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James Russell Lowell, Among my books, Wordsworth. (search)
wth of his own mind, at a time when there were only two men in the world (himself and Coleridge) who were aware that he had one, or at least one anywise differing from those mechanically uniform ones which are stuck drearily, side by side, in the great pin-paper of society. In Germany Wordsworth dined in company with Klopstock, and after dinner they had a conversation, of which Wordsworth took notes. The respectable old poet, who was passing the evening of his days by the chimney-corner, Darby and Joan like, with his respectable Muse, seems to have been rather bewildered by the apparition of a living genius. The record is of value now chiefly for the insight it gives us into Wordsworth's mind. Among other things he said, that it was the province of a great poet to raise people up to his own level, not to descend to theirs,—memorable words, the more memorable that a literary life of sixty years was in keeping with them. It would be instructive to know what were Wordsworth's st
James Russell Lowell, Among my books, Milton. (search)
itions seems, however, to be the less called — for as he himself appears to admit that the compositor, not the author, was supreme in these matters, and that in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases to the thousand Milton had no system, but spelt by immediate inspiration. Yet Mr. Masson fills nearly four pages with an analysis of the vowel sounds, in which, as if to demonstrate the futility of such attempts so long as men's ears differ, he tells us that the short a sound is the same in man and Darby, the short o sound in God and does, and what he calls the long o sound in broad and wrath. Speaking of the apostrophe, Mr. Masson tells us that it is sometimes inserted, not as a possessive mark at all, but merely as a plural mark: hero's for heroes, myrtle's for myrtles, Gorgons and Hydra's, etc. Now, in books printed about the time of Milton's the apostrophe was put in almost at random, and in all the cases cited is a misprint, except in the first, where it serves to indicate that the pr