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down to prevent his coming up. Will not this do? Turn it which way you like--it is selvaged all round. I have used it, these three last days, to keep out the abominable Devonshire weather. By the by, you may say what you will of Devonshire : the truth is, it is a splashy, rainy, misty, snowy, foggy, haily, floody, muddy, slipshod county. The hills are very beautiful, when you get a sight of 'em ; the primroses are out,,but then you are in ; the cliffs are of a fine deep color, but then the clouds are continually vieing with them. The women like your London people in a sort of negative way—because the native men are the poorest creatures in England. When I think of Wordsworth's Sonnet, “ Vanguard of Liberty! ye men of Kent !” the degenerated race about me are pulvis Ipecac. simplex—a strong dose. Were I a corsair, I'd make a descent on the south coast of Devon; if I did not run the chance of having cowardice imputed to me. As for the men, they'd run away into the Methodist meeting-houses; and the women would be glad of it. Had England been a large Devonshire, we should not have won the battle of Waterloo. There are knotted oaks, there are lusty rivulets, there are meadows such as are not elsewhere, but there are no thews and sinews. “Moore's Almanack” is here a curiosity: arms, neck, and shoulders may at least be seen there, and the ladies read it as some out-of-the-way romance. Such a quelling power have these thoughts over me that I fancy the very air of a deteriorating quality. I fancy the flowers, all precocious, have an Acrasian spell about them; I feel able to beat off the Devonshire waves like soap-froth. I think it well, for the honor of England, that Julius Cæsar did not first land in this county. A Devonshirer, standing on his native hills, is not a distinct object; he does not show against the light; a wolf or two would dispossess him. I like, I love England—I like its living men-give me a long brown plain for my money, so I may meet with some of Edmund Ironside's descendants; give me a barren mould, so I may meet with some shadowing of Alfred in the shape of a gipsey, a huntsman, or a shepherd. Scenery is fine, but human nature is finer; the sward is richer for the tread of a real nervous English foot; the eagle's nest is finer, for the mountaineer having looked into it. Are these facts or prejudices? Whatever they be, for them I shall never be able to relish entirely any Devonshire scenery. Homer is fine, Achilles is fine, Diomed is fine, Shakspeare is fine-Hamlet is fine, Lear is fine-but dwindled Englishmen are not fine. Where, too, the women are so passable, and and have such English names, such as Ophelia, Cordelia, &c., that they should have such paramours, or rather imparamours ! As for them, I cannot, in thought, help wishing, as did the cruel emperor, that they had but one head, that I might cut it off, to deliver them from any horrible courtesy they may do their undeserving countrymen. I wonder I meet with no born monsters. O! Devonshire, last night I thought the moon had dwindled in heaven.
I have never had your Sermon from Wordsworth, but Mr. Dilke lent it me. You know my ideas about Religion. I do not think myself more in the right than other peaple, and that nothing in this world is provable. I wish I could enter into all your feelings on the subject, merely for one short ten minutes, and give you a page or two to your liking. I am sometimes so very skeptical as to think Poetry itself a mere Jack o' Lanthorn to amuse whoever may chance to be struck with its brilliance. As tradesmen say every thing is worth what it will fetch, so probably every mental pursuit takes its reality and worth from the ardor of the pursuer-being in itself a nothing. Ethereal things may at least be thus real, divided under three heads—things real, things semi-real, and nothings; things real, such as existences of sun, moon, and stars, and passages of Shakspeare; things semi-real, such as love, the clouds, &c., which require a greeting of the spirit to make them wholly exist; and nothings, which are made great and dignified by an ardent pursuit- which, by the by, stamp the Burgundy-mark on the bottles of our minds, insomuch as they are able to “ consecrate whate'er they look upon.” I have written a sonnet here of a somewhat collateral nature. So don't imagine it is “apropos des bottes.”
“Four seasons fill the measure of the year,” &c.* , Aye, this may be carried—but what am I talking of? It is an old maxim of mine, and of course must be well known, that
* See the “ Literary Remains.”
every point of thought is the centre of an intellectual world. The two uppermost thoughts in a man's mind are the two poles of his world ; he revolves on them, and every thing is southward and northward to him through their means. We take but three steps from feathers to iron. Now, my dear fellow, I must, once for all, tell you I have not one idea of the truth of any of my speculations : I shall never be a reasoner, because I care not to be in the right, when retired from bickering and in a proper philosophical temper. So you must not stare, if, in any future letter, I endeavor to prove that A pollo, as he had catgut strings to his lyre, used a cat's paw as a pecten-and, further, from [the] said pecten's reiterated and continual teasing, came the term hen-pecked.
My brother Tom desires to be remembered to you; he has just this moment had a spitting of blood, poor fellow! Remember me to Grey and Whitehead.
Your affectionate friend,
(Post-mark HAMPSTEAD, 27 Oct., 1818 ] MY DEAR WOODHOUSE,
Your letter gave me great satisfaction, more on account of its friendliness than any relish of that matter in it which is accounted so acceptable in the “ genus irritabile.” The best answer I can give you is in a clerklike manner to make some observations on two principal points which seem to point like indices into the midst of the whole pro and con about genius, and views, and achievements, and ambition, et cetera. 1st. As to the poetical character itself (I mean that sort, of which, if I am any thing, I am a member; that sort distinguished from the Wordsworthian, or egotistical sublime; which is a thing per se, and stands alone), it is not itself—it has no self—it is every thing and nothing—it has no character-it enjoys light and shade—it lives in gusts, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated,—it has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher delights the cameleon poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things, any more than from its taste for the bright one, because they both end in speculation. A poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence, because he has no identity; he is continually in for, and filling, some other body. The sun, the moon, the sea, and men and women, who are creatures of impulse, are poetical, and have about them an unchangeable attribute; the poet has none, no identity. He is certainly the most unpoetical of all God's creatures. If, then, he has no self, and if I am a poet, where is the wonder that I should say I would write no more? Might I not at that very instant have been cogitating on the characters of Saturn and Ops? It is a wretched thing to confess, but it is a very fact, that not one word I ever utter can be taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical nature. How can it, when I have no nature ? When I am in a room with people, if I am free from speculating on creations of my own brain, then, not myself goes home to myself, but the identity of every one in the room begins to press upon me, [so] that I am in a very little time annihilated—not only among men ; it would be the same in a nursery of children. I know not whether I make myself wholly understood : I hope enough to let you see that no dependence is to be placed on what I said that day.
In the second place, I will speak of my views, and of the life I purpose to myself. I am ambitious of doing the world some good: if I should be spared, that may be the work of future years -in the interval I will assay to reach to as high a summit in poetry as the nerve bestowed upon me will suffer. The faint conceptions I have of poems to come bring the blood frequently into my forehead. All I hope is, that I may not lose all interest in human affairs—that the solitary indifference I feel for applause, even from the finest spirits, will not blunt any acuteness of vision I may have. I do not think it will. I feel assured I should write from the mere yearning and fondness I have for the beautiful, even if my night's labors should be burnt every morning, and no eye ever shine upon them. But even now I am perhaps not speaking from myself, but from some character in whose soul I now live.
I am sure, however, that this next sentence is from myself.
I feel your anxiety, good opinion, and friendship, in the highest degree, and am
Yours most sincerely,
Oct. 29, 1818. MY DEAR GEORGE,
There was a part in your letter which gave me great pain; that where you lament not receiving letters from England. I intended to have written immediately on my return from Scotland (which was two months earlier than I intended, on account of my own, as well as Tom's health), but then I was told by Mrs. W. that you had said you did not wish any one to write, till we had heard from you. This I thought odd, and now I see that it could not have been so. Yet, at the time, I suffered my unreflecting head to be satisfied, and went on in that sort of careless and restless life with which you are well acquainted. I am grieved to say that I am not sorry you had not letters at Philadelphia : you could have had no good news of Tom; and I have been withheld, on his account, from beginning these many days. I could not bring myself to say the truth, that he is no better, but much worse : however, it must be told, and you, my dear brother and sister, take example from me, and bear up against any calamity, for my sake, as I do for yours. Ours are ties, which, independent of their own sentiment, are sent us by Providence, to prevent the effects of one great solitary grief: I have Fanny, * and I have you—three people whose happiness, to me, is sacred, and it does annul that selfish sorrow which I should otherwise fall into, living, as I do, with poor Tom, who looks upon me as his only comfort. The tears will come into your eyes: let them; and embrace each other: thank Heaven for what happiness you have, and, after thinking a moment or two that you suffer in common with all mankind, hold it not a sin to regain your cheerfulness.
Your welfare is a delight to me which I cannot express. The moon is now shining full and brilliant ; she is the same to me in