« PreviousContinue »
refused by the players. In 1816 Coleridge put himself under the care of Dr. Gillman, of the Grove, Highgate, London, and slowly won his way back from the depths of opium bondage to liberty and health.
Those Highgate days were essentially days of philosophy. The printed works of this period however are only a small part of the fructifying influence which Coleridge, chiefly by his conversation, exercised on contemporary thought. The records of his life and literary opinions he gathered into his Biographia Literaria, 1817. With the publication of Aids to Reflection, 1825, the world began to appreciate this neglected genius, and the sage of Highgate became the oracle of men like Maurice, Hallam, and even Carlyle. In November, 1833, feeling his end was approaching, he wrote his epitaph :
Stop, Christian Passer-by !-Stop, child of God,
He ask'd and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same. On the 25th of July, 1834, he died. They praised him in death, but it was too late.
Carlyle's picture of Coleridge, as he appeared in his old age (see page 213), is set off by the portrait Dorothy Wordsworth drew of him in June, 1797:
" He is a wonderful man. His conversation teems with soul, mind, and spirit. At first I thought him very plain, that is, about three minutes ; he is pale, thin, has a wide mouth, thick lips, and not very good teeth, longish, loosegrowing half-curling rough black hair. But if you hear him speak for five minutes, you think no more of them.
His eye is large and full, and not very dark, but grey, such an eye as would receive from a heavy soul the dullest expression; but it speaks every emotion of his animated mind, it has more of the poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling' than I ever witnessed. He has dark eyebrows, and an overhanging forehead.” Wordsworth's description,
A noticeable man with large grey eyes, is proverbial.
Coleridge's poetry is in great part fragmentary. The work he wrote with full power of his genius could be printed, it has been said, on twenty pages, but it should be bound in pure gold. His special gift, which he shares with no other English writer, is the power of clear spiritual imagination in the regions of the supernatural, which he is still able to humanize. He was one with the Lake School in their subtle insight into the spiritual aspects of nature, and had the same power as Wordsworth of giving expression to the finest shades of loftiest emotion.
[Wordsworth's Prelude and Autobiography; C. Wordsworth, Memoirs of W. W., 1851 ; Coleridge, Biogr. Lit.; De Quincey, Lake Poets ; Haz-, litt, First Acquaintance with Poets ; Knight, Life of W. W.(vols. ix., X. xi. of Works), Memoirs of Coleorton, 1887, Proceed. Words. Soc. (six vols., selections of which are in) Wordsworthiana ; Meyers, Wordsworth (E. M.L.); Symington, William Wordsworth, 1881 ; Sutherland, William Wordsworth, 2nd ed., 1892; Elizabeth Wordsworth, William Wordsworth, 1894. Essays and criticisms by Arnold (Selections of w. W., Stopford Brooke, Church (Dante, etc.), Dowden (Studies in Literature), Morley (Works), Pater (Appreciations), Sarrazin (Renaissance de la poésie anglaise), Scherer (tr. Saintsbury), Shairp, etc. The best editions are Knight, eleven vols., 1887-1889; Dowden, seven vols., 1892–3; Morley, one vol., 1894.]
sent a voice
William Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth, Cumberland, April 7th, 1770, the second son of John Wordsworth, solicitor to Sir James Lowther, and of Anne Wordsworth, daughter of William Cookson, mercer of Penrith. His childhood truly showed that in him at least the boy was father to the man. Cockermouth is near the Derwent, that blent
A murmur with my nurse's song,
That flowed along my dreams. Bathing in the mill-race, plundering the raven's nest, skating, bathing, nutting, fishing, such were the golden days of happy boyhood ; and the activities of boyhood lived on in the man. Wordsworth, Elizabeth Wordsworth says, could cut his name in the ice when quite an elderly man. The effect on his spirits of this free open life, lighted by a passion for the open air, may be read in his early Lines on Leaving School.
His schooldays at Hawkeshead, Lancashire, were happy,
though he describes himself as being of a stiff, moody, violent temper.' Fielding, Smollett, Le Sage, Swift were his first favourite authors. His father interested himself in his training, and through his guidance Wordsworth as a boy could repeat by heart much of Spenser, Shakspere, and Milton.
His father having died in 1783, Wordsworth was sent to Cambridge by his uncles. He entered St. John's College in October, 1787, and graduated in January, 1791. On the whole he took little interest in academic pursuits, yet read classics diligently, studied Italian and the older English poets, and sauntered, played, or rioted' with his fellow-students. His vacations were spent in the country; in one of them he traversed on foot France, Switzerland, and Northern Italy.
During another of these vacation rambles, returning at early dawn from some frolic, The morning rose, in memorable
Wordsworth's first long poem, An Evening Walk, 1789, shows the spirit of nature striving against the bondage of Pope.
Unable to decide on a profession, Wordsworth went to France in November, 1791, where he stayed thirteen months studying French and watching with beating heart the emancipation of human life and spirit in the Revolution. He returned to England with his choice of a profession yet unmade, and in 1793 published his first volumes of verses, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches, the value of which no one but Coleridge appreciated. He spent a month in the Isle of Wight, wandered about Salisbury Plain, and along the Wye to North Wales. One of his rambles with his sister Dorothy led him from Kendal to Grasmere, and from Grasmere to Keswick, -" the most delightful country we have ever seen,' she said. He projected a monthly miscellany, and was completely out of money when his good friend Raisley Calvert died, leaving him a legacy of £900. This was the turning point of his life. Inspired by his sister, Wordsworth resolved to take up that plain life of high thought which was to result in a pure and lasting fame. Wordsworth never was ungrateful to that noblest of women, his sister Dorothy. In the midst of troubles she never flagged, in the moments of literary aspiration she was by his side with sympathetic heart and equal mind.
She whispered still that brightness would return,
She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
And love, and thought, and joy.
The brother and sister settled in Racedown Lodge, Crewkerne, Dorset, in a delightful country, with "charming walks, a good garden, and a pleasant home.” There Wordsworth wrote his Imitations of Juvenal, Salisbury