Though there was a shifting in temper of hostility in their minds as far as regarded persons, they only combated the same enemy opposed to them under a different shape; and that enemy was the spirit of selfish tyranny and lawless ambition.
That is a just defence. But the undeniable fact is that, after that time, Wordsworth ceased to combat the spirit of selfish tyranny and lawless ambition as he once had done. There is no need to blame him: also there is no need to defend him. He was human; he was tired; he was growing old. The chief danger of a book like Mr. Dicey’s is that, in accepting its defence of Wordsworth’s maturity, we may come to disparage his splendid youth. Mr. Dicey’s book, however, is exceedingly interesting in calling attention to the great part politics may play in the life of a poet. Wordsworth said, in 1833, that “although he was known to the world only as a poet, he had given twelve hours’ thought to the condition and prospects of society, for one to poetry.” He did not retire into a “wise passiveness” as regards the world’s affairs until he had written some of the greatest political literature—and, in saying this, I am thinking of his sonnets rather than of his political prose—that has appeared in England since the death of Milton.
1. THE BIOGRAPHY