« AnteriorContinuar »
that when men took the redress of their wrongs into their own hands without much ceremony, to excite to madness a man of honour and strong feeling. The regent had given to one of his favourites Hamilton's estate of Bothwellhaugh, who proceeded to take possession with such brutality that he turned Hamilton's wife out naked, in a cold night, into the open fields, where before morning she became furiously mad. The spirit of vengeance took deep hold of Hamilton's mind, and was fanned to flame by his indignant kingmen. He followed the regent from place to place, seeking on opportunity to kill him. This at length occurred by his having to pass through Linlithgow on his way from Stirling to Edinburgh. Hamilton placed himself in a wooden gallery, which had a window towards the street; and as the regent slowly, on account of the pressure of the crowd, rode past, he shot him dead.
Add to these scenes and histories that Hamilton Palace, in its beautiful park, lies within a mile of the Bothwell brig, and it must be admitted that no poetess could desire to be born in a more beautiful or classical region. Joanna Baillie's father was at the time of her birth minister of Bothwell. When she was four years old he quitted it, and was removed to different parishes, and finally, only three years before his death, was presented to the chair of divinity at Glasgow. After his death Miss Baillie spent with her family six or more years in the bare muirlands of Kilbride, a scenery not likely io have much attraction for a poetical mind, but made agreeable by the kindness and intelligence of two neighbouring families. She never saw Edinburgh till on her way to England when about twentytwo years of age. Before that period she had never been above ten or twelve miles from home, and, with the exception of Bothwell, never formed much attachment to places. After that, she only saw Scotland as a visitor, and at distant intervals.
For many years Joanna Baillie resided at Hampstead, where she was visited by nearly all the great writers of the age. Scott, as may be seen in his letters to Joanna Baillie, delighted to make himBelf her guest, and on her visit to Scotland, in 1806, she spent some weeks in his house at Edinburgh. From this time they were most intimate friends : she was one of the persons to whom his letters were most frequently addressed, and he planted, in testimony of his friendship for her, a bower of pinasters, the seeds of which she had furnished, at Abbotsford, and called it Joanna's bower. In 1810 her drama, The Family Legend, was, through his means, brought out at Edinburgh. It was the first new play brought out by Mr. Henry Siddons, and was very well received, a fortune which rarely attended her able tragedies, which are imagined to be more suitable for the closet than the stage. There they will continue to charm, while vigour of conception, a clear and masterly style, and healthy nobility of sentiment, retain their hold on the human mind.
Joanna Baillie died February 23d, 1831, aged 89, and is interred in Hampstead churchyard, beside her mother, who had also reached the venerable age of 86.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH was born at Cockermouth on the 7th of April, 1770. His father was a solicitor and law-agent to Sir James Lowther, afterwards Earl of Lonsdale. By his mother's side he was related to the Cooksons and Crackenthorps, families of Cumberland and Westmorland. He was educated at Hawkshead school, where he began to write poetry; he then went to St. John's College, Cambridge, of which his uncle, Dr. Cookson, had been a fellow. During the vacation of 1790, when, of course, he was twenty years of age, he went on a short tour in France and Switzerland, with a fellow-collegian, Robert Jones, a Welshman, returning by the Rhine. They travelled on foot, with knapsacks on their backs and twenty pounds each in their pockets at starting. On taking his degree, Wordsworth made a pedestrian tour in Wales with his friend Jones. In the autumn of 1791 he went again to France, and stayed rather more than a year. During his sojourn there the king was deposed, and the massacres of September took place while he was at Orleans. When he reached Paris the king, queen, and their children lay in prison, France was a republic, and the army of the allies was hovering on the frontiers. Soon after his reaching home the king was executed.
At this period, Wordsworth was, like so many others, an ardent republican, and gave credit to all the fine sentimental theories of the revolutionists. The atrocities which they committed, and the subsequent career of Napoleon, cured him of all that. He became a decided advocate of monarchy, but he never ran into the extreme of despotism, like Southey; and as he had not published, like him, in the effervescence of youth, any such violent effusions as Wat Tyler, and the Botany Bay Eclogues, he escaped the fierce resentment which fell upon Southey, from those who were more steadfast to their original liberalism.
On his return to England, Wordsworth continued for some time in an unsettled state. He could not bring his mind to take orders, and his resources were insufficient for his subsistence without a profession. He spent his time in rambling in the Isle of Wight, on Salisbury Plain, in Wales, and amongst his friends in the North. He thought of publishing a magazaine, and then of getting upon a London newspaper. At this juncture a young friend dying, left him 9001. About the same time he again regained the society of his sister Dorothy, who had been brought up by a relative. From this time the brother and sister were inseparable.
Wordsworth and his sister took up their abode at Rouden, near Crewkerne, in Somersetshire, and there Coleridge, in 1795, paid them a visit. Coleridge had now become connected with Southey and Lovell, two Bristol men, and was in a great measure located there. The spirit of poetry had revived again after a long period of mere imitation; and by these circumstances three of the chief leaders of literary reform were thus brought together. Southey was a Bristol man, Coleridge was a Devonshire man, Wordsworth a Cumberland man; and Bristol for a time seemed as though it were to have the honour of becoming a sort of western Athens. But Bristol itself had no sympathy with any literary spirit. It is one of those places that have the singular fortune to produce great men, though it never cherishes them. It produced Chatterton, and let him perish; it produced Southey, and let him go away to rear the fabric of his fame where he pleased. The spirit of trade, and that not in its most adventurous or liberal character, was and is the spirit of Bristol. By a wretched and penny-wise policy, even of trade, it has allowed Gloucester, at many miles' distance from the sea, to become a great port at its expense; by the same spirit it has created Liverpool ; and whoever now sees its wretched docks coming up into the middle of the town, instead of stretching, business-like and compactly, along the banks of the Avon, its dusty and unwatered streets, and altogether dingy and sluggish appearance, feels at once, that not even the poetry of trade can flourish there. Yet Bristol had the honour thrust upon it of issuing to the world the first productions of Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge. Joseph Cottle, thə author of Alfred, an epic poem, whom Byron so mercilessly handled, grafting upon him the name of his brother Amos, for the sake of more ludicrous effect, - Joseph Cottle was a bookseller here, and became the
patron of those three young, aspiring, but far from wealthy young men.
Coleridge had made the acquaintance of Mr. Thomas Poole, of Nether Stowey, a gentleman of some property, and a magistrate. Mr. Poole was a friend of the two great brother potters, Josiah and Thomas Wedgwood, of Staffordshire ; he introduced Coleridge to them, and eventually they settled on him an annuity of 1501. a-rear; the half of which, however, was afterwards withdrawn by Thomas Wedgwood, or his executors. Poole invited Coleridge to come down to Stowey to see him, and, after his marriage, prevailed on him to go and live in Stowey. The Wedgwoods were accustomed also to visit Mr. Poole ; and the same causes drew Wordsworth and Soutbey occasionally down there. Thus Bristol ceased to be the general rendezvous of this new literary coterie, and the solitudes of Somer. setshire received them. People have often wondered what induced this poetical brotherhood to select a scene so far out of the usual haunts of literary men,-so inferior to Wordsworth's own neighbourhood,-as Stowey and its vicinity. These are the circumstances. It was Mr. Poole and cheapness which had a deal to do with it. Poole drew Coleridge; Coleridge and the dreams of Pantisocracy drew most of the others. Wordsworth, I believe, never speculated on the exclusive happiness of following the plough on the banks of the Susquehannah ; but the whole of the corps had made the discovery that true poetry was based on nature, and that it was to be found only by looking into their own minds, and into the world of natura around them. They therefore sought, not cities, but solitude, where they could at once read, reflect, and store up that treasury of imagery, full of beauty and truth, which should be reproduced, woven into the living tissue of their own thought and passion, as poetry of a new, startling, and high order. To this life of country seclusion Wordsworth and Southey adhered, from choice, all their after lives.
When Coleridge went to settle at Stowey, Wordsworth also removed to Allfoxden, about five miles further down, near the Bristol Channel. Here his secluded habits gave rise to some ludicrous circumstances, annoying enough, however, to drive him out of the neighbourhood. He was deep in the composition of poetry. He bad a Tragedy on the anvil, a poem called Salisbury Plain (never yet published), and Peter Bell ; besides his Lyrical Ballads, which last Cottle brought out while he was here. He sought the deepest sob. tude, and here, if anywhere, he could find it. Allfoxden House is situated at the very extremity of the Quantock hills, and within about a mile and a quarter of the Bristol Channel. As you advance from Stowey, the Quantock hills run along at some little distance on your left hand. They are of the character of downs, open and moorland on the top, and with great masses of wood here and there on their slopes. The country on your right is level, rich, and well wooded. On arriving near Allfoxden, you turn abruptly to the left; and, winding about through a woody lane, and passing through a little hamlet, you begin to feel as if you were going quite out of the world of mankind. You are at the foot of the hills, and a thick
wood terminates your way. But through this wood you have to pass to discover the house where Wordsworth had hidden himself. Entering at a gate, you find yourself in a most Druidical gloom. The wood is of well-grown, tall, and thickly-growing oak; filled still closer with hollies, which were once underwood, but which have shot up, and emulated the very oaks themselves in altitude. They are unquestionably amongst the loftiest hollies in England. Altogether the mass of wood is dense, the scene is shadowy, the ground is strewn with its brown carpet of fallen leaves. As you advance, on your right hand you catch a sound of water; and, pursuing it, you find it issues from the bottom of a deep narrow glen or dean, which no doubt gives the name to the place--All fox den, or glen of all the foxes. This glen is a very poetical feature of the place, and especially attractive to a man in Wordsworth's then turn of mind, which led him to the deepest seclusion for the sake of abstraction. Tall trees soar up from its sides, and meet above; some of them have fallen across, dashed down by the wind. Wild plants grow luxuriantly below; woodbines and other creepers climb and cling from bough to bough ; and the pure and crystal water hurries along over its gravelly bed, beneath this mass of shade and overhanging banks, with a merry music to the neighbouring sea.
Leaviug this glen, you hold on through the wood to the left, and soon emerge into a park, enclosed by hills and woods, where a good country house looks out towards the sea. It is one of the most secluded, and yet pleasantly secluded, houses in England. Around it sweep the hills, scattered with fine timber, beneath which reposes a herd of deer, and before it stretches the sea at a little distance. The house is somewhat raised above the level of the valley, so as to catch the charming view of the lands, woods, and outspread waters below. To the left, near the coast, vou catch a view of the walls of St. Audrey, the seat of Sir Peregrine Ackland, pleasingly assuring you that you are not quite cut off from humanity. Below the house lies a sunny flower garden, and behind, the ascending lawn is enriched by finely disposed masses of trees; amongst them some eportuous old oaks, and elms of noblest growth. There are two elms, growing close together, of remarkable size and height, beneath which a seat is placed, commanding a view of the park and sea ; and just below it a fine, well-grown larch, which used to be a very favourite tree of the poet's. Under these trees he used to sit and read and compose ; and no man could have coveted a more congenial study. Here originated or took form many of his lyrical ballads.
If you ascend the park, you find yourself, after a good stout climb, on the open hills. One summit after another, covered with cluinps of Scotch firs, allures you to ascend, till at length you find yourself far from any abode, on the high moorland hills, amidst å pro ound but glorious solitude. Fine glens, with glittering streams, and here and there a lonely cottage sending up its quiet smoke, run amongst these hills, and extensive tracts of woodland offer you all the charms of forest seclusion. The hills which rauge