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EDINBURGH: JOHN MENZIES.
DUBLIN: HODGES & SMITH.
TO WILLIAM BEST.
I BEG of you to accept this volume as an offering of affection and friendship, because to you I believe of all my friends the writings of the Poet have been the most constant companions, and his words the most abiding influences. But I would further wish to set up this volume as a pillar in memory of that old season when we first sat together with Wordsworth, in the parlour at Rydal, on that quiet August evening ;-one of those glorious evenings we knew together by Grasmere and on Helvellyn; and of that other evening among these hills when you listened to these pages, with her, now gone from me, who united her wisdom and affectionate criticism to yours.
A biography in the usual sense of the word this book does not profess to be, it is an attempt at a coherent view of the life of the Poet, from his own records of thoughts and emotions, bound together by
the faint thread of circumstantial peculiarity and incident. It is true that Wordsworth had scarcely any life in which the world is interested apart from his works, but Dr. Wordsworth goes too far in saying “Let no other Life of Wordsworth be composed beside what has thus been written with his own hand.” I have thought that there is a need for some such exposition as this volume professes to be, and while I feel that I have brought to the self-imposed task few other qualifications than affectionate reverence, I still hope that it may prove a not unacceptable companion to some who desire to know the writings of Wordsworth, but have no time to read what cannot be tripped lightly over.
To many, the estimate I set on the Poet will seem too high. I regard him as the Third English Poet, and eminently the Poet of our Age. If to Milton we may assign height, and to Shakspeare breadth, to Wordsworth more than either-we must assign depth. If Milton is the mightiest Epic Power, and Shakspeare the mightiest Dramatic Power, Wordsworth is the mightiest Reflective and Subjective Power. He extracts most the spiritual and moral significancies from all things, and penetrates farthest into the meaning of the burden of the mystery :-“He entereth into that within the veil” of the human soul.
You will think as you read this book that sometimes I have floated away from the more immediate subject on a gossamer, which had not a very close relation to it. In reading the proof, I have sometimes felt this myself; for instance, it may seem the case in the analysis of the elements of tragic genius suggested by poems so short but so full and so vital as those of Laodamia and Dion.
And now, dearest of friends, and severest of critics, affectionately, Farewell.
E. P. H. NIELEY,