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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 accessI 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
On this anecdote, I do not
of fervent admiration to Mr. Wordsworth. I did not send it until the spring of 1803; and, from misdirection, it did not come into his hands for some months. But I had an answer from Mr. Wordsworth before I was eighteen; and that my letter was thought to express the homage of an enlightened admirer, may be inferred from the fact that his answer was long and full. mean to dwell: but I cannot allow the reader to overlook the circumstances of the case. At this day, it is true, no journal can be taken up which does not habitually speak of Mr. Wordsworth as of a great if not the great poet of the age. Mr. Bulwer, living in the intensest pressure of the world, and, though recoiling continually from the judgments of the world, yet never in any violent degree, ascribes to Mr. Wordsworth (in his England and the English, p. 308,) an influence of a more noble and purely intellectual character, than any writer of our age or nation has exercised.' Such is the opinion held of this great poet in 1835; but what were those of 1805 - 15, nay, of 1825? For twenty years after the date of that letter to Mr. Wordsworth above referred to, language was exhausted, ingenuity was put on the rack, in the search after images and expressions vile enough insolent enough to convey the unutterable contempt avowed for all that he had written by the fashionable critics. One critic who still, I believe, edits a rather popular journal, and who belongs to that class, feeble, fluttering, ingenious, who make it their highest ambition not to lead, but, with a slave's adulation, to obey and to follow all the caprices. of the public mind described Mr. Wordsworth as resembling, in the quality of his mind, an old nurse babbling in her paralytic dotage to sucking babies. If this insult was peculiarly felt by Mr. Wordsworth, it was on a consideration of the unusual imbecility of him who offered it,
and not because in itself it was baser or more insolent than the language held by the majority of journalists who then echoed the public voice. Blackwood's Magazine (1817) first accustomed the public ear to the language of admiration coupled with the name of Wordsworth. This began with Professor Wilson; and well I remember the proofs are still easy to hunt up nay, that, for eight or ten years, this singularity of opinion, having no countenance from other journals, was treated as a whim, a paradox, a bold extravagance of the Blackwood critics. Mr. Wordsworth's neighbors in Westmoreland, who had (generally speaking) a profound contempt for him, used: to rebut the testimony of Blackwood by one constant replyAy, Blackwood praises Wordsworth, but who else praises him?' In short, up to 1820, the name of Wordsworth was trampled under foot; from 1820 to 1830 it was militant; from 1830 to 1835 it has been triumphant. In 1803, when I entered at Oxford, that name was absolutely unknown; and the finger of scorn pointed at it in 1802 by the first or second number of the Edinburgh Review, failed to reach its mark from absolute defect of knowledge in the public mind. Some fifty beside myself knew who was meant by that poet who had cautioned his friend against growing double,' &c.; to all others it was a profound secret.
These things must be known and understood properly to value the prophetic eye and the intrepidity of two persons, like Professor Wilson and myself, who, in 1802-3, attached themselves to a banner not yet raised and planted ; who outran, in fact, their contemporaries by one entire generation; and did that about 1802 which the rest of the world are doing in chorus about 1832.
Professor Wilson's period at Oxford exactly coincided with my own; yet, in that large world, we never met. I