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reveal them. Besides all which, I really was not at liberty to speak, without many reserves, on this chapter of my life, at a period (1821) not twenty years removed from the actual occurrences, unless I desired to court the risk of crossing at every step the existing law of libel, so full of snares and mantraps, to the careless, equally with the conscientious writer. This is a consideration which some of my critics have lost sight of in a degree which surprises me. One, for example, puts it to his readers whether any house such as I describe as the abode of my money-lending friend, could exist in Oxford Street;' and, at the same time he states, as circumstances drawn from my description, but, in fact, pure coinages of his own, certain romantic impossibilities, which doubtless could as little attach to a house in Oxford Street, as they could to a house in any other quarter of London. Meantime, I had sufficiently indicated that, whatsoever street was concerned in that affair, Oxford Street was not; and it is remarkable enough, as illustrating this amiable reviewer's veracity, that no one street in London was absolutely excluded but one; and that one Oxford Street. For I happened to mention that, on such a day, (my birth-day,) I had turned aside from Oxford Street to look at the house in question. I will now add that this house was in Greek Street: so much it may be safe to say. But every candid reader will see that both prudential restraints, and also disinterested regard to the feelings of possibly amiable descendants from a vicious man, would operate with any thoughtful writer in such a case, to impose reserve upon his pen. Had my guardians, had my money-lending friend of Jewry, and others concerned in my memoirs, been so many shadows, bodiless abstractions, and without earthly connections, I might readily have given my own names to my own creations; and
have treated them as unceremoniously as I pleased; not so, under the real circumstances of the case. My chief guardian, for instance, though obstinate to a degree which risked the happiness and the life of his ward, was an upright man otherwise and his children are entitled to value his memory.
Again, my Greek Street roanations, the fœnerator Alpheus,' who delighted to reap where he had not sown, and too often (I fear) allowed himself in practices which not impossibly have long since been found to qualify him for distant climates and Botanic' regions 6 -even he, though I might truly describe him as a mere highwayman, whenever he happened to be aware that I had received a friendly loan, yet, like other highwaymen of repute, and 'gentle thieves,' was not inexorable to the petitions of his victim: he would sometimes toss back what was required for some instant necessity of the road; and at his breakfast table it was, after all, as elsewhere recorded, that I contrived to support life; barely indeed, and most slenderly, but still with the final result of escaping absolute starvation. With that recollection before me, I could not allow myself to probe his frailties too severely, had it even been certainly ́ safe to do so. But enough the reader will understand that a year spent either in the valleys of Wales, or upon the streets of London, a wanderer, too often houseless in both situations, might naturally have peopled the mind of one constitutionally disposed to solemn contemplations with memorials of human sorrow and strife too profound to pass away for years.
Thus, then, it was past experience of a very peculiar kind, the agitations of many lives crowded into the compass of a year or two, in combination with a peculiar structure of mind-offered one explanation of the very remarkable and unsocial habits which I adopted at college:
but there was another not less powerful and not less unusual. In stating this, I shall seem, to some persons, covertly designing an affront to Oxford. But that is far from my intention. It is noways peculiar to Oxford; but will, doubtless, be found in every university throughout the world—that the younger part of the members, the undergraduates, I mean, generally, whose chief business must have lain amongst the great writers of Greece and Rome, cannot have found leisure to cultivate extensively their own domestic literature. Not so much that time will have been wanting; but that the whole energy of the mind, and the main course of the subsidiary studies and researches, will naturally have been directed to those difficult languages, amongst which lie their daily tasks. I make it no subject of complaint or scorn, therefore, but simply state it as a fact, that few or none of the Oxford undergraduates, with whom parity of standing threw me into collision at my first outset, knew anything at all of English literature. The Spectator seemed to me the only English book of a classical rank which they had read; and even this less for its inimitable delicacy, humor, and refined pleasantry in dealing with manners and characters, than for its insipid and meagre essays, ethical or critical. This was no fault of theirs: they had been sent to the book chiefly as a subject for Latin translations, or of other exercises; and, in such a view, the vague generalities of superficial morality were more useful and more manageable than sketches of manner or character, steeped in national peculiarities. To translate the terms of Whig politics into classical Latin, would be as difficult as it might be for a Whig himself to give a consistent account of those politics from the year 1688. Natural, however, and excusable as this ignorance might be, to myself it was intolerable and incomprehensible.
Already, at fifteen, I had made myself familiar with the great English poets. About sixteen, or not long after, my interest in the story of Chatterton had carried me over the whole ground of the Rowley controversy; and that controversy, by a necessary consequence, had so familiarized me with the Black Letter,' that I had begun to find an unaffected pleasure in the ancient English metrical romances; and, in Chaucer, though acquainted as yet only with part of his works, I had perceived and had felt profoundly those divine qualities, which, even at this day, are so languidly acknowledged by his unjust countrymen. With this knowledge, and this enthusiastic knowledge of the elder poets-of those most remote from easy access― I could not well be a stranger in other walks of our literature, more on a level with the general taste, and nearer to modern diction, and, therefore, more extensively multiplied by the press.
Yet, after all, as one proof how much more commanding is that part of a literature which speaks to the elementary affections of men, than that which is founded on the mutable aspects of manners it is a fact that, even in our elaborate system of society, where an undue value is unavoidably given to the whole science of social intercourse, and a continual irritation applied to the sensibilities which point in that direction; still, under all these advantages, Pope himself is less read, less quoted, less thought of, than the elder and graver section of our literature. It is a great calamity for an author such as Pope, that, generally speaking, it requires so much experience of life to enjoy his peculiar felicities, as must argue an age likely to have impaired the general capacity for enjoy. ment. For my part, I had myself a very slender acquaintance with this chapter of our literature; and what little I had was generally, at that period of my life, as,
with most men, it continues to be to the end of life, a reflex knowledge, acquired through those pleasant miscellanies, half gossip, half criticism-such as Warton's Essay on Pope, Boswell's Johnson, Mathias's Pursuits of Literature, and many scores beside of the same indeterminate class; a class, however, which do a real service to literature, by diffusing an indirect knowledge of fine writers in their most effective passages, where else, in a direct shape, it would often never extend.
In some parts, then, having even a profound knowledge of our literature, in all parts having some, I felt it to be impossible that I should familiarly associate with those who had none at all; not so much as a mere historical knowledge of the literature in its capital names and their chronological succession. Do I mention this in disparagement of Oxford? By no means. Among the undergraduates of higher standing, and occasionally, perhaps, of my own, I have since learned that many might have been found eminently accomplished in this particular. But seniors do not seek after juniors; they must be sought; and, with my previous bias to solitude, a bias equally composed of impulses and motives, I had no disposition to take trouble in seeking any man for any purpose.
But, on this subject, a fact still remains to be told, of which I am justly proud; and it will serve, beyond anything else that I can say, to measure the degree of my intellectual development. On coming to Oxford, I had taken up one position in advance of my age by full thirty years that appreciation of Wordsworth, which it has taken full thirty years to establish amongst the public, I had already made, and had made operative to my own. intellectual culture in the same year when I clandestinely quitted school. Already, in 1802, I had addressed a letter