Page images




Selected from the best Editions.







THE 'HE primary object of the publishers of the Miniature Library of the Poets being to supply the public with standard works in as portable a form as possible, consistently with legible type and good materials, it is thought advisable to omit some of the longer poems of Wordsworth, as well as, with a few fine exceptions, the Ecclesiastical Sonnets, and some others, to bring the collection within the compass of two volumes. The Excursion and the Prelude are not the greatest, though they are the longest productions of the poet, and many of the shorter pieces are of such inferior merit that it is difficult to believe they are written by the same author. This fact has been recently remarked by one of the acutest and most learned critics of the day, Mr. Matthew Arnold, in an admirable preface to a selection edited by him. In that treatise he has also done Wordsworth the tardy justice of ranking him above all other English poets (speaking of those who are dead) except Milton, since the time of Shakespeare.

It was the poet's great ambition and hope to be found in the illustrious companionship of the author of Paradise Lost, an aspiration that was long sneered at as extravagant and audacious, though Coleridge, Professor Wilson, and a few other admirers of his genius, cherished the same expectation. In this little series Wordsworth is placed next to his great predecessor, with the hope that they may become pocket companions to many thousands of their fellowcountrymen.


WILLIAM WORDSWORTH was born at Cocker

mouth, in Cumberland, on the 7th of April, 1770. His father was a lawyer and agent to the Earl of Lonsdale. His mother, the daughter of a draper at Penrith, survived the poet's birth only seven years.

At the age of fourteen he was left an orphan, with three brothers and one sister. The latter, Dorothy, though three years his junior, exercised the most beneficial influence on his character and tastes, and survived him unmarried. She was his beloved and loving companion at home and abroad; for she was his fellow-traveller in most of his tours and excursions, and resided with him to the day of his death.

At his father's death the poet was sent to school at Hawkshead, in Lancashire, and remained there until he was seventeen years of age, when he removed to St. John's College, Cambridge. His academical career was not distinguished; for, like Milton, he was impatient of the discipline, and averse to the studies of his college. His last summer vacation was devoted to a pedestrian tour on the Continent, in company with a fellow-collegian, Mr. Robert Jones, with whom in the following year, after taking his degree, he made an excursion to North Wales. In 1791-2 he wrote the Descriptive Sketches, published in 1793. The same year, An Evening Walk, addressed to a Young Lady, appeared. The latter contains sketches of the English lake scenery, with which his future life and reputation were to be so nearly associated.

Wordsworth was at this time, and for many years

« PreviousContinue »