May 9 1815: Tea With Lambs and Wordsworths

“May 9th. — Took tea with the Lambs. Mr. and Mrs. Wordsworth were there. We had a long chat, of which, however, I can relate but little. Wordsworth, in answer to the common reproach that his sensibility is excited by objects which produce no effect on others, admits the fact, and is proud of it. He says that he cannot be accused of being insensible to the real concerns of life. He does not waste his feelings on unworthy objects, for he is alive to the actual interests of society. I think the justification is complete. If Wordsworth expected immediate popularity, he would betray an ignorance of public taste impossible in a man of observation.

He spoke of the changes in his now poems. He has substituted ebullient for fiery, speaking of the nightingale, and jocund for laughing, applied to the daffodils; but he will probably restore the original epithets. We agreed in preferring the original reading. But on my alluding to the lines,

“Three feet long and two feet wide,”

and confessing that I dared not read them aloud in company, he said, “They ought to be liked.”

Wordsworth particularly recommended to me, among his Poems of Imagination, “Yew-Trees,” and a description of Night. These he says are among the best for the imaginative power displayed in them. I have since read them. They are Sue, but I believe I do not understand in what their excellence consists. The poet himself, as Hazlitt has well observed, has a pride in deriving no aid from his subject. It is the mere power which he is conscious of exerting in which he delights, not the production of a work in which men rejoice on account of the sympathies and sensibilities it excites in them. Hence he does not much esteem his “Laodamia,” as it belongs to the inferior class of poems founded on the affections. In this, as in other peculiarities of Wordsworth, there is a German bent in his mind.”

— Henry Crabb Robinson writes in his journal for May 9 1815.

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