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WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.

WHO is this musing Pilgrim of Poesy, wandering amid the lakes and mountains of Cumberland? For fifty years his name has been a centre-point of controversy and criticism in English literature. He has been in turns satirized and eulogized, scorned and worshipped, feebly imitated, and flippantly assailed. How little that can excite us in the story of that calm career! How much in it to interest and instruct! For this man stepped aside from the stir and strife of the outer world to those romantic solitudes with which his name will be for ever associated. Here he worked out his self-adopted mission, and toiled at his labour of love. To that long seclusion, and that laborious self-teaching, we owe all that he has left to us. To that steady self-reliance and cherished unity of purpose are due every beauty and every fault of that genius which has so much influenced the thought and changed the taste of our generation.

William Wordsworth was the second son of John Wordsworth, attorney. He was born at Cockermouth, in Cumberland. His lineage, both on his father and mother's

side, is good. The ancestry of the former settled in Yorkshire before the Norman Conquest, and the latter was descended from the Crackenthorpes, who, from the time of Edward III. had been the proprietors of Newbiggen Hall, in Westmoreland. William's childhood was spent partly at Cockermouth, and partly with his mother's family at Penrith. Of his early days he has left some brief account, and made especial mention of his mother, who died of a decline when he was at the age of fourteen, and had just returned from school, at Hawkeshead. He tells us: "I remember my mother only in some few situations, one of which was her pinning a nosegay to my breast, when I was going to say the Catechism in the church, as was customary before Easter. I remember also telling her on one week-day that I had been at church, for our school stood in the churchyard, and we had frequent opportunities of seeing what was going on there. The occasion was a woman doing penance in the church in a white sheet. My mother commended my having been present, expressing a hope that I should remember the circumstance for the rest of my life. 'But,' said I, ‘mamma, they did not give me a penny, as I had been told they would.' 'Oh!' said she, recanting her praises, if that was your motive, you were very properly disappointed.""

It is strange that she once said to a friend that William was the only one of her five children about whom she felt any anxiety; and that she had a strong presentiment that he would be remarkable either for good or evil. Her fears were occasioned by the child's strange and impetuous temper. He tells us that while staying at the house of his grandfather, at Penrith, he retired to the attic to commit suicide, because he fancied that he had suffered some indignity. "I took the foil in hand," he says, "but my heart failed."

The days of his boyhood he always looked back upon as

very happy. He was allowed at school and in vacations to read what books he liked, and revelled in the works of Fielding and Swift; while "Don Quixote" and "Gil Blas" were choice favourites. Much as he enjoyed these writings, their influence on his mind is not easily to be traced; and he doubtless gained far more inspiration from the extracts from Shakespeare, Spenser, and Milton, which, at a tender age, his father made him commit to memory.

"Perlegendi sunt Poeta," is one of the directions laid down by Cicero, for the education of the Orator. For that of the Poet, it seems even more important. An accurate knowledge of some plays of Shakespeare, and a few books of "Paradise Lost," would be as useful in English education, as the daily repetition of Horace and Virgil, and our schools seem at last awakening to this truth.

William Wordsworth was sent to Hawkeshead, in Lancashire, a school founded by Sandys, Archbishop of York, in 1585. There were four head masters in succession while he was there. To one of these, the Rev. William Taylor, he was especially attached. In the "Prelude " he records his feelings on visiting the grave of his honoured teacher, and also his remembrance of the death-bed scene, to which he and some of the other pupils were invited to receive the last words of the dying man.

It was while at this school that the future Laureate first wooed the Muse whose invoked inspiration was hereafter to be to him its own exceeding great reward. "The Summer Vacation," a subject imposed by his master, was his first poem; and at the age of fifteen he, among other boys, was invited to write lines in celebration of the second centenary from the foundation of the school. It is said that the verses he produced were much admired. Their merit is far above the average of school prize poems; and their marked dissimilarity to the poetical productions of his maturer years is very striking.

In October, 1787, at the age of eighteen, he was sent to Cambridge, and commenced residence at St. John's College. By the University system he seems to have profited little, and he speaks of it with little respect. The daily routine of chapels and lectures, with their regular machinery, and sometimes heartless formality, seems to have affected him with disgust. His ardent soul, warm with youth, enamoured of solitude, and breathing poetry, found little comfort and satisfaction in grammatical niceties or mathematical demonstrations; and as he had learned at school enough of "Euclid" and algebra to give him a twelvemonth's start of the freshmen of his year, he betook himself to more congenial studies, and commenced Italian under a master of the name of Isola, who had known the Poet Gray. An opportunity for distinguishing himself in panegyrical verse he neglected at his first entrance. Dr. Chevalier, master of the college, died soon after; and he tells us that, "according to the custom of the time, his body, after being placed in the coffin was removed to the hall of the college, and the pall spread over the coffin was stuck over by copies of verses, English or Latin, from the pens of the students of St. John's." Wordsworth wrote none. "I did not," said he, "regret that I had been silent on this occasion, as I felt no interest in the deceased person, with whom I had had no intercourse, and whom I had never seen but during his walks in the college grounds."

His chief consolation after the wearying round of studies that did not interest, and discipline that tended only to harass him, was the thought that he was walking where great poets before had walked and mused. What Cicero felt at Athens young Wordsworth did at Cambridge, and rejoiced in the scene familiar in earlier days to his Laureate predecessors, Jonson and Dryden. He took his degree in January, 1791; and as a proof that

he had no desire to excel in his examination, he spent his last vacation among the Alps, and his last week in reading "Clarissa Harlowe."

His vacations, to which he alludes in the "Prelude," he generally spent in wandering among the scenes of his earlier days. His first vacation he returned to Esthwaite. In his last he took a pedestrian tour in France, accompanied by a friend and brother collegian. They left on the 13th of July, 1790, one day before the King swore that he would observe the new constitution. They crossed the Alps, wandered through Switzerland, purchased a boat at Basle, and floated down the Rhine to Cologne, and then returned by Calais, landing in England, in October. How his mind was affected by what he saw on his tour, may be judged from one or two brief extracts from a letter to his sister. "My spirits," he writes, "have been kept in a perpetual hurry of delight, by the almost uninterrupted succession of sublime and beautiful objects which have passed before my eyes during the course of the last month." As a specimen of scene painting, the following description must be quoted. Speaking of the Lake Como, he says: "It is narrow, and the shadows of the mountains were early thrown across it. It was beautiful to watch them travelling up the side of the hills-for several hours to remark one half of a village covered with shade, and the other bright with the strongest sunshine. It was with regret that we passed every turn of this charming path, where every new picture was purchased by the loss of another which we should never have been tired of gazing upon. The shores of the lake consist of steeps covered with large sweeping woods of chestnut, spotted with villages; some clinging from the summits of the advancing rocks, and others hiding themselves within their recesses. was the surface of the lake less interesting than its shores; half of it glowing with the richest green and gold, the

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