[WORDSWORTH, WILLIAM (1770-1850, poet)]

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Lot 257
[WORDSWORTH, WILLIAM (1770-1850, poet)]

Sold for £ 2,400 (US$ 3,088) inc. premium
[WORDSWORTH, WILLIAM (1770-1850, poet)]
AUTOGRAPH DESCRIPTION OF WORDSWORTH BY THOMAS DE QUINCEY (1785-1859) FROM HIS 'RECOLLECTIONS OF THE LAKES AND THE LAKE POETS', two pages from this celebrated essay, comprising the greater part of the description of Wordsworth beginning: 'time. Haydon, the eminent painter, in his great picture of "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem" has introduced Wordsworth...' and ending: '..."The light that never was on land or Sea", a light radiating from...'; also containing reflections on the nature of the English face in general and descriptions of Charles Lamb and Sir Walter Scott, with some autograph revisions, 2 pages, on both sides of one leaf, quarto, the first page numbered 18, some [for De Quincey] characteristic stains, lower right-hand corner missing with the loss of a few words, stitched down the left-hand edge to another sheet numbered 13 and inscribed in a nineteenth-century ?American hand 'Holograph of De Quincey, the 'Opium Eater' - a curious paper on 'faces' with reference to Scott, Wordsworth &c &c', no date [but watermarked 1837]

Footnotes

  • DE QUINCEY'S FAMOUS DESCRIPTION OF WORDSWORTH: '...It was a face of the long order, often falsely classed as oval...if not absolutely the indigenous face of the lake district - at any rate a variety of that face, a modification of that original face. The head was well filled out: and there, to begin with, was a great advantage over the head of Charles Lamb which was absolutely truncated in the posterior region - sawn off, as it were, by no timid sawyer. The forehead was not remarkably lofty...not remarkable for its height, but it is perhaps remarkable for its breadth and expansive development. Neither are the eyes of Wordsworth "large"...on the contrary they are (I think) rather small: but that does not interfere with their effect which at time is fine and suitable to his intellectual character at times, I say, for the depth and subtlety of eyes varies exceedingly with the state of the stomach...I have seen Wordsworth's eyes oftentimes affected powerfully...his eyes are not under any circumstances bright, lustrous, or piercing: but after a long day's toil in walking I have seen them assume an appearance the most solemn and spiritual that it is possible for the human eye to wear. The light which resides in them is at no time a superficial light; but under favourable accidents...it is a light which seems to come from depths below all depths..."The light that never was on land, or Sea"...'

    Herbert Read (Wordsworth, 1930) described De Quincey's portrait of Wordsworth in his Recollections as 'By far the best and most detailed portrait of Wordsworth' and added that 'The whole account is dramatic in the extreme, one of the most masterly descriptions in the English Language.' Only the Confessions of an English Opium Eater are rated higher in the canon of De Quincey's work.

    The present manuscript contains numerous differences in punctuation and some verbal ones from the text in De Quincey's Works, ii. pp 141-144. The most striking variant reading is in the description of Wordsworth's eyes: in this manuscript the light is said to seem to come 'from depths below all depths' and in the printed text 'from unfathomed depths'.

    A SIGNIFICANT ROMANTIC MANUSCRIPT - the centre-piece of De Quincey's articles which 'together...constitute the most thorough and lifelike portrait of Wordsworth by one who knew him.' (G. Lindop,Opium Eater, 1981).
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