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It may be said that at Grasmere there was nulla dies sine carmine, so prolific was the growth of verse in that romantic abode. In 1807, two volumes of these were collected and published, but again without much success. In 1809, he wrote his celebrated Essay upon the Convention of Cintra. The liberal views of the young poet had now become very much modified, but still his natural urbanity and love of his fellow-creatures were apparent. The year 1813 was an important epoch in his life-he obtained his appointment of distributor of stamps, and removed to the residence he has immortalized at Rydal Mount, where he remained till his death. In the following year, he completed and published his long labour of love, “ The Excursion.” In this great work he appears in his full character of the metaphysical poet. Life and inanimate nature are viewed and treated of in the spirit of deep, contemplative genius, combined with the aspirations of goodness, rich pictures of imagination, and even brilliant flights of fancy. He was unfortunate in the time of publication ; Byron, Moore, Scott, Campbell, and Rogers, were then in their meridian ; and a poet who required reflection before he could be even understood, could not be expected to be enjoyed by readers luxuriating in such exciting mental food as this brilliant period furnished. An edition of 500 of this fine poem satisfied the public six years. It was very severely criticised, and one Aristarchus even boasted that he had crushed “The Excursion.” “He crush “ The Excursion,'” exclaimed Southey, “he might as well fancy he could crush Skiddaw !” “The White Doe of Rylstone ” shortly followed, with a graceful dedication to his wife. It was quite one of his poems; too meditative to become suddenly popular, but containing much that will secure it a long after-life. Notwithstanding the vast merit of “ The Excursion and “ The White Doe,” a merit that is becoming every year better understood and more prized, I cannot but fancy Wordsworth will maintain his hold upon the public longer by his smaller pieces than by these two more pretentious works. Doctor Johnson said, “every reader was glad when he had finished · Paradise Lost;'” and may not this be said of every long poem, however animated and embellished by genius? In fact, the finer the poem the more it keeps the faculties on the stretch ; and this cannot be borne continuously with pleasure. But Wordsworth's small poems are exquisite gems. If I were collecting the very choicest specimens of English poetry, some of them would stand in very early pages. I shall never forget hearing a poet, and no mean one, read to me, for the first time, the sonnet on “ Crossing Westminster Bridge.” When he came to the line,
“ Dear God! the very houses seem asleep!” my flesh crawled, my hair stirred, I trembled with agitation.
As Wordsworth loved his muse, there can be no doubt that his life from this period was a happy one. He certainly felt annoyed by public neglect, and what he thought the criticism of enemies ; but he had a reliance on himself, his purposes, and the good sense of human nature, which told him that his time would come. In addition to this, admirer as I am, I must confess that he was not deficient in vanity. A poet who could flatter himself that he should some day take rank by the side of Milton, can dispense with a little temporary obloquy.
One of his favourite relaxations, if so they may be called, was the number of tours he, his sister and friends performed. Holland, North Wales, the Rhine, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, were all in turn visited, and all afforded their share of supply to the poetical garner of Rydal Mount.
He continued to write and publish, never with great success, but yet with an increasing reputation. Though readers did not take off his copies by thousands, he met with due estimation in discerning quarters : the University of Oxford conferred the degree of D.C.L. upon him, and in 1843 he was made Poet Laureate.
In 1834, he lost his most cherished friend, Coleridge ; and his darling daughter Dora (who had married Mr. Quillinan in 1841), to the inexpressible grief of himself and her friends, died in 1847.
After attaining the extraordinary age of eighty years, he expired tranquilly and painlessly, on the 23rd of April, 1850, the anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, his beloved wife whispering in his
“ William, you are going to Dora !” surrounded by friends and relatives—and was followed to his rustic grave by the admiration, respect, and regret of all who had the good fortune to know him truly the end of a great and good man !
It would be impossible to enter upon the merits of such a vast body of poetry as Wordsworth has left us, in the limits of a short biographical notice like this suffice it to say that his predictions as to his after-fame have proved true; thousands of copies are now required where hundreds could not be sold during his lifetime, and posterity is doing him ample justice for the neglect of his contemporaries.