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May 8 1812: Wordsworth Consults with Robinson


On May 8 1812,  Henry Crabb Robinson meets Wordsworth and has a long discussion on how to approach Coleridge and try to end their quarrel. Together they formulate a careful set of points that Robinson is to convey to Coleridge. First, Robinson is to advise Coleridge that Wordsworth never gave any "commission" to Montague to say anything from him. Wordsworth will acknowledge that he should have known that Montague was not a "man whose discretion could be safely trusted." Secondly, Wordsworth "denies having ever used such a phrase as rotten drunkard; such an expression he could not, as a man of taste merely, have made use of." (Wordsworth does not think that he used the expression he was "rotting out his entrails by intemperance" but the "idea may have been conveyed in what he said.") Thirdly, he denies saying that Coleridge had been a nuisance to his family. Fourthly, Wordsworth no longer wished to have Coleridge confront Montagu. Robinson also writes: "Wordsworth added other remarks which I was careful not to repeat as they could not tend to the reconciliation so desirable and Perhaps so important to the future happiness of Coleridge." Wordsworth does tell Robinson that Coleridge's powers of mind “to be greater than those of any man he ever knew. From such a man, under favourable influences everything might be looked for. His genius he thought to be great, but his talents greater still, and it is in the union of so much genius with so much talent, that Coleridge surpasses all the men Wordsworth ever knew.”  

Robinson also records in his diary that he had a long talk with Wordsworth about his poetry. He writes the following entry: 
May 8th  — A visit from Wordsworth, who stayed  with me from between twelve and one till past three. I then walked with him to Newman Street. His conversation was long and interesting. He spoke of his own poems with the just feeling of confidence  which a sense of his own excellence gives him. He is  now convinced that he never can derive emolument  from them; but, being independent, he willingly gives  up all idea of doing so. He is persuaded that if men  are to become better and wiser, the poems will sooner  or later make their way. But if we are to perish, and society is not to advance in civilization, " it would be," said he, "wretched selfishness to deplore the want of any personal reputation." The approbation he has met with  from some superior persons compensates for the loss of popularity, though no man has completely under stood him, not excepting Coleridge, who is not happy enough to enter into his feelings. "I am myself," said  Wordsworth, "one of the happiest of men; and no man who does not partake of that happiness, who lives a life of constant bustle, and whose felicity depends on the  opinions of others, can possibly comprehend the best of my poems." I urged an excuse for those who can really enjoy the better pieces, and who yet are offended  by a language they have by early instruction been taught to consider unpoetical; and Wordsworth seemed to tolerate this class, and to allow that his admirers should undergo a sort of education to his works. 

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