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London of those days, the master-currents of his soul gradually became predominant, and he turned to Nature and to Poetry as the purpose of his life:-publishing in 1793 his first works, “ The Evening Walk," and “Descriptive Sketches.” These little poems, written, it is curious to note, in the ten syllabled rhyming couplet which we associate with the school of Dryden and Pope, were brought out reluctantly, in the hope that they "might show he could do something." Slightly noticed at the time, they exercised a great influence over Wordsworth's life, by attracting to him the regard of his contemporary poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who judged them with the insight of a congenial imagination. “Seldom, if ever,” he wrote, “was the emergence of an original poetic genius above the literary horizon more evidently announced.”
The little property of the Wordsworth family had been kept from the children, it is stated, by the injustice of Sir John Lowther, created Earl of Lonsdale, during whose lifetime (he died in 1802), no redress could be obtained. But at this juncture (1795), the opportune legacy of £900 from a young friend named Calvert gave Wordsworth an independence which could, however, only have been wrung by one devoted to "plain living and high thinking,” from the interest of so small a sum. Meanwhile another and a greater blessing was in store for him ; his sister Dorothy was now grown up; they settled together at Racedown in Dorsetshire (1796), and next year at Alfoxden in Somerset ; removing, after a residence of some months in Germany, to Grasmere in 1799. Coleridge was at this time much with Wordsworth ; he formed a friendship with Sir George Beaumont, Charles Lamb, Southey, and Walter Scott, and in 1802 entered upon a long marriage of unbroken happiness with Mary Hutchinson, a young lady whom he had known from childhood. Of all the powerful and salutary influences which thus affected the poet, that of his sister's presence was probably the most important:
Where'er my footsteps turned
There is no little likeness between the characters of the three poets, Dante, Milton, and Wordsworth : in each a powerful nature, apt to push self-dependence into harshness and isolation ; affections marked rather by depth than by geniality; a habit of consistent and logical thought, which sometimes became dogmatism, and ranged them all on the “opposition " side of the politics of their age. It is on such natures that what Scott named the “ministering " function of women, to soothe, sustain, and moderate, may confer its most peculiar blessings ; and, more happy than his great predecessors, these blessings fell from Heaven upon Wordsworth exactly at the crisis when, as we have just seen, they were especially required by the circumstances of his inner life ; when, also, the improvement in his income enabled him to profit by them. Add to this the particulars already mentioned, -that his mind had been powerfully charged, if the word may be permitted, with alternate sympathy and horror by the mighty struggles of the time, and the conflict embracing all the deepest interests of man which raged on every side ;—that, from the midst of this, he was suddenly transported to the most solitary and the most primitive regions of natural beauty which England could furnish ;—that, whilst here, again, and as if to restrain the narrowing influences of that “confirmed tranquillity,” he came into communion with some of the most highly-gifted minds among his contemporaries, and it will not appear surprizing that to the twelve years following 1796 we owe, either in execution or in idea, by far the largest portion of Wordsworth's best and most characteristic poetry. And that this poetry should embody, in a thousand different phases, the influences which have been here briefly and imperfectly traced as operative upon the writer from his childhood, would seem to be the natural result of the law which makes a poet's verse the reflection of his mind, character, and experiences.
The chronology of Wordsworth's principal poems must be now noticed. His first volume of “ Lyrical Ballads" appeared in 1798; a second, with a reprint of the first, in 1800. Further editions followed in 1802 and 1805. It is noticeable that his earlier journeys supply comparatively few direct subjects to these volumes. The autobiographical poem, brought out after his death under the name “Prelude,” was begun in Germany, and completed in 1805. A visit to Scotland furnished some materials for two fresh volumes (1807). The “Excursion ” was published in 1814 ; the “White Doe of Rylstone" (written 1807), next year. Wordsworth removed to the house which he occupied till his death, “Rydal Mount,” between Grasmere and Ambleside, and was appointed to a little office in the Lake district, in 1813. Meanwhile a memorable change had taken place in the political development of Western Europe, and in the attitude of England towards the Continent. That which had begun as the internal effort of one country to throw off the diseases which were destroying it, had apparently transmuted itself into the ambition of assimilating Europe to France, or even of converting Europe into the provinces of a French empire. Looking back now, with the experience of fifty years since the great struggle closed at Waterloo, we can indeed see, that much which the Revolution of 1790 attempted to do for France, was not less imperiously requisite for the well-being of other European races; and that, almost everywhere, the people welcomed at first the power which, even under the guise of foreign invasion, promised to free them from intolerable evils. We can see also that, without denying the consummate ability of Napoleon, no small portion of his early successes was due to that secret popular concurrence in the idea which he and the armies of France seemed to represent, But it was inevitable or natural that one who had shared keenly in the noble enthusiasms of 1790, had mourned bitterly over the excesses of 1792, and had hailed the fall of the extreme revolutionary section as the pledge of a return to the ways of rational liberty, should, after a while, recognize only the worse side in the career of the Consul-Emperor, and regard him simply as a tyrant, abusing the great power of an acquiescent nation to destroy national existence and freedom itself, beyond and within the borders of France. This was an unfair judgment undoubtedly; yet the unfairness sprang from no ignoble source, if the recognition of what was really eminent and really representative in Napoleon absolutely effaced itself in view of his unbounded selfishness, unscrupulous dishonesty, and cynical charlatanerie, before the lofty mind of Wordsworth. There was much of the old Greek nature in the poet; what he sympathized with was rather national individuality and advance, than the cosmopolitan interests which so much governed his great contemporary, Goethe ; rather the