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In March, 1805, the poet's brother, John, lost his life by the shipwreck of the Abergavenny East-Indiaman, of which he was captain. He was a man of great purity and integrity, and sacrificed himself to his sense of duty by refusing to leave the ship till it was impossible to save him. Wordsworth was deeply attached to him, and felt such grief at his death as only solitary natures like his are capable of, though mitigated by a sense of the heroism which was the cause of it. The need of mental activity as affording an outlet to intense emotion may account for the great productiveness of this and the following year. He now completed ‘The Prelude,’ wrote ‘The Wagoner,’ and increased the number of his smaller poems enough to fill two volumes, which were published in 1807.

This collection, which contained some of the most beautiful of his shorter pieces, and among others the incomparable Odes to Duty and on Immortality, did not reach a second edition till 1815. The reviewers had another laugh, and rival poets pillaged while they scoffed, particularly Byron, among whose verses a bit of Wordsworth showed as incongruously as a sacred vestment on the back of some buccaneering plunderer of an abbey.1 There was a general combination to put him down, but on the other hand there was a powerful party in his favor, consisting of William Wordsworth. He not only continued in good heart himself, but, reversing the order usual on such occasions, kept up the spirits of his friends.2

1 Byron, then in his twentieth year, wrote a review of these volumes not, on the whole, unfair. Crabb Robinson is reported as saying that Wordsworth was indignant at the Edinburgh Review's attack on Hours of Idleness. ‘The young man will do something if he goes on,’ he said.

2 The Rev. Dr. Wordsworth has encumbered the memory of his uncle with two volumes of Memoirs, which for confused dreariness are only matched by the Rev. Mark Noble's ‘History of the Protectorate House of Cromwell.’ It is a misfortune that his materials were not put into the hands of Professor Reed, whose notes to the American edition are among the most valuable parts of it, as they certainly are the clearest. The book contains, however, some valuable letters of Wordsworth; and those relating to this part of his life should be read by every student of his works, for the light they throw upon the principles which governed him in the composition of his poems. In a letter to Lady Beaumont (May 21, 1807) he says, ‘Trouble not yourself upon their present reception; of what moment is that compared with what I trust is their destiny!-to console the afflicted, to add sunshine to daylight by making the happy happier; to teach the young and the gracious of every age, to see, to think and feel, and therefore to become more actively and securely virtuous; this is their office, which I trust they will faithfully perform long after we (that is, all that is mortal of us) are mouldered in our graves. . . . . To conclude, my ears are stone-dead to this idle buzz [of hostile criticism], and my flesh as insensible as iron to these petty stings; and, after what I have said, I am sure yours will be the same. I doubt not that you will share with me an invincible confidence that my writings (and among them these little poems) will co-operate with the benign tendencies in human nature and society wherever found; and that they will in their degree be efficacious in making men wiser, better, and happier.’ Here is an odd reversal of the ordinary relation between an unpopular poet and his little public of admirers; it is he who keeps up their spirits, and supplies them with faith from his own inexhaustible cistern.

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