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Wordsworth's Relationship With Crabb Robinson, Part 9 to the Life & Works of
William Wordsworth

Henry Crabb Robinson's biographer, Edith Morley:
"Crabb Robinson became a familiar friend of the whole Wordsworth household, a constant visitor to Rydal, and an intimate with all who frequented the Mount. He travelled with Wordsworth on various occasions - in Wales, in Scotland, in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. The friends met in Herefordshire at the home of Miss Fenwick's relatives, and in London, where they visited in the same houses. They heard frequently from each other by letter when they were separated, and their respect and love for each other increased year by year."69
Morley continues and points out that Wordsworth owes, in no small measure, his fame to the tireless promotional activities of Crabb Robinson. The fact of the matter is that Wordsworth's poems in the early days were not read at all. "At home and abroad, in writing and in conversation, by gifts of the poems, by quotation and by exposition, Robinson did what could be done by heart-felt praise to make converts to the poetry he was among the first to estimate justly." Robinson's message to all who would listen was the same: Wordsworth was "the greatest man now living in this country." Robinson's admiration was not, however, uncritical. "He saw the weaknesses of Wordsworth's work just as he saw faults and his narrowness as a man."70 The two men were "fundamentally opposed in their religious outlook and in their political views," subjects which both men took very seriously. Wordsworth was an orthodox member of the Church of England, "who could not tolerate talk of church reform"; Robinson was a Unitarian.71 Robinson was part of emerging liberal movement, a Whig; Wordsworth, while very much a revolutionary in his younger days came around to be very much the Tory and supported the aristocratic establishment: to Wordsworth: "Rash experiments in such serious matters as government, education and religion were the most dangerous modes of proceeding that could possibly be adopted."72

Edith Morley was to make a most interesting comparison: Robinson to Wordsworth:

"Wordsworth instinctively revolted against the unknown; Robinson was attracted to it. The subject of 'animal magnetism,' or 'mesmerism' as it is now called, is a case in point. Of an entirely different order was the poet's typically insular attitude to foreigners, their habits, and their strange tongues. Crabb Robinson suffered on more than one occasion, when they were fellow-travellers, from Wordsworth's bad manners and British insolence when he was abroad. Thus he provoked rudeness from a waiter or a guide, or incurred retaliation from a landlord, who made him pay for his unreasonableness when the bill was presented. On the other hand, Wordsworth intensely disliked Robinson's habit of entering into conversation with strangers, in a foreign language, at table d'hôte or in the diligence. The poet liked getting up and going to bed early, and he was not particularly fond of town sight-seeing. As he grew older, Crabb Robinson hated Wordsworth's country hours, and he could not bear to leave unseen any sort of curiosity - old buildings, pictures, sculpture, attracted him as much as the beauties of nature, which were his companion's preponderating interest. The long Italian journey became towards the close somewhat of a trial to both men, and though Crabb Robinson never suffered anything comparable with Wordsworth's moodiness, yet there were occasions when even he was hard put to it to maintain his normal equilibrium and cheerful spirits. Not too much should be made of passing breezes: that neither man was unduly ruffled is sufficiently proved by the fact that, after a very short interval at home, they set out again together for another tour of England. There is, besides, the warm and obviously heartfelt praise of Crabb Robinson in Wordsworth's dedication to him of the Italian poems, to show that disagreement was not serious. That it existed is added testimony to the mutual love and respect which rendered the friendship genuine, and unspoilt by anything approaching insincere adulation or toadying on the part of Crabb Robinson.73
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2011