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INTRODUCTION

"If an author, by any single composition, has impressed us with respect for his talents, it is useful to consider this as affording a presumption that on other occasions where we have been displeased he, nevertheless, may not have written ill or absurdly; and further, to give him so much credit for this one composition as may induce us to review what has displeased us, with more care than we should otherwise have bestowed on it." This modest plea, addressed by Wordsworth to his contemporaries, was by them utterly rejected. It is the purpose of these pages to consider it anew; to approach the poetry of Wordsworth with a favourable predisposition; to attempt to read it as he would have wished it to be read, and to find in it what he attempted to express.

Literary criticism is a thing of many kinds and many shapes; but the largest part of it perhaps is judicial. To distinguish the good from the bad, whether by a fine taste or by the aid of fixed prin

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ciples, to praise and to blame, to approve and to condemn, these are recognised activities of the critic. And for Wordsworth, it may be said, all this has long since been done. judged. His position is secure. his rank high among the greatest. The finest part of his work has been separated from the inferior bulk, so that new readers of his poetry may make straight for the noblest numbers, without wasting time in reading what the poet, less happy than they, wasted time in writing. Is there anything worth doing, it may be asked, that yet remains to be done?

No doubt, for the rougher purposes of justice, the cause is judged. But there will always remain a certain curious minority of the human race whose desire is not so much to judge a poet as to understand him. Like psychologists in a law-court, they take little interest in the verdict, which sound sense may easily supply; much in the process, for the light it throws at odd angles upon human nature. Or, like antiquaries, they attempt to reconstruct a vanished order from fragments that others are content to use as ornaments. The critic who believes, with Wordsworth, that poets are "men speaking to men," will find something precious in the least of their remains. One problem is here which he cannot neglect. Wordsworth, besides his poetry, has left a full

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