verse he dates


from the age of nine or ten, and describes himself as rising early and strolling with a companion for two delightful hours before morning school, repeating rhymes with an ecstacy that bordered upon intoxication. In after days he condemned the objects of his early love' as mostly false from their overwrought splendour;' and poems which never failed to entrance him in boyhood seemed in his manhood 'dead as a theatre, fresh emptied of spectators.' Perchance he too readily took for granted that his latest taste was his best-at all events, among these discarded favourites we find the honoured names of Goldsmith, Gray, and Pope. In his fifteenth year he composed a school-exercise, upon the completion of the second centenary of their foundation. 'The verses,' he says, were much admired, far more than they deserved, for they were but a tame imitation of Pope's versification, and a little in his style.' In truth, they are a cento from the works of that master. Out of all our prodigies there is not one, we believe, who, at the age of fifteen, has fairly written from his own mind. Two years later Wordsworth wrote a long poem on his own adventures and the surrounding scenery, which we may conclude was of no other value than to practise him in his art, since he has only preserved a dozen, and these rather ordinary lines.


The relish for the beauties of creation, to which he mainly owes his place among poets, was early manifested and rapidly developed. A rover by day and night in a romantic country, many a casual and unsought prospect won his attention in the midst of his sports, and extorted a brief, involuntary homage. While yet a little boy, he took an Irish urchin, who served an itinerant conjuror, to a particular spot commanding Esthwaite Lake and its islands, for the sole satisfaction of witnessing the emotion of the lad on first beholding fields and groves intermingled with water. Soon, he tells us, the pleasures of scenery were collaterally attached to every holiday scheme. A year or two later and rural objects were advanced from a secondary to a primary pursuit. He use to rise before a smoke-wreath issued from a single chimney, or the earliest song of birds could be heard, to sit alone upon some jutting eminence, and meditate the still and lovely landscape. Often on these occasions he became so wrapt in contemplation, that what he saw appeared like something in himself—a prospect in the mind.' His imagination, indeed, never failed to heighten the picture presented to his eyes, bestowing, as he says, 'new splendour on the setting sun,' and 'deepening the darkness of the midnight storm.' He was only in his seventeenth year when the intensity of his sympathy with inanimate nature suggested that



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