Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82)
After a deeply disappointing meeting with Coleridge (‘the visit was rather a spectacle than a conversation, of no use beyond the satisfaction of my curiosity’), followed by a more bracing and satisfactory exchange of views with Carlyle, Emerson continued his shorter version of the Grand Tour with a visit to Rydal Mount (28 August 1833). By then Wordsworth, in his sixty-third year, had perfected the pattern of his behavior in a casual encounter with any visitor who had come to pay his respects. He would deliver firm opinions on writers and political issues, recite his own poems, and walk his visitor around the gravel path in his garden (sometimes going further, for an additional mile, pointing out local sights, but only if he wanted to prolong the conversation). Emerson deferred to Wordsworth on social issues. He also reconsidered his initial – and unspoken – objection to a recitation (‘so unlooked for and surprising’), deciding that he had come ‘thus far to see a poet’. Wordsworth, he told himself, was entitled to the privilege of soliloquizing. But he did not care for the hardness of Wordsworth’s opinions, and concluded that Wordsworth, however committed he was to his narrow definition of ‘truth’, was an authority only in his own realm of poetry: ‘Off his own beat, his opinions were of no value.’
KeywordsAssure Gravel Defend Verse Milton
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