The Prose Works of William Wordsworth
by William Wordsworth
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21 ... 30     Next Part
Home - Random Browse




Edited, with Preface, Notes and Illustrations,







AMS Press, Inc. New York 10003 1967

Manufactured in the United States of America



I have the honour to place in your Majesty's hands the hitherto uncollected and unpublished Prose Works of


—name sufficient in its simpleness to give lustre to any page.

Having been requested thus to collect and edit his Prose Writings by those who hold his MSS. and are his nearest representatives, one little discovery or recovery among these MSS. suggested your Majesty as the one among all others to whom the illustrious Author would have chosen to dedicate these Works, viz. a rough transcript of a Poem which he had inscribed on the fly-leaf of a gift-copy of the collective edition of his Poems sent to the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. This very tender, beautiful, and pathetic Poem will be found on the other side of this Dedication. It must 'for all time' take its place beside the living Laureate's imperishable verse-tribute to your Majesty.

I venture to thank your Majesty for the double permission so appreciatively given—of this Dedication itself and to print (for the first time) the Poem. The gracious permission so pleasantly and discriminatingly signified is only one of abundant proofs that your Majesty is aware that of the enduring names of the reign of Victoria, Wordsworth's is supreme as Poet and Thinker.

Gratefully and loyally, ALEXANDER B. GROSART.

Deign, Sovereign Mistress! to accept a lay, No Laureate offering of elaborate art; But salutation taking its glad way From deep recesses of a loyal heart.

Queen, Wife, and Mother! may All-judging Heaven Shower with a bounteous hand on Thee and Thine Felicity that only can be given On earth to goodness blest by grace divine.

Lady! devoutly honoured and beloved Through every realm confided to thy sway; Mayst Thou pursue thy course by God approved, And He will teach thy people to obey.

As Thou art wont, thy sovereignty adorn With woman's gentleness, yet firm and staid; So shall that earthly crown thy brows have worn Be changed for one whose glory cannot fade.

And now, by duty urged, I lay this Book Before thy Majesty, in humble trust That on its simplest pages Thou wilt look With a benign indulgence more than just.

Nor wilt Thou blame an aged Poet's prayer, That issuing hence may steal into thy mind Some solace under weight of royal care, Or grief—the inheritance of humankind.

For know we not that from celestial spheres, When Time was young, an inspiration came (Oh, were it mine!) to hallow saddest tears, And help life onward in its noblest aim?


9th January 1846.


In response to a request put in the most gratifying way possible of the nearest representatives of WORDSWORTH, the Editor has prepared this collection of his Prose Works. That this should be done for the first time herein seems somewhat remarkable, especially in the knowledge of the permanent value which the illustrious Author attached to his Prose, and that he repeatedly expressed his wish and expectation that it would be thus brought together and published, e.g. in the 'Memoirs,' speaking of his own prose writings, he said that but for COLERIDGE'S irregularity of purpose he should probably have left much more in that kind behind him. When COLERIDGE was proposing to publish his 'Friend,' he (WORDSWORTH) had offered contributions. COLERIDGE had expressed himself pleased with the offer, but said, "I must arrange my principles for the work, and when that is done I shall be glad of your aid." But this "arrangement of principles" never took place. WORDSWORTH added: "I think my nephew, Dr. Wordsworth, will, after my death, collect and publish all I have written in prose...." "On another occasion, I believe, he intimated a desire that his works in Prose should be edited by his son-in-law, Mr. Quillinan."[1] Similarly he wrote to Professor REED in 1840: 'I am much pleased by what you say in your letter of the 18th May last, upon the Tract of the "Convention of Cintra," and I think myself with some interest upon its being reprinted hereafter along with my other writings [in prose]. But the respect which, in common with all the rest of the rational part of the world, I bear for the DUKE OF WELLINGTON will prevent my reprinting the pamphlet during his lifetime. It has not been in my power to read the volumes of his Despatches, which I hear so highly spoken of; but I am convinced that nothing they contain could alter my opinion of the injurious tendency of that or any other Convention, conducted upon such principles. It was, I repeat, gratifying to me that you should have spoken of that work as you do, and particularly that you should have considered it in relation to my Poems, somewhat in the same manner as you had done in respect to my little volume on the Lakes.'[2]

[1] 'Memoirs,' vol. ii. p. 466.

[2] Ibid. vol. i. p. 420.

It is probable that the amount of the Prose of WORDSWORTH will come as a surprise—surely a pleasant one—on even his admirers and students. His own use of 'Tract' to describe a goodly octavo volume, and his calling his 'Guide' a 'little volume' while it is a somewhat considerable one, together with the hiding away of some of his most matterful and weightiest productions in local and fugitive publications, and in Prefaces and Appendices to Poems, go far to explain the prevailing unacquaintance with even the extent, not to speak of the importance, of his Prose, and the light contentment with which it has been permitted so long to remain (comparatively) out of sight. That the inter-relation of the Poems to the Prose, and of the Prose to the Poems—of which above he himself wrote—makes the collection and publication of the Prose a duty to all who regard WILLIAM WORDSWORTH as one of the supreme intellects of the century—as certainly the glory of the Georgian and Victorian age as ever SHAKESPEARE and RALEIGH were of the Elizabethan and Jacobean—will not be questioned to-day.

The present Editor can only express his satisfaction at being called to execute a task which, from a variety of circumstances, has been too long delayed; but only delayed, inasmuch as the members of the Poet's family have always held it as a sacred obligation laid upon them, with the additional sanction that WORDSWORTH'S old and valued friend, HENRY CRABB ROBINSON, Esq., had expressed a wish in his last Will (1868) that the Prose Works of his friend should one day be collected; and which wish alone, from one so discriminating and generous—were there no other grounds for doing so—the family of WORDSWORTH could not but regard as imperative. He rejoices that the delay—otherwise to be regretted—has enabled the Editor to furnish a much fuller and more complete collection than earlier had perhaps been possible. He would now briefly notice the successive portions of these Volumes:



(a) Apology for the French Revolution, 1793.

This is from the Author's own MS., and is published for the first time. Every reader of 'The Recluse' and 'The Excursion' and the 'Lines on the French Revolution, as it appeared to Enthusiasts at its Commencement'—to specify only these—is aware that, in common with SOUTHEY and the greater COLERIDGE, WORDSWORTH was in sympathy with the uprising of France against its tyrants. But it is only now that we are admitted to a full discovery of his youthful convictions and emotion by the publication of this Manuscript, carefully preserved by him, but never given to the world. The title on the fly-leaf—'Apology,' &c., being ours—in the Author's own handwriting, is as follows:


It is nowhere dated, but inasmuch as Bishop WATSON'S Sermon, with the Appendix, appeared early in 1793, to that year certainly belongs the composition of the 'Letter.' The title-page of the Sermon and Appendix may be here given;




1793 [8vo].

In the same year a 'second edition' was published, and also separately the Appendix, thus:



Reprinted at Loughborough, (With his Lordship's permission) by Adams, Jun. and Recommended by the Loughborough Association For the Support of the Constitution to The Serious Attention of the Public.

Price Twopence, being one third of the original price,

1793 [small 8vo],

The Sermon is a somewhat commonplace dissertation on 'The Wisdom and Goodness of God in having made both Rich and Poor,' from Proverbs xxii. 2: 'The rich and poor meet together, the Lord is the Maker of them all.' It could not but be most irritating to one such as young WORDSWORTH—then in his twenty-third year—who passionately felt as well with as for the poor of his native country, and that from an intimacy of knowledge and intercourse and sympathy in striking contrast with the serene optimism of the preacher,—all the more flagrant in that Bishop Watson himself sprang from the very humblest ranks. But it is on the Appendix this Letter expends its force, and, except from BURKE on the opposite side, nothing more forceful, or more effectively argumentative, or informed with a nobler patriotism, is to be found in the English language. If it have not the kindling eloquence which is Demosthenic, and that axiomatic statement of principles which is Baconian, of the 'Convention,' every sentence and epithet pulsates—as its very life-blood—with a manly scorn of the false, the base, the sordid, the merely titularly eminent. It may not be assumed that even to old age WILLIAM WORDSWORTH would have disavowed a syllable of this 'Apology.' Technically he might not have held to the name 'Republican,' but to the last his heart was with the oppressed, the suffering, the poor, the silent. Mr. H. CRABB ROBINSON tells us in his Diary (vol. ii. p. 290, 3d edition): 'I recollect once hearing Mr. WORDSWORTH say, half in joke, half in earnest, "I have no respect whatever for Whigs, but I have a great deal of the Chartist in me;"' and his friend adds: 'To be sure he has. His earlier poems are full of that intense love of the people, as such, which becomes Chartism when the attempt is formally made to make their interests the especial object of legislation, as of deeper importance than the positive rights hitherto accorded to the privileged orders.' Elsewhere the same Diarist speaks of 'the brains of the noblest youths in England' being 'turned' (i. 31, 32), including WORDSWORTH. There was no such 'turning' of brain with him. He was deliberate, judicial, while at a red heat of indignation. To measure the quality of difference, intellectually and morally, between WORDSWORTH and another noticeable man who entered into controversy with Bishop WATSON, it is only necessary to compare the present Letter with GILBERT WAKEFIELD'S 'Reply to some Parts of the Bishop of Landaff's Address to the People of Great Britain' (1798).

The manuscript is wholly in the handwriting of its author, and is done with uncharacteristic painstaking; for later, writing was painful and irksome to him, and even his letters are in great part illegible. One folio is lacking, but probably it contained only an additional sentence or two, as the examination of the Appendix is complete. Following on our ending are these words: 'Besides the names which I.'

That the Reader may see how thorough is the Answer of WORDSWORTH to Bishop WATSON, the 'Appendix' is reprinted in extenso. Being comparatively brief, it was thought expedient not to put the student on a vain search for the long-forgotten Sermon. On the biographic value of this Letter, and the inevitableness of its inclusion among his prose Works, it cannot be needful to say a word. It is noticed—and little more—in the 'Memoirs' (c. ix. vol. i. pp. 78-80). In his Letters (vol. iii.) will be found incidental allusions and vindications of the principles maintained in the 'Apology.'

(b) Concerning the Relations of Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal, to each other and the common Enemy, at this Crisis; and specifically as affected by the Convention of Cintra: the whole brought to the test of those Principles, by which alone the Independence and Freedom of Nations can be Preserved or Recovered. 1809.

As stated in its 'Advertisement,' two portions of this treatise (rather than 'Tract'), 'extending to p. 25' of the completed volume, were originally printed in the months of December and January (1808-9), in the 'Courier' newspaper. In this shape it attracted the notice of no less a reader than Sir WALTER SCOTT, who thus writes of it: 'I have read WORDSWORTH'S lucubrations[3] in the 'Courier,' and much agree with him. Alas! we want everything but courage and virtue in this desperate contest. Skill, knowledge of mankind, ineffable unhesitating villany, combination of movement and combination of means, are with our adversary. We can only fight like mastiffs—boldly, blindly, and faithfully. I am almost driven to the pass of the Covenanters, when they told the Almighty in their prayers He should no longer be their God; and I really believe a few Gazettes more will make me turn Turk or infidel.'[4]

[3] Lucubrations = meditative studies. It has since deteriorated in meaning.

[4] Lockhart's 'Life of Scott,' vol. iii. pp. 260-1 (edition, 1856).

What WORDSWORTH'S own feelings and impulses were in the composition of the 'Convention of Cintra' are revealed with unwonted as fine passion in his 'Letters and Conversations' (vol. iii. pp. 256-261, &c.), whither the Reader will do well to turn, inasmuch as he returns and re-returns therein to his standing-ground in this very remarkable and imperishable book. The long Letters to (afterwards) Sir CHARLES W. PASLEY and another—never before printed—which follow the 'Convention of Cintra' itself, are of special interest. The Appendix of Notes, 'a portion of the work which WORDSWORTH regarded as executed in a masterly manner, was drawn up by De Quincey, who revised the proofs of the whole' ('Memoirs,' i. 384). Of the 'Convention of Cintra' the (now) Bishop of Lincoln (WORDSWORTH) writes eloquently as follows: 'Much of WORDSWORTH'S life was spent in comparative retirement, and a great part of his poetry concerns natural and quiet objects. But it would be a great error to imagine that he was not an attentive observer of public events. He was an ardent lover of his country and of mankind. He watched the progress of civil affairs in England with a vigilant eye, and he brought the actions of public men to the test of the great and lasting principles of equity and truth. He extended his range of view to events in foreign parts, especially on the continent of Europe. Few persons, though actually engaged in the great struggle of that period, felt more deeply than WORDSWORTH did in his peaceful retreat for the calamities of European nations, suffering at that time from the imbecility of their governments, and from the withering oppression of a prosperous despotism. His heart burned within him when he looked forth upon the contest, and impassioned words proceeded from him, both in poetry and prose. The contemplative calmness of his position, and the depth and intensity of his feelings, combined together to give a dignity and clearness, a vigour and splendour, and, consequently, a lasting value, to his writings on measures of domestic and foreign policy, qualities that rarely belong to contemporaneous political effusions produced by those engaged in the heat and din of the battle. This remark is specially applicable to his tract on the Convention of Cintra.... Whatever difference of opinion may prevail concerning the relevance of the great principles enunciated in it to the questions at issue, but one judgment can exist with respect to the importance of those principles, and the vigorous and fervid eloquence with which they are enforced. If WORDSWORTH had never written a single verse, this Essay alone would be sufficient to place him in the highest rank of English poets.... Enough has been quoted to show that the Essay on the Convention of Cintra was not an ephemeral production, destined to vanish with the occasion which gave it birth. If this were the case, the labour bestowed upon it was almost abortive. The author composed the work in the discharge of what he regarded a sacred duty, and for the permanent benefit of society, rather than with a view to any immediate results.'[5] The Bishop adds further these details: 'He foresaw and predicted that his words would be to the public ear what midnight storms are to men who sleep:

[5] 'Memoirs,' as before, vol. i. pp. 383, 399.

"I dropp'd my pen, and listen'd to the wind, That sang of trees uptorn and vessels tost— A midnight harmony, and wholly lost To the general sense of men, by chains confined Of business, care, or pleasure, or resign'd To timely sleep. Thought I, the impassion'd strain, Which without aid of numbers I sustain, Like acceptation from the world will find. Yet some with apprehensive ear shall drink A dirge devoutly breath'd o'er sorrows past; And to the attendant promise will give heed— The prophecy—like that of this wild blast, Which, while it makes the heart with, sadness shrink, Tells also of bright calms that shall succeed."[6]

It is true that some few readers it had on its first appearance; and it is recorded by an ear-witness that Canning said of this pamphlet that he considered it the most eloquent production since the days of Burke;[7] but, by some untoward delays in printing, it was not published till the interest in the question under discussion had almost subsided. Certain it is, that an edition, consisting only of five hundred copies, was not sold off; that many copies were disposed of by the publishers as waste paper, and went to the trunkmakers; and now there is scarcely any volume published in this country which is so difficult to be met with as the tract on the Convention of Cintra; and if it were now reprinted, it would come before the public with almost the unimpaired freshness of a new work.'[8] In agreement with the closing statement, at the sale of the library of Sir James Macintosh a copy fetched (it has been reported) ten guineas. Curiously enough not a single copy was preserved by the Author himself. The companion sonnet to the above, 'composed while the author was engaged in writing a tract occasioned by the Convention of Cintra, 1808,' must also find a place here:

'Not 'mid the world's vain objects that enslave The free-born soul—that world whose vaunted skill In selfish interest perverts the will, Whose factions lead astray the wise and brave— Not there; but in dark wood and rocky cave, And hollow vale which foaming torrents fill With omnipresent murmur as they rave Down their steep beds, that never shall be still, Here, mighty Nature, in this school sublime I weigh the hopes and fears of suffering Spain; For her consult the auguries of time, And through the human heart explore my way, And look and listen—gathering where I may Triumph, and thoughts no bondage can restrain.'[9]

(c) Letter to Major-General Sir Charles W. Pasley, K.C.B., on his 'Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire,' with another—now first printed—transmitting it.

[6] 'Poems dedicated to National Independence and Liberty,' viii.

[7] Southey's 'Life and Correspondence,' vol. iii. p. 180; 'Gentleman's Magazine' for June 1850, p. 617.

[8] 'Memoirs,' as before, vol. i, pp. 404-5.

[9] 'Poems dedicated to National Independence and Liberty,' vii.

The former is derived from the 'Memoirs' (vol. i. pp. 405-20). In forwarding it to the (now) Bishop of Lincoln, Sir CHARLES thus wrote of it: 'The letter on my "Military Policy" is particularly interesting.... Though WORDSWORTH agreed that we ought to step forward with all our military force as principals in the war, he objected to any increase of our own power and resources by continental conquest, in which I now think he was quite right. I am not, however, by any means shaken in the opinion then advanced, that peace with Napoleon would lead to the loss of our naval superiority and of our national independence, ... and I fully believe that the Duke of Wellington's campaigns in the Spanish Peninsula saved the nation, though no less credit is due to the Ministry of that day for not despairing of eventual success, but supporting him under all difficulties in spite of temporary reverses, and in opposition to a powerful party and to influential writers.' The letter transmitting the other has only recently been discovered on a reexamination of the Wordsworth MSS. Both letters have a Shakespearian-patriotic ring concerning 'This England.' It is inspiring to read in retrospect of the facts such high-couraged writing as in these letters.

(d) Two Addresses to the Freeholders of Westmoreland, 1818.

The 'Mr. BROUGHAM' of these 'Two Addresses' was, as all the world knows, the (afterwards) renowned and many-gifted HENRY, Lord BROUGHAM and VAUX. In his Autobiography he refers very good-humouredly to his three defeats in contesting the representation of Westmoreland; but there is no allusion whatever to WORDSWORTH. With reference to his final effort he thus informs us: 'Parliament was dissolved in 1826, when for the third time I stood for Westmoreland; and, after a hard-fought contest, was again defeated. I have no wish to enter into the local politics of that county, but I cannot resist quoting an extract from a letter of my esteemed friend Bishop BATHURST to Mr. HOWARD of Corby, by whose kindness I am enabled to give it: "Mr. BROUGHAM has struggled nobly for civil and religious liberty; and is fully entitled to the celebrated eulogy bestowed by Lucan upon Cato—

'Victrix causa Diis placuit, sed victa Catoni.'

How others may feel I know not, but for my own part I would much rather be in his situation than in that of the two victorious opponents; notwithstanding the cold discouraging maxim of Epictetus, which is calculated to check every virtuous effort—[Greek: Aniketos einai dunasai, ean ouk eis medena agona katabaines, ou ouk estin epinikesai] [=You may be invincible if you never go down into the arena when you are not secure of victory: Enchiridion, cxxv.]. He will not, I hope, suffer from his exertions, extraordinary in every way. I respect exceedingly his fine abilities, and the purpose to which he applies them" (Norwich, July 10, 1826). As Cato owed Lucan's panegyric to the firmness he had shown in adhering to the losing cause, and to his steadfastness to the principles he had adopted, so I considered the Bishop's application of the lines to me as highly complimentary' ('Life and Times,' vol. ii. pp. 437-8). It seemed only due to the subject of WORDSWORTH'S invective and opposition to give his view of the struggle and another's worthy of all respect. Unless the writer has been misinformed, WORDSWORTH and BROUGHAM came to know and worthily estimate each other when the exacerbations and clamours of provincial politics had long passed away, and when, except the 'old gray head' of WELLINGTON, none received more reverence from the nation than that of HENRY BROUGHAM. In the just-issued 'Memoirs of the Reigns of George IV. and William IV.' by GREVILLE, BROUGHAM and WORDSWORTH are brought together very pleasingly. (See these works, vol. iii. p. 504.)

The Author's personal relations to the Lowthers semi-unconsciously coloured his opinions, and intensified his partisanship and glorified the commonplace. But with all abatements these 'Two Addresses' supply much material for a right and high estimate of WORDSWORTH as man and thinker. As invariably, he descends to the roots of things, and almost ennobles even his prejudices and alarms and ultra-caution. There is the same terse, compacted, pungent style in these 'Two Addresses' with his general prose. Bibliographically the 'Two Addresses' are even rarer and higher-priced than the 'Convention of Cintra.'

(e) Of the Catholic Relief Bill, 1829.

To the great names of EDMUND SPENSER and Sir JOHN DAVIES, as Englishmen who dealt with the problem of the government of Ireland, and found it, as more recent statesmen have done, to be in infinite ways 'England's difficulty,' has now to be added one not less great—WILLIAM WORDSWORTH. If at this later day—for even 1829 seems remote now—much of the present letter to the Bishop of London (BLOMFIELD) is mainly of historical noticeableness, as revealing how 'Catholic Emancipation' looked to one of the foremost minds of his age, there are, nevertheless, expressions of personal opinion—e.g. against the Athanasian Creed in its 'cursing' clauses, and expositions of the Papacy regarded politically and ecclesiastically in its domination of Ireland, that have a message for to-day strangely congruous with that of the magnificent philippic 'Of the Vatican Decrees,' which is thundering across Europe as these words are written. As a piece of vigorous, masculine, and o'times eloquent English, this letter may take its place—not an inch lower—beside a 'View of the State of Ireland,' and the 'Discoverie of the True Cavses why Ireland was never entirely subdued, nor brought under obedience of the Crowne of England, untill the beginning of his Maiestie's happie raigne;' while the conflict with Ultramontanism in Germany and elsewhere and Mr. Gladstone's tractate give new significance to its forecastings and portents.

The manuscript, unlike most of his, is largely in WORDSWORTH'S own handwriting—the earlier portion in (it is believed) partly Miss WORDSWORTH'S and partly Mrs. WORDSWORTH'S. In the 'Memoirs' this letter is quoted largely (vol. ii. pp. 136-140). It is now given completely from the manuscript itself, not without significant advantage. It does not appear whether this letter were actually sent to the Bishop of London. There is no mention of it in Bishop Blomfield's 'Life;' and hence probably it never was sent to him. In his letters there are many references to the present topics (cf. vol. iii. pp. 258-9, 263-4, &c.).


I. Of Legislation for the Poor, the Working Classes, and the Clergy: Appendix to Poems, 1835.

This formed one of WORDSWORTH'S most deliberate and powerful Appendices to his Poems (1835), and has ever since been regarded as of enduring worth. It has all the Author's characteristics of deep thinking, imaginative illustration, intense conviction and realness. Again, accept or dissent, this State Paper (so to say) is specially Wordsworthian.

It seems only due to WORDSWORTH to bear in recollection that, herein and elsewhere, he led the way in indicating CO-OPERATION as the remedy for the defects and conflicts in the relations between our capitalists and their operatives, or capital and labour (see the second section of the Postscript, and remember its date—1835).

II. Advice to the Young.

(a) Letter to the Editor of 'The Friend,' signed Mathetes.

(b) Answer to the Letter of Mathetes, 1809.

'Mathetes' proved to be Professor JOHN WILSON, 'eminent in the various departments of poetry, philosophy, and criticism' ('Memoirs,' i. 423), and here probably was the commencement of the long friendship between him and WORDSWORTH. As a student of WILSON'S, the Editor remembers vividly how the 'old man eloquent' used to kindle into enthusiasm the entire class as he worked into his extraordinary lectures quotations from the 'Excursion' and 'Sonnets' and 'Poems of the Imagination.' Among the letters (vol. iii. p. 263) is an interesting one refering to 'Advice to the Young;' and another to Professor WILSON (vol. ii. pp. 208-14).


(a) On the Education of the Young: Letter to a Friend, 1806.

(b) Of the People, their Ways and Needs: Letter to Archdeacon Wrangham, 1808.

(c) Education: Two Letters to the Rev. H.J. Rose, 1828.

(d) Education of Duty: Letter to Rev. Dr. Wordsworth, 1830.

(e) Speech on laying the Foundation-stone of the New School in the Village of Bowness, Windermere, 1836.

In these Letters and the Speech are contained WORDSWORTH'S earliest and latest and most ultimate opinions and sentiments on education. Agree or differ, the student of WORDSWORTH has in these discussions—for in part they have the elaborateness and thoroughness of such—what were of the substance of his beliefs. Their biographic importance—intellectually and spiritually—can scarcely be exaggerated, (a), (b), (c), (d) are from the 'Memoirs;' (e) is from the local newspaper (Kendal), being for the first time fully reprinted.



I. Of Literary Biography and Monuments.

(a) A Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns, 1816.

(b) Letter to a Friend on Monuments to Literary Men, 1819.

(c) Letter to John Peace, Esq., of Bristol, 1844.

These naturally group themselves together. Of the first (a), perhaps it is hardly worth while, and perhaps it is worth while, recalling that WILLIAM HAZLITT, in his Lectures upon the English Poets, attacked WORDSWORTH on this Letter with characteristic insolence and uncritical shallowness and haste. Under date Feb. 24th, 1818, Mr. H. CRABB ROBINSON thus refers to the thing: 'Heard part of a lecture by HAZLITT at the Surrey Institution. He was so contemptuous towards WORDSWORTH, speaking of his Letter about Burns, that I lost my temper. He imputed to WORDSWORTH the desire of representing himself as a superior man' (vol. i. p. 311, 3d ed.). The lecture is included in HAZLITT'S published Lectures in all its ignorance and wrong-headedness; but it were a pity to lose one's temper over such trash. His eyes were spectacles, not 'seeing eyes,' and jaundice-yellow, (b) and (c) are sequels to (a), and as such accompany it.


(a) From 'The Friend.' (b and c) From the Author's MSS., for the first time.

Of (a) CHARLES LAMB wrote: 'Your Essay on Epitaphs is the only sensible thing which has been written on that subject, and it goes to the bottom' (Talfourd's 'Final Memorials,' vol. i. p. 180). The two additional Papers—only briefly quoted from in the 'Memoirs' (c. xxx. vol. i.)—were also intended for 'The Friend,' had COLERIDGE succeeded in his announced arrangement of principles. These additional papers are in every respect equal to the first, with Wordsworthian touches and turns in his cunningest faculty. They are faithfully given from the MSS.


(a) Of the Principles of Poetry and the 'Lyrical Ballads' (1798-1802.)

(b) Of Poetic Diction.

(c) Poetry as a Study (1815).

(d) Of Poetry as Observation and Description, and Dedication of 1815.

(e) Of 'The Excursion:' Preface.

(f) Letters to Sir George and Lady Beaumont and others on the Poems and related Subjects.

(g) Letter to Charles Fox with the 'Lyrical Ballads,' and his Answer, &c.

(h) Letter on the Principles of Poetry and his own Poems to (afterwards) Professor John Wilson.

(a) to (e) form appendices to the early and later editions of the Poems, and created an epoch in literary criticism. COLERIDGE put forth his utmost strength on a critical examination of them, oblivious that he had himself impelled, not to say compelled, his friend to write these Prefaces, as WORDSWORTH signifies. It is not meant by this that COLERIDGE was thereby shut out from criticising the definitions and statements to which he objected.


(a) A Guide through the District of the Lakes, 1835.

(b) Kendal and Windermere Railway: two Letters, &c.

These very much explain themselves; but of the former it may be of bibliographical interest to state that it formed originally the letterpress and Introduction to 'Select Views in Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire,' by the Rev. JOSEPH WILKINSON, Rector of East Wrotham, Norfolk, 1810 (folio). It was reprinted in the volume of Sonnets on the River Duddon. The fifth edition (1835) has been selected as the Author's own final text. In Notes and Illustrations in the place, a strangely overlooked early account of the Lake District is pointed out and quoted from. The 'Two Letters' need no vindication at this late day. Ruskin is reiterating their arguments and sentiment eloquently as these pages pass through the press. Apart from deeper reasons, let the fault-finder realise to himself the differentia of general approval of railways, and a railway forced through the 'old churchyard' that holds his mother's grave or the garden of his young prime. It was a merely sordid matter on the part of the promoters. Their professions of care for the poor and interest in the humbler classes getting to the Lakes had a Judas element in them, nothing higher or purer.



I. Notes and Illustrations of the Poems, incorporating:

(a) The Notes originally added to the first and successive editions.

(b) The whole of the I.F. MSS.

This division of the Prose has cost the Editor more labour and thought than any other, from the scattered and hitherto unclassified semi-publication of these Notes. Those called 'original' are from the first and successive editions of the Poems, being found in some and absent in other collections. An endeavour has been made to include everything, even the briefest; for judging by himself, the Editor believes that to the reverent and thoughtful student of WORDSWORTH the slightest thing is of interest; e.g. one turns to the most commonplace book of topography or contemporary verse in any way noticed by him, just because it is WORDSWORTH who has noticed it, while an old ballad, a legend, a bit of rural usage, takes a light of glory from the page in which it is found. Hence as so much diamond-dust or filings of gold the published Notes are here brought together. Added, and far exceeding in quantity and quality alike, it is the privilege of the Editor to print completely and in integrity the I.F. MSS., as written down to the dictation of WORDSWORTH by Miss FENWICK. These have been hitherto given with tantalising and almost provoking fragmentariness in the 'Memoirs' and in the centenary edition of the Poems—again withdrawn in the recent Rossetti edition. In these Notes—many of which in both senses are elaborate and full—are some of the deepest and daintiest-worded things from WORDSWORTH. The I.F. MSS. are delightfully chatty and informal, and ages hence will be treasured and studied in relation to the Poems by the (then) myriad millions of the English-speaking races.

Miss FENWICK, to whom the world is indebted for these MSS., is immortalised in two Sonnets by WORDSWORTH, which surely long ere this ought to have been included in the Poetical Works; and they may fitly reappear here (from the 'Memoirs'):

'On a Portrait of I.F., painted by Margaret Gillies.

We gaze—nor grieve to think that we must die, But that the precious love this friend hath sown Within our hearts, the love whose flower hath blown Bright as if heaven were ever in its eye, Will pass so soon from human memory; And not by strangers to our blood alone, But by our best descendants be unknown, Unthought of—this may surely claim a sigh. Yet, blessed Art, we yield not to dejection; Thou against Time so feelingly dost strive: Where'er, preserved in this most true reflection, An image of her soul is kept alive, Some lingering fragrance of the pure affection, Whose flower with us will vanish, must survive.


Rydal Mount, New Year's Day, 1840.'

'To I.F.

The star which comes at close of day to shine More heavenly bright than when it leads the morn Is Friendship's emblem, whether the forlorn She visiteth, or shedding light benign Through shades that solemnise Life's calm decline, Doth make the happy happier. This have we Learnt, Isabel, from thy society, Which now we too unwillingly resign Though for brief absence. But farewell! the page Glimmers before my sight through thankful tears, Such as start forth, not seldom, to approve Our truth, when we, old yet unchill'd by age, Call thee, though known but for a few fleet years, The heart-affianced sister of our love!


Rydal Mount, Feb. 1840.'

In addition to these Sonnets the beautiful memory of Miss FENWICK has been reillumined in the 'Memoir and Letters of Sara Coleridge' (2 vols. 1873); e.g. 'I take great delight in Miss Fenwick, and in her conversation. Well should I like to have her constantly in the drawing-room, to come down to and from my little study up-stairs—her mind is such a noble compound of heart and intelligence, of spiritual feeling and moral strength, and the most perfect feminineness. She is intellectual, but—what is a great excellence—never talks for effect, never keeps possession of the floor, as clever women are so apt to do. She converses for the interchange of thought and feeling, no matter how, so she gets at your mind, and lets you into hers. A more generous and a tenderer heart I never knew. I differ from her on many points of religious faith, but on the whole prefer her views to those of most others who differ from her' (ii. 5). Again: 'Miss FENWICK is to me an angel upon earth. Her being near me now has seemed a special providence. God bless her, and spare her to us and her many friends. She is a noble creature, all tenderness and strength. When I first became acquainted with her, I saw at once that her heart was of the very finest, richest quality, and her wisdom and insight are, as ever must be in such a case, exactly correspondent' (ibid. p. 397). Such words from one so penetrative, so indeceivable, so great in the fullest sense as was the daughter of the COLERIDGE, makes every one long to have the same service done for Miss FENWICK as has been done for SARA COLERIDGE and Miss HARE, and within these weeks for Mrs. FLETCHER. Her Diaries and Correspondence would be inestimable to lovers of WORDSWORTH; for few or none got so near to him or entered so magnetically into his thinking. The headings and numberings of the successive Notes—lesser and larger—will guide to the respective Poems and places. The numberings accord with ROSSETTI'S handy one-volume edition of the Poems, but as a rule will offer no difficulty in any. The I.F. MSS. are marked with an asterisk [*]: They are for the first time furnished in their entirety, and accurately.

II. Letters and Extracts of Letters.

These are arranged as nearly as possible chronologically from the 'Memoirs,' &c. &c., with the benefit, as before, of collation in many cases of the original MSS., especially in the Sir W.R. HAMILTON letters, and a number are for the first time printed. The Editor does not at all like 'Extracts,' and must be permitted to regret that what in his judgment was an antiquated and mistaken idea of biography led the excellent as learned Bishop of Lincoln to abridge and mutilate so very many—the places not always marked. On this and the principle and motif which approve and vindicate the publication of the Letters of every really potential intellect such as WORDSWORTH'S, the accomplished daughter of SARA COLERIDGE has remarked: 'A book composed of epistolary extracts can never be a wholly satisfactory one, because its contents are not only relative and fragmentary, but unauthorised and unrevised. To arrest the passing utterances of the hour, and reveal to the world that which was spoken either in the innermost circle of home affection, or in the outer (but still guarded) circle of social or friendly intercourse, seems almost like a betrayal of confidence, and is a step which cannot be taken by survivors without some feelings of hesitation and reluctance. That reluctance is only to be overcome by the sense that, however natural, it is partly founded on delusion—a delusion which leads us to personify "the world," to our imagination, as an obtuse and somewhat hostile individual, who is certain to take things by the wrong handle, and cannot be trusted to make the needful allowance, and supply the inevitable omissions. Whereas it is a more reasonable and a more comfortable belief, that the only part of the world which is in the least likely to concern itself with such volumes as these is composed of a number of enlightened and sympathetic persons' (as before, Preface, vii. viii.). The closing consideration ought to overweigh all scruples and reserve.[10]

[10] The charming 'Journal' in full of Miss WORDSWORTH has only within the past year been published. The welcome it has met with—having bounded into a third edition already—is at once proof of the soundness of judgment that at long-last issued it, if it be also accusatory that many have gone who yearned to read it. The Editor ventures to invite special attention to WORDSWORTH'S own express wish that the foreign 'Journals' of Miss WORDSWORTH and Mrs. WORDSWORTH should be published. Surely his words ought to be imperative (vol. iii. p. 77)?

There is the select circle of lovers of WORDSWORTH—yearly widening—and there are the far-off multitudes of the future to whom WILLIAM WORDSWORTH will be the grand name of the 18th-19th century, and all that SHAKESPEARE and MILTON are now; and consequently the letters of one so chary in letter-writing ought to be put beyond the risks of loss, and given to Literature in entirety and trueness. WORDSWORTH had a morbid dislike of writing letters, his weak eyes throughout rendering all penmanship painful; but the present Editor, while conceding that his letters lack the charm of style of COWPER'S, and the vividness and passion of BYRON'S, finds in them, even the hastiest, matter of rarest biographic and interpretative value. He was not a great sentencemaker; in a way prided himself that his letters were so (intentionally) poor as sure to be counted unworthy of publication; and altogether had the prejudices of an earlier day against the giving of letters to the world; but none the less are his letters informed with his intellect and meditative thoughtfulness and exquisiteness of feeling. It is earnestly to be hoped that one of the Family who is admirably qualified for the task of love will address himself to write adequately and confidingly the Life of his immortal relative; and toward this every one possessed of anything in the handwriting or from the mind of WORDSWORTH may be appealed to for co-operation. The 'Memoirs' of the (now) Bishop of Lincoln, within its own limits, was a great gift; but it is avowedly not a 'Life,' and the world wants a Life. Collation of the originals of these letters has restored sentences and words and things of the most characteristic kind. Very gross mistakes have also been corrected.[11]

[11] It may be well to point out here specially a mistake in heading two of the WORDSWORTH letters to Sir W.R. HAMILTON: 'Royal Dublin Society,' instead of 'Royal Irish Academy' (see vol. iii. pp. 350 and 352); also that at p. 394 'of the' has slipped in from the first 'of the,' and so now reads 'Of the Heresiarch of the Church of Rome,' for 'The Heresiarch Church,' as in the body of the letter.

III. Conversations and Personal Reminiscences of Wordsworth.

From 'Satyrane's Letters;' Klopstock.

Personal Reminiscences of the Hon. Mr. Justice Coleridge.

Recollections of a Tour in Italy with Wordsworth. By H.C. Robinson.

Reminiscences of Lady Richardson and Mrs. Davy.

Conversations recorded by the Bishop of Lincoln.

Reminiscences by the Rev. R.P. Graves, M.A., Dublin; on the Death of Coleridge; and further (hitherto unpublished) Reminiscences.

An American's Reminiscences.

Recollections of Aubrey de Vere, Esq., now first published.[12]

From 'Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron,' by E.J. Trelawny, Esq.

From Letters of Professor Tayler (1872).

Anecdote of Crabbe and Wordsworth.

Wordsworth's Later Opinion of Lord Brougham.

[12] Will the Reader indulgently correct a most unfortunate oversight of the printers in vol. iii. p. 497, l. 15, where 'no angel smiled' (mis)reads 'no angle smiled'?

These are included in the Prose inevitably, inasmuch as they preserve opinions and sentiments, criticisms and sayings, actually spoken by WORDSWORTH, of exactly the type of which Lord COLERIDGE, among other things, wrote the Editor: 'I hope we shall have a transcript from you of the thoughts and opinions of that very great and noble person, of whom (as far as I know them) it is most true that "the very dust of his writings is gold." Any grave and deliberate opinion of his is entitled to weight; and if we have his opinions at all, we should have them whole and entire.'

The Editor has studied to give WORDSWORTH'S own conversations and sayings—not others' concerning him. Hence such eloquent pseudo-enthusiasm as is found in De Quincey's 'Recollections of the Lakes' (Works, vol. ii.) is excluded. He dares to call it pseudo-enthusiasm; for this book of the little, alert, self-conscious creature, with the marvellous brain and more marvellous tongue—a monkey with a man's soul somehow transmigrated into it—opens and shuts without preserving a solitary saying of the man he professes to honour. That is a measure of his admiration as of his insight or no insight. There are besides personal impertinencies, declarative of essential vulgarity.[13] Smaller men have printed their 'Recollections,' or rather retailed their gossip; but they themselves occupy the foreground, much as your chimney-sweep introduces himself prominently in front of his signboard presentment of some many-chimneyed 'noble house.' Even Emerson's 'English Traits' (a most un-English book) belongs to the same underbred category. The new 'Recollections' by AUBREY DE VERE, Esq., it is a privilege to publish—full of reverence and love, and so daintily and musically worded, as they are.

[13] Possibly indignation roused by the 'Recollections' has provoked too vehement condemnation. Let it therefore be noted that it is the 'Recollections' that are censured. Elsewhere DE QUINCEY certainly shows a glimmering recognition of WORDSWORTH'S great qualities, and that before they had been fully admitted; but everywhere there is an impertinence of familiarity and a patronising self-consciousness that is irritating to any one who reverences great genius and high rectitude. It may be conceded that DE QUINCEY, so far as he was capable, did reverence WORDSWORTH; but his exaggerations of awe and delays bear on the face of them unveracity.

Such is an account of the contents of these volumes; and it may be permitted the Editor to record his hearty thanks to the Sons of the Poet—WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, Esq., Carlisle, and the just dead Rev. JOHN WORDSWORTH, M.A., Brigham—and his nephew Professor WORDSWORTH of Bombay, for their so flattering committal of this trust to him; and especially to the last, for his sympathetic and gladdening counsel throughout—augury of larger service ultimately, it is to be hoped. To the co-executor with WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, Esq.—STRICKLAND COOKSON, Esq.—like acknowledgment is due. He cannot sufficiently thank AUBREY DE VERE, Esq., for his brilliant contribution to the 'Personal Reminiscences.' The Rev. ROBERT PERCEVAL GRAVES, M.A., of Dublin (formerly of Windermere), has greatly added to the interest of these volumes by forwarding his further reminiscences of WORDSWORTH and the Hamilton Letters. Fifteen of these letters of WORDSWORTH, not yet published, will be given in a Life of the great mathematician of Ireland, Sir W.R. HAMILTON, towards whom WORDSWORTH felt the warmest friendship, and of whose many-sided genius he had the most absolute admiration. Mr. GRAVES, walking in the footsteps of FULKE GREVILLE, Lord BROOKE, who sought that on his tomb should be graven 'Friend of Sir Philip Sidney' (albeit he would modestly disclaim the lofty comparison), regards it as his title to memory that he was called 'my highly esteemed friend' by WORDSWORTH (vol. iii. p. 27). For the GRAVESES the Poet had much regard, and it was mutual. A Sonnet addressed to WORDSWORTH by the (now) Bishop of Limerick was so highly valued by him that it is a pleasure to be able to read it, as thus:

'To Wordsworth.

The Sages of old time have pass'd away, A throng of mighty names. But little power Have ancient names to rule the present hour: No Plato to the learners of our day In grove of Academe reveals the way, The law, the soul of Nature. Yet a light Of living wisdom, beaming calm and bright, Forbids our youth 'mid error's maze to stray. To thee, with gratitude and reverent love, O Poet and Philosopher! we turn; For in thy truth-inspired song we learn Passion and pride to quell—erect to move, From doubts and fears deliver'd—and conceiving Pure hopes of heaven, live happy in believing.

August 1833.' C.G.

Lady RICHARDSON has similarly added to the value of her former 'Recollections' for this work. Very special gratitude is due to the Miss QUILLINANS of Loughrigg, Rydal, for the use of the MS. of Miss FENWICK'S Notes—one half in their father's handwriting, and the other half (or thereabout) in that of Mrs. QUILLINAN ('DORA'), who at the end has written:

'To dearest Miss Fenwick are we obliged for these Notes, every word of which was taken down by her kind pen from my father's dictation. The former portion was transcribed at Rydal by Mr. Quillinan, the latter by me, and finished at the Vicarage, Brigham, this twenty-fifth day of August 1843.—D.Q.'

The MS., he it repeated, is now printed in extenso, nor will the least acceptable be 'DORA'S' own slight pencillings intercalated. The Miss COOKSONS of Grasmere were good enough to present the Editor with a copy of the 'Two Letters to the Freeholders of Westmoreland', when he had almost despaired of recovering the pamphlet. Thanks are due to several literary friends for aid in the Notes and Illustrations. There must be named Professor DOWDEN and Rev. E.P. GRAVES, M.A.,[14] Dublin; F.W. COSENS, Esq., and G.A. SIMCOX, Esq., London; W. ALDIS WRIGHT, Esq., M.A., Trinity College, Cambridge.

[14] Mr. Graves has published the following on the Wordsworths: (a) 'Recollections of Wordsworth and the Lake Country'; a lecture, and a capital one. (b) 'A Good Name and the Day of Death: two Blessings'; a sermon preached in Ambleside Church, January 30, 1859, on occasion of the death of Mrs. Wordsworth—tender and consolatory. (c) 'The Ascension of our Lord, and its Lessons for Mourners'; a sermon (1858) finely commemorative of Arnold, the Wordsworths, Mrs. Fletcher, and others.

One point only remains to be noticed. Every one who knows our highest poetical literature knows the 'Lost Leader' of ROBERT BROWNING, Esq. Many have been the speculations and surmises and assertions and contradictions as to who the 'Lost Leader' was. The verdict of one of the immortals on his fellow-immortal concerns us all. Hence it is with no common thankfulness the Editor of WORDSWORTH'S Prose embraces this opportunity of settling the controversy beyond appeal, by giving a letter which Mr. BROWNING has done him the honour to write for publication. It is as follows:

'19 Warwick-crescent, W. Feb. 24, '75.


I have been asked the question you now address me with, and as duly answered it, I can't remember how many times: there is no sort of objection to one more assurance, or rather confession, on my part, that I did in my hasty youth presume to use the great and venerated personality of WORDSWORTH as a sort of painter's model; one from which this or the other particular feature may be selected and turned to account: had I intended more, above all, such a boldness as portraying the entire man, I should not have talked about "handfuls of silver and bits of ribbon". These never influenced the change of politics in the great poet; whose defection, nevertheless, accompanied as it was by a regular face about of his special party, was to my juvenile apprehension, and even mature consideration, an event to deplore. But just as in the tapestry on my wall I can recognise figures which have struck out a fancy, on occasion, that though truly enough thus derived, yet would be preposterous as a copy, so, though I dare not deny the original of my little poem, I altogether refuse to have it considered as the "very effigies" of such a moral and intellectual superiority.

Faithfully yours,


The Editor cannot close this Preface without expressing his sense of the greatness of the trust confided to him, and the personal benefit it has been to himself to have been brought so near to WILLIAM WORDSWORTH as he has been in working on this collection of his Prose. He felt almost awed as he handled the great and good man's MSS., and found himself behind the screen (as it were), seeing what he had seen, touching what he had touched, knowing what he had known, feeling what he had felt. Reverence, even veneration is an empty word to utter the emotion excited in such communion; these certainly, but something tenderer and more human were in head and heart. It was a grand, high-thoughted, pure-lived, unique course that was run in those sequestered vales. The closer one gets to the man, the greater he proves, the truer, the simpler; and it is a benediction to the race, amid so many fragmentary and jagged and imperfect lives, to have one so rounded and completed, so august and so genuine:

'Summon Detraction to object the worst That may be told, and utter all it can; It cannot find a blemish to be enforced Against him, other than he was a man, And built of flesh and blood, and did live here, Within the region of infirmity; Where all perfections never did appear To meet in any one so really, But that his frailty ever did bewray Unto the world that he was set in clay.'

(Funeral Panegyric on the Earl of Devonshire, by Samuel Daniel.)


Park View, Blackburn, Lancashire.

NOTE.—It is perhaps right to mention, for Editor and present Printers' sake, that WORDSWORTH'S own capitals, italics, punctuation, and other somewhat antique characteristics, have been faithfully reproduced. At the dates, capitals, italics, and punctuation were more abundant than at present. G.


*** A star [*] designates publication herein for the first time. G. PAGE The Dedication to the Queen v *Poem addressed to her Majesty with a Gift-copy of the Poems. vi The Preface vii-xxxviii


*I. Apology for the French Revolution, 1793 1-23 Appendix to Bishop Watson's Sermon 24-30 II. The Convention of Cintra, 1809 31-174 Appendix by De Quincey 175-194 III. Vindication of Opinions in the Treatise on the 'Convention of Cintra:' (a) Letter to Major-General Sir Charles W. Pasley, K.C.B., on his 'Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire,' 1811 195-200 *(b) Letter enclosing the Preceding to a Friend unnamed 206-209 iv. Two Addresses to the Freeholders of Westmoreland, 1818 211-257 *v. Of the Catholic Relief Bill, 1829 259-270


I. Of Legislation for the Poor, the Working Classes, and the Clergy: Appendix to Poems, 1835 271-294 II. Advice to the Young: (a) Letter to the Editor of 'The Friend,' signed 'Mathetes' 295-308 (b) Answer to the Letter of 'Mathetes,' 1809 309-326 III. Of Education: (a) On the Education of the Young: Letter to a Friend, 1806 327-333 (b) Of the People, their Ways and Needs: Letter to Archdeacon Wrangham, 1808 334-339 (c) Education: two Letters to the Rev. H. J. Rose, 1828 340-348 (d) Education of Duty: Letter to Rev. Dr. Wordsworth, 1830 349 *(e) Speech on laying the Foundation-stone of the New School in the Village of Bowness, Windermere, 1830 350-356





For an account of the manuscript of this 'Apology,' and details on other points, see Preface in the present volume. G.



Reputation may not improperly be termed the moral life of man. Alluding to our natural existence, Addison, in a sublime allegory well known to your Lordship, has represented us as crossing an immense bridge, from whose surface from a variety of causes we disappear one after another, and are seen no more. Every one who enters upon public life has such a bridge to pass. Some slip through at the very commencement of their career from thoughtlessness, others pursue their course a little longer, till, misled by the phantoms of avarice and ambition, they fall victims to their delusion. Your Lordship was either seen, or supposed to be seen, continuing your way for a long time unseduced and undismayed; but those who now look for you will look in vain, and it is feared you have at last fallen, through one of the numerous trap-doors, into the tide of contempt, to be swept down to the ocean of oblivion.

It is not my intention to be illiberal; these latter expressions have been forced from me by indignation. Your Lordship has given a proof that even religious controversy may be conducted without asperity; I hope I shall profit by your example. At the same time, with a spirit which you may not approve—for it is a republican spirit—I shall not preclude myself from any truths, however severe, which I may think beneficial to the cause which I have undertaken to defend. You will not, then, be surprised when I inform you that it is only the name of its author which has induced me to notice an Appendix to a Sermon which you have lately given to the world, with a hope that it may have some effect in calming a perturbation which, you say, has been excited in the minds of the lower orders of the community. While, with a servility which has prejudiced many people against religion itself, the ministers of the Church of England have appeared as writers upon public measures only to be the advocates of slavery civil and religious, your Lordship stood almost alone as the defender of truth and political charity. The names of levelling prelate, bishop of the Dissenters, which were intended as a dishonour to your character, were looked upon by your friends—perhaps by yourself—as an acknowledgment of your possessing an enlarged and philosophical mind; and like the generals in a neighbouring country, if it had been equally becoming your profession, you might have adopted, as an honourable title, a denomination intended as a stigma.

On opening your Appendix, your admirers will naturally expect to find an impartial statement of the grievances which harass this Nation, and a sagacious inquiry into the proper modes of redress. They will be disappointed. Sensible how large a portion of mankind receive opinions upon authority, I am apprehensive lest the doctrines which they will there find should derive a weight from your name to which they are by no means intrinsically entitled. I will therefore examine what you have advanced, from a hope of being able to do away any impression left on the minds of such as may be liable to confound with argument a strong prepossession for your Lordship's talents, experience, and virtues.

Before I take notice of what you appear to have laid down as principles, it may not be improper to advert to some incidental opinions found at the commencement of your political confession of faith.

At a period big with the fate of the human race I am sorry that you attach so much importance to the personal sufferings of the late royal martyr, and that an anxiety for the issue of the present convulsions should not have prevented you from joining in the idle cry of modish lamentation which has resounded from the Court to the cottage. You wish it to be supposed you are one of those who are unpersuaded of the guilt of Louis XVI. If you had attended to the history of the French Revolution as minutely as its importance demands, so far from stopping to bewail his death, you would rather have regretted that the blind fondness of his people had placed a human being in that monstrous situation which rendered him unaccountable before a human tribunal. A bishop, a man of philosophy and humanity[15] as distinguished as your Lordship, declared at the opening of the National Convention—and twenty-five millions of men were convinced of the truth of the assertion—that there was not a citizen on the tenth of August who, if he could have dragged before the eyes of Louis the corpse of one of his murdered brothers, might not have exclaimed to him: 'Tyran, voila ton ouvrage.' Think of this, and you will not want consolation under any depression your spirits may feel at the contrast exhibited by Louis on the most splendid throne of the universe, and Louis alone in the tower of the Temple or on the scaffold. But there is a class of men who received the news of the late execution with much more heartfelt sorrow than that which you, among such a multitude, so officiously express. The passion of pity is one of which, above all others, a Christian teacher should be cautious of cherishing the abuse when, under the influence of reason, it is regulated by the disproportion of the pain suffered to the guilt incurred. It is from the passion thus directed that the men of whom I have just spoken are afflicted by the catastrophe of the fallen monarch. They are sorry that the prejudice and weakness of mankind have made it necessary to force an individual into an unnatural situation, which requires more than human talents and human virtues, and at the same time precludes him from attaining even a moderate knowledge of common life, and from feeling a particular share in the interests of mankind. But, above all, these men lament that any combination of circumstances should have rendered it necessary or advisable to veil for a moment the statues of the laws, and that by such emergency the cause of twenty-five millions of people, I may say of the whole human race, should have been so materially injured. Any other sorrow for the death of Louis is irrational and weak.

[15] M. Gregoire.

In France royalty is no more. The person of the last anointed is no more also; and I flatter myself I am not alone, even in this kingdom, when I wish that it may please the Almighty neither by the hands of His priests nor His nobles (I allude to a striking passage of Racine) to raise his posterity to the rank of his ancestors, and reillume the torch of extinguished David.[16]

[16] See Athalie, [act i.] scene 2:

'Il faut que sur le trone un roi soit eleve, Qui se souvienne un jour qu'au rang de ses ancetres.

You say: 'I fly with terror and abhorrence even from the altar of Liberty, when I see it stained with the blood of the aged, of the innocent, of the defenceless sex, of the ministers of religion, and of the faithful adherents of a fallen monarch.' What! have you so little knowledge of the nature of man as to be ignorant that a time of revolution is not the season of true Liberty? Alas, the obstinacy and perversion of man is such that she is too often obliged to borrow the very arms of Despotism to overthrow him, and, in order to reign in peace, must establish herself by violence. She deplores such stern necessity, but the safety of the people, her supreme law, is her consolation. This apparent contradiction between the principles of liberty and the march of revolutions; this spirit of jealousy, of severity, of disquietude, of vexation, indispensable from a state of war between the oppressors and oppressed, must of necessity confuse the ideas of morality, and contract the benign exertion of the best affections of the human heart. Political virtues are developed at the expense of moral ones; and the sweet emotions of compassion, evidently dangerous when traitors are to be punished, are too often altogether smothered. But is this a sufficient reason to reprobate a convulsion from which is to spring a fairer order of things? It is the province of education to rectify the erroneous notions which a habit of oppression, and even of resistance, may have created, and to soften this ferocity of character, proceeding from a necessary suspension of the mild and social virtues; it belongs to her to create a race of men who, truly free, will look upon their fathers as only enfranchised.[17]


Dieu l'a fait remonter par la main de ses pretres: L'a tire par leurs mains de l'oubli du tombeau, Et de David eteint rallume le flambeau.'

The conclusion of the same speech applies so strongly to the present period that I cannot forbear transcribing it:

'Daigne, daigne, mon Dieu, sur Mathan, et sur elle Repandre cet esprit d'imprudence et d'erreur, De la chute des rois funeste avant-coureur!'

I proceed to the sorrow you express for the fate of the French priesthood. The measure by which that body was immediately stripped of part of its possessions, and a more equal distribution enjoined of the rest, does not meet with your Lordship's approbation. You do not question the right of the Nation over ecclesiastical wealth; you have voluntarily abandoned a ground which you were conscious was altogether untenable. Having allowed this right, can you question the propriety of exerting it at that particular period? The urgencies of the State were such as required the immediate application of a remedy. Even the clergy were conscious of such necessity; and aware, from the immunities they had long enjoyed, that the people would insist upon their bearing some share of the burden, offered of themselves a considerable portion of their superfluities. The Assembly was true to justice, and refused to compromise the interests of the Nation by accepting as a satisfaction the insidious offerings of compulsive charity. They enforced their right. They took from the clergy a large share of their wealth, and applied it to the alleviation of the national misery. Experience shows daily the wise employment of the ample provision which yet remains to them. While you reflect on the vast diminution which some men's fortunes must have undergone, your sorrow for these individuals will be diminished by recollecting the unworthy motives which induced the bulk of them to undertake the office, and the scandalous arts which enabled so many to attain the rank and enormous wealth which it has seemed necessary to annex to the charge of a Christian pastor. You will rather look upon it as a signal act of justice that they should thus unexpectedly be stripped of the rewards of their vices and their crimes. If you should lament the sad reverse by which the hero of the necklace[18] has been divested of about 1,300,000 livres of annual revenue, you may find some consolation that a part of this prodigious mass of riches is gone to preserve from famine some thousands of cures, who were pining in villages unobserved by Courts.

[18] Prince de Rohan.

I now proceed to principles. Your Lordship very properly asserts that 'the liberty of man in a state of society consists in his being subject to no law but the law enacted by the general will of the society to which he belongs.' You approved of the object which the French had in view when, in the infancy of the Revolution, they were attempting to destroy arbitrary power, and to erect a temple to Liberty on its remains. It is with surprise, then, that I find you afterwards presuming to dictate to the world a servile adoption of the British constitution. It is with indignation I perceive you 'reprobate' a people for having imagined happiness and liberty more likely to flourish in the open field of a Republic than under the shade of Monarchy. You are therefore guilty of a most glaring contradiction. Twenty-five millions of Frenchmen have felt that they could have no security for their liberties under any modification of monarchical power. They have in consequence unanimously chosen a Republic. You cannot but observe that they have only exercised that right in which, by your own confession, liberty essentially resides.

As to your arguments, by which you pretend to justify your anathemas of a Republic—if arguments they may be called—they are so concise, that I cannot but transcribe them. 'I dislike a Republic for this reason, because of all forms of government, scarcely excepting the most despotic, I think a Republic the most oppressive to the bulk of the people; they are deceived in it with a show of liberty, but they live in it under the most odious of all tyrannies—the tyranny of their equals.'

This passage is a singular proof of that fatality by which the advocates of error furnish weapons for their own destruction: while it is merely assertion in respect to a justification of your aversion to Republicanism, a strong argument may be drawn from it in its favour. Mr. Burke, in a philosophic lamentation over the extinction of chivalry, told us that in those times vice lost half its evil by losing all its grossness. Infatuated moralist! Your Lordship excites compassion as labouring under the same delusion. Slavery is a bitter and a poisonous draught. We have but one consolation under it, that a Nation may dash the cup to the ground when she pleases. Do not imagine that by taking from its bitterness you weaken its deadly quality; no, by rendering it more palatable you contribute to its power of destruction. We submit without repining to the chastisements of Providence, aware that we are creatures, that opposition is vain and remonstrance impossible. But when redress is in our own power and resistance is rational, we suffer with the same humility from beings like ourselves, because we are taught from infancy that we were born in a state of inferiority to our oppressors, that they were sent into the world to scourge, and we to be scourged. Accordingly we see the bulk of mankind, actuated by these fatal prejudices, even more ready to lay themselves under the feet of the great than the great are to trample upon them. Now taking for granted, that in Republics men live under the tyranny of what you call their equals, the circumstance of this being the most odious of all tyrannies is what a Republican would boast of; as soon as tyranny becomes odious, the principal step is made towards its destruction. Reflecting on the degraded state of the mass of mankind, a philosopher will lament that oppression is not odious to them, that the iron, while it eats the soul, is not felt to enter into it. 'Tout homme ne dans l'esclavage nait pour l'esclavage, rien n'est plus certain; les esclaves perdent tout dans leurs fers, jusqu'au desir d'en sortir; ils aiment leur servitude, comme les compagnons d'Ulysse aimaient leur abrutissement.'

I return to the quotation in which you reprobate Republicanism. Relying upon the temper of the times, you have surely thought little argument necessary to content what few will be hardy enough to support; the strongest of auxiliaries, imprisonment and the pillory, has left your arm little to perform. But the happiness of mankind is so closely connected with this subject, that I cannot suffer such considerations to deter me from throwing out a few hints, which may lead to a conclusion that a Republic legitimately constructed contains less of an oppressive principle than any other form of government.

Your Lordship will scarcely question that much of human misery, that the great evils which desolate States, proceed from the governors having an interest distinct from that of the governed. It should seem a natural deduction, that whatever has a tendency to identify the two must also in the same degree promote the general welfare. As the magnitude of almost all States prevents the possibility of their enjoying a pure democracy, philosophers—from a wish, as far as is in their power, to make the governors and the governed one—will turn their thoughts to the system of universal representation, and will annex an equal importance to the suffrage of every individual. Jealous of giving up no more of the authority of the people than is necessary, they will be solicitous of finding out some method by which the office of their delegates may be confined as much as is practicable to the proposing and deliberating upon laws rather than to enacting them; reserving to the people the power of finally inscribing them in the national code. Unless this is attended to, as soon as a people has chosen representatives it no longer has a political existence, except as it is understood to retain the privilege of annihilating the trust when it shall think proper, and of resuming its original power. Sensible that at the moment of election an interest distinct from that of the general body is created, an enlightened legislator will endeavour by every possible method to diminish the operation of such interest. The first and most natural mode that presents itself is that of shortening the regular duration of this trust, in order that the man who has betrayed it may soon be superseded by a more worthy successor. But this is not enough; aware of the possibility of imposition, and of the natural tendency of power to corrupt the heart of man, a sensible Republican will think it essential that the office of legislator be not intrusted to the same man for a succession of years. He will also be induced to this wise restraint by the grand principle of identification; he will be more sure of the virtue of the legislator by knowing that, in the capacity of private citizen, to-morrow he must either smart under the oppression or bless the justice of the law which he has enacted to-day.

Perhaps in the very outset of this inquiry the principle on which I proceed will be questioned, and I shall be told that the people are not the proper judges of their own welfare. But because under every government of modern times, till the foundation of the American Republic, the bulk of mankind have appeared incapable of discerning their true interests, no conclusion can be drawn against my principle. At this moment have we not daily the strongest proofs of the success with which, in what you call the best of all monarchical governments, the popular mind may be debauched? Left to the quiet exercise of their own judgment, do you think that the people would have thought it necessary to set fire to the house of the philosophic Priestley, and to hunt down his life like that of a traitor or a parricide? that, deprived almost of the necessaries of existence by the burden of their taxes, they would cry out, as with one voice, for a war from which not a single ray of consolation can visit them to compensate for the additional keenness with which they are about to smart under the scourge of labour, of cold, and of hunger?

Appearing, as I do, the advocate of Republicanism, let me not be misunderstood. I am well aware, from the abuse of the executive power in States, that there is not a single European nation but what affords a melancholy proof that if, at this moment, the original authority of the people should be restored, all that could be expected from such restoration would in the beginning be but a change of tyranny. Considering the nature of a Republic in reference to the present condition of Europe, your Lordship stops here; but a philosopher will extend his views much farther: having dried up the source from which flows the corruption of the public opinion, he will be sensible that the stream will go on gradually refining itself. I must add also, that the coercive power is of necessity so strong in all the old governments, that a people could not at first make an abuse of that liberty which a legitimate Republic supposes. The animal just released from its stall will exhaust the overflow of its spirits in a round of wanton vagaries; but it will soon return to itself, and enjoy its freedom in moderate and regular delight.

But, to resume the subject of universal representation, I ought to have mentioned before, that in the choice of its representatives a people will not immorally hold out wealth as a criterion of integrity, nor lay down as a fundamental rule, that to be qualified for the trying duties of legislation a citizen should be possessed of a certain fixed property. Virtues, talents, and acquirements are all that it will look for.

Having destroyed every external object of delusion, let us now see what makes the supposition necessary that the people will mislead themselves. Your Lordship respects 'peasants and mechanics when they intrude not themselves into concerns for which their education has not fitted them.'

Setting aside the idea of a peasant or mechanic being a legislator, what vast education is requisite to enable him to judge amongst his neighbours which is most qualified by his industry and integrity to be intrusted with the care of the interests of himself and of his fellow-citizens? But leaving this ground, as governments formed on such a plan proceed in a plain and open manner, their administration would require much less of what is usually called talents and experience, that is, of disciplined treachery and hoary Machiavelism; and at the same time, as it would no longer be their interest to keep the mass of the nation in ignorance, a moderate portion of useful knowledge would be universally disseminated. If your Lordship has travelled in the democratic cantons of Switzerland, you must have seen the herdsman with the staff in one hand and the book in the other. In the constituent Assembly of France was found a peasant whose sagacity was as distinguished as his integrity, whose blunt honesty over-awed and baffled the refinements of hypocritical patriots. The people of Paris followed him with acclamations, and the name of Pere Gerard will long be mentioned with admiration and respect through the eighty-three departments.

From these hints, if pursued further, might be demonstrated the expediency of the whole people 'intruding themselves' on the office of legislation, and the wisdom of putting into force what they may claim as a right. But government is divided into two parts—the legislative and executive. The executive power you would lodge in the hands of an individual. Before we inquire into the propriety of this measure, it will be necessary to state the proper objects of the executive power in governments where the principle of universal representation is admitted. With regard to that portion of this power which is exerted in the application of the laws, it may be observed that much of it would be superseded. As laws, being but the expression of the general will, would be enacted only from an almost universal conviction of their utility, any resistance to such laws, any desire of eluding them, must proceed from a few refractory individuals. As far, then, as relates to the internal administration of the country, a Republic has a manifest advantage over a Monarchy, inasmuch as less force is requisite to compel obedience to its laws.

From the judicial tribunals of our own country, though we labour under a variety of partial and oppressive laws, we have an evident proof of the nullity of regal interference, as the king's name is confessedly a mere fiction, and justice is known to be most equitably administered when the judges are least dependent on the crown.

I have spoken of laws partial and oppressive; our penal code is so crowded with disproportioned penalties and indiscriminate severity that a conscientious man would sacrifice, in many instances, his respect for the laws to the common feelings of humanity; and there must be a strange vice in that legislation from which can proceed laws in whose execution a man cannot be instrumental without forfeiting his self-esteem and incurring the contempt of his fellow-citizens.

But to return from this digression: with regard to the other branches of the executive government, which relate rather to original measures than to administering the law, it may be observed that the power exercised in conducting them is distinguished by almost imperceptible shades from the legislative, and that all such as admit of open discussion and of the delay attendant on public deliberations are properly the province of the representative assembly. If this observation be duly attended to, it will appear that this part of the executive power will be extremely circumscribed, will be stripped almost entirely of a deliberative capacity, and will be reduced to a mere hand or instrument. As a Republican government would leave this power to a select body destitute of the means of corruption, and whom the people, continually contributing, could at all times bring to account or dismiss, will it not necessarily ensue that a body so selected and supported would perform their simple functions with greater efficacy and fidelity than the complicated concerns of royalty can be expected to meet with in the councils of princes; of men who from their wealth and interest have forced themselves into trust; and of statesmen, whose constant object is to exalt themselves by laying pitfalls for their colleagues and for their country.

I shall pursue this subject no further; but adopting your Lordship's method of argument, instead of continuing to demonstrate the superiority of a Republican executive government, I will repeat some of the objections which have been often made to monarchy, and have not been answered.

My first objection to regal government is its instability, proceeding from a variety of causes. Where monarchy is found in its greatest intensity, as in Morocco and Turkey, this observation is illustrated in a very pointed manner, and indeed is more or less striking as governments are more or less despotic. The reason is obvious: as the monarch is the chooser of his ministers, and as his own passions and caprice are in general the sole guides of his conduct, these ministers, instead of pursuing directly the one grand object of national welfare, will make it their chief study to vary their measures according to his humours. But a minister may be refractory: his successor will naturally run headlong into plans totally the reverse of the former system; for if he treads in the same path, he is well aware that a similar fate will attend him. This observation will apply to each succession of kings, who, from vanity and a desire of distinction, will in general studiously avoid any step which may lead to a suspicion that they are so spiritless as to imitate their predecessor. That a similar instability is not incident to Republics is evident from their very constitution.

As from the nature of monarchy, particularly of hereditary monarchy, there must always be a vast disproportion between the duties to be performed and the powers that are to perform them; and as the measures of government, far from gaining additional vigour, are, on the contrary, enfeebled by being intrusted to one hand, what arguments can be used for allowing to the will of a single being a weight which, as history shows, will subvert that of the whole body politic? And this brings me to my grand objection to monarchy, which is drawn from (THE ETERNAL NATURE OF MAN.) The office of king is a trial to which human virtue is not equal. Pure and universal representation, by which alone liberty can be secured, cannot, I think, exist together with monarchy. It seems madness to expect a manifestation of the general will, at the same time that we allow to a particular will that weight which it must obtain in all governments that can with any propriety be called monarchical. They must war with each other till one of them is extinguished. It was so in France and....

I shall not pursue this topic further, but, as you are a teacher of purity of morals, I cannot but remind you of that atmosphere of corruption without which it should seem that courts cannot exist.

You seem anxious to explain what ought to be understood by the equality of men in a state of civil society; but your Lordship's success has not answered your trouble. If you had looked in the articles of the Rights of Man, you would have found your efforts superseded: 'Equality, without which liberty cannot exist, is to be met with in perfection in that State in which no distinctions are admitted but such as have evidently for their object the general good;' 'The end of government cannot be attained without authorising some members of the society to command, and of course without imposing on the rest the necessity of obedience.'

Here, then, is an inevitable inequality, which may be denominated that of power. In order to render this as small as possible, a legislator will be careful not to give greater force to such authority than is essential to its due execution. Government is at best but a necessary evil. Compelled to place themselves in a state of subordination, men will obviously endeavour to prevent the abuse of that superiority to which they submit; accordingly they will cautiously avoid whatever may lead those in whom it is acknowledged to suppose they hold it as a right. Nothing will more effectually contribute to this than that the person in whom authority has been lodged should occasionally descend to the level of private citizen; he will learn from it a wholesome lesson, and the people will be less liable to confound the person with the power. On this principle hereditary authority will be proscribed; and on another also—that in such a system as that of hereditary authority, no security can be had for talents adequate to the discharge of the office, and consequently the people can only feel the mortification of being humbled without having protected themselves.

Another distinction will arise amongst mankind, which, though it may be easily modified by government, exists independent of it; I mean the distinction of wealth, which always will attend superior talents and industry. It cannot be denied that the security of individual property is one of the strongest and most natural motives to induce men to bow their necks to the yoke of civil government. In order to attain this end of security to property, a legislator will proceed with impartiality. He should not suppose that, when he has insured to their proprietors the possession of lands and movables against the depredation of the necessitous, nothing remains to be done. The history of all ages has demonstrated that wealth not only can secure itself, but includes even an oppressive principle. Aware of this, and that the extremes of poverty and riches have a necessary tendency to corrupt the human heart, he will banish from his code all laws such as the unnatural monster of primogeniture, such as encourage associations against labour in the form of corporate bodies, and indeed all that monopolising system of legislation, whose baleful influence is shown in the depopulation of the country and in the necessity which reduces the sad relicks to owe their very existence to the ostentatious bounty of their oppressors. If it is true in common life, it is still more true in governments, that we should be just before we are generous; but our legislators seem to have forgotten or despised this homely maxim. They have unjustly left unprotected that most important part of property, not less real because it has no material existence, that which ought to enable the labourer to provide food for himself and his family. I appeal to innumerable statutes, whose constant and professed object it is to lower the price of labour, to compel the workman to be content with arbitrary wages, evidently too small from the necessity of legal enforcement of the acceptance of them. Even from the astonishing amount of the sums raised for the support of one description of the poor may be concluded the extent and greatness of that oppression, whose effects have rendered it possible for the few to afford so much, and have shown us that such a multitude of our brothers exist in even helpless indigence. Your Lordship tells us that the science of civil government has received all the perfection of which it is capable. For my part, I am more enthusiastic. The sorrow I feel from the contemplation of this melancholy picture is not unconsoled by a comfortable hope that the class of wretches called mendicants will not much longer shock the feelings of humanity; that the miseries entailed upon the marriage of those who are not rich will no longer tempt the bulk of mankind to fly to that promiscuous intercourse to which they are impelled by the instincts of nature, and the dreadful satisfaction of escaping the prospect of infants, sad fruit of such intercourse, whom they are unable to support. If these flattering prospects be ever realised, it must be owing to some wise and salutary regulations counteracting that inequality among mankind which proceeds from the present fixed disproportion of their possessions.

I am not an advocate for the agrarian law nor for sumptuary regulations, but I contend that the people amongst whom the law of primogeniture exists, and among whom corporate bodies are encouraged, and immense salaries annexed to useless and indeed hereditary offices, is oppressed by an inequality in the distribution of wealth which does not necessarily attend men in a state of civil society.

Thus far we have considered inequalities inseparable from civil society. But other arbitrary distinctions exist among mankind, either from choice or usurpation. I allude to titles, to stars, ribbons, and garters, and other badges of fictitious superiority. Your Lordship will not question the grand principle on which this inquiry set out; I look upon it, then, as my duty to try the propriety of these distinctions by that criterion, and think it will be no difficult task to prove that these separations among mankind are absurd, impolitic, and immoral. Considering hereditary nobility as a reward for services rendered to the State—and it is to my charity that you owe the permission of taking up the question on this ground—what services can a man render to the State adequate to such a compensation that the making of laws, upon which the happiness of millions is to depend, shall be lodged in him and his posterity, however depraved may be their principles, however contemptible their understandings?

But here I may be accused of sophistry; I ought to subtract every idea of power from such distinction, though from the weakness of mankind it is impossible to disconnect them. What services, then, can a man render to society to compensate for the outrage done to the dignity of our nature when we bind ourselves to address him and his posterity with humiliating circumlocutions, calling him most noble, most honourable, most high, most august, serene, excellent, eminent, and so forth; when it is more than probable that such unnatural flattery will but generate vices which ought to consign him to neglect and solitude, or make him the perpetual object of the finger of scorn? And does not experience justify the observation, that where titles—a thing very rare—have been conferred as the rewards of merit, those to whom they have descended, far from being thereby animated to imitate their ancestor, have presumed upon that lustre which they supposed thrown round them, and, prodigally relying on such resources, lavished what alone was their own, their personal reputation?

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21 ... 30     Next Part
Home - Random Browse