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Southey died on 21 March 1843.
Ten days later, Queen Victoria sanctioned the Lord Chamberlain's
letter offering the vacant post to William Wordsworth (1770-1850).
He was almost 73, and he was the greatest living English poet. Assured
by the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, that there was no longer
any obligations to produce verse, Wordsworth accepted the post.
Two years later, he attended his first royal levee. Of this occasion,
the painter Benjamin Haydon wrote: 'What would Hazlitt say
now? The poet of the lakes and mountains in bag-wig, sword and ruffles!'
Wordsworth's longest poem, The Excursion, appeared in 1814,
and despite some negative reviews (like Francis Jeffrey's
'This will never do' in The Edinburgh Review), it was
one of the most influential works of its time.
William Wordsworth, The Excursion, being a portion of the Recluse,
a Poem. London, Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown,
DeB. Ec 1814 W
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Wordsworth was Laureate for
only seven out of his eighty years, and by the time he accepted
the post, his best work was done: Lyrical Ballads (1798), Prelude
(1805; published 1850), and Poems (1807). He was well equipped to
make a great laureate. Unfortunately the office came to him forty
years too late. On display is a Folio Society edition of a selection
of his poems.
'William Wordsworth, Poems. London: The Folio Society, 1970.
Stk. PR 5853 M751