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the merits of poems and their popularity, immediate and remote. The notes to The River Duddon, published in 1820, contained a memoir of the Rev. Robert Walker ( Wonderful Walker'), which deserves a substantive place among Wordsworth's prose works as one of the most beautiful pieces of biography in the language. In 1816 he wrote his remarkable Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns, which, though abundantly illustrated by his poems, , may be commended to those who, on a superficial view, are inclined to subscribe to the judgement, so comforting to the self-respect of many dabblers in literature, that Wordsworth was something of a prig. Two years later he issued two Addresses to the Freeholders of Westmorland, in support of the Government and in opposition to the candidature of Mr. (afterwards Lord Chancellor) Brougham. His next prose writing of a public character, though it was not published till after his death, was a long letter to Bishop Blomfield against the Catholic Relief Bill of 1829. In 1835 he wrote a Postscript to his poems, in which he dealt with the Poor Law, with joint-stock companies, and with the question of the supply of clergy to meet the vast increments of population, especially in the north of England. In 1836 he laid the foundation-stone of new schools at Bowness, and gave an address upon education, of which he subsequently wrote a version for the local press. In 1838 he published a letter in the Kendal Mercury in answer to a petition against Sergeant Talfourd’s Copyright Bill,' a bill in the inception of which he took a considerable part. Finally in 1844, in his seventy-fifth year, he wrote two letters to the Morning Post, protesting against the proposal to bring a railway from Kendal to Penrith through the heart of the Lake Country. To this list ought perhaps to be added the Notes to his own poems, especially those dictated late in life to Miss Fenwick, and some of the letters, written to individuals, but, like those to Bishop Blomfield and Captain Pasley, evoked not by private occasions but by public affairs, such as his correspondence with Sergeant Talfourd and others on Copyright.

Wordsworth's correspondence does, in fact, partake largely of the character of essay-writing. No doubt when the long-hoped-for edition of his Letters appears, we shall find the proportion of familiar letters increased. But he was, as he often tells us, no letter-writer by predilection : consequently he does not, like Lamb or Cowper, spin his webs spontaneously out of nothing; unless his letter is an answer due to his correspondent, it is usually written with the definite purpose of discussing some question either of public moment or of literary criticism. And the same fact which made him a reluctant letter-writer accounts, perhaps as much as his self-devotion to poetry, for the comparative paucity of his prose works. The physical operation of writing was hateful to him. A letter to Sir George Beaumont, written in his thirty-fourth year, reads almost like one of Coleridge in its record of the poet's delay in writing to acknowledge the munificent gift which was its occasion. In the course of it he writes: "I do not know from what cause it is, but during the last three years I have never had a pen in my hand for five minutes, before my whole frame becomes one bundle of uneasiness ; a perspiration starts out all over me, and my chest is oppressed in a manner which I cannot describe. This is a sad weakness; for I am sure, though it is chiefly owing to the state of my body, that by exertion of mind I might in part control it'(Memoirs, vol. i. p. 262). Similarly, in his forty-first year, to Captain Pasley: 'I am ashamed to say, that I write so few letters, and employ my pen so little in any way, that I feel both a lack of words (such words, I mean, as I wish for) and of mechanical skill, extremely discouraging to me' (Memoirs, i. 407). Again in 1831, during the discussions of the Reform Bill, in which Wordsworth took a great and painfully apprehensive interest, he was urged by his friends, in the words of his biographer, “to exercise those powers, in writing on public affairs, which he had displayed twenty years before, in his Essay on the Convention of Cintra.' He would evidently have been only too glad to accede to this request ; but he was now in his sixty-second year, and felt unequal to the task. He adds: “There is yet another obstacle: I am no ready master of prose-writing, having been little practised in the art.'

If Wordsworth’s bent had been primarily towards prose-writing instead of poetry, he would undoubtedly have overcome his dislike for the mechanical process of committing his thoughts to paper; and the physical discomforts which that process caused him would very likely not have occurred. The latter were very natural in a man who practically lived out of doors and had never been subject to the practice of sedentary habits usual to persons of his position and of his intellectual interests. As is well known, he composed his poems almost wholly in the open air, and wrote the great bulk of them, as well as many of his letters, by the hands of others, his sister, his wife, and other members of his household. Such a method, possible even for poetical composition only when the poet can depend upon the unfailing sympathy of willing amanuenses, would obviously be almost impossible, except under the condition of physical necessity, for the composition of any extensive works in prose.

Wordsworth himself desired that his prose works should be collected and edited after his death-a wish that was not fulfilled till the edition of Dr. Alexander Grosart in 1876. But from the quotations given above it will be obvious that the poet made no claim to a place among the great prose-writers of his country. He devoted far more labour to the workmanship of his poetry than is often supposed ; but he paid little attention to the style of his prose, other than that which every sensible man pays with

the object of conveying his meaning clearly and forcibly to the reader's understanding. The result is instructive in two ways. On the one hand Wordsworth's prose moves, on the whole, with too uniform and ponderous a tread to exercise upon the reader that indefinable but real thing, the charm of style. It does not sparkle, though it very often glows. It retains the interest by its force of thought, but does not stimulate curiosity. There are no unexpected turns, no sudden side-peeps ; no relief from the strenuous march of progress towards the goal. There is fine scorn, exalted passion, but none of the lighter sallies of wit and humour. And in the mere structure of sentences and paragraphs there is often a certain labour of effort to be clear which demands a corresponding labour in the reader to catch the meaning. The last of these drawbacks is obviously a mere matter of practice ; the others are far more so than many critics would admit. No doubt the root of every quality of an author's style must be in himself; and the strongest roots and most deeply set in Wordsworth’s nature

of a serious, strenuous, and self-centred character. But he was by no

means devoid of humour; and a greater mastery of the machinery of prose-writing would have freed his mind to move with greater rapidity over his field of thought and with more readiness to receive various and casual impressions, just as a practised walker over his loved hillsides obtains, half-unconsciously, many more

were

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