Tintern Abbey: early reviews

Source: Woof, Robert. William Wordsworth: The Critical Heritage. Florence, KY: Routledge, 2001.

Dr Charles Burney (1726 -1814). Unsigned review, Monthly Review, June 1799, xxix. 202-10.

Lines written near Tintern Abbey. -- The reflections of no common mind; poetical, beautiful, and philosophical: but somewhat tinctured with gloomy, narrow, and unsociable ideas of seclusion from the commerce of the world: as if men were born to live in woods and wilds, unconnected with each other! Is it not to education and the culture of the mind that we owe the raptures which the author so well describes, as arising from the view of beautiful scenery, and sublime objects of nature enjoyed in tranquillity, when contrasted with the artificial machinery and 'busy hum of men' in a city? The savage sees none of the beauties which this author describes. The convenience of food and shelter, which vegetation affords him, is all his concern; he thinks not of its picturesque beauties, the course of rivers, the height of mountains, &c. He has no dizzy raptures in youth; nor does he listen in maturer age 'to the still sad music of humanity.'

So much genius and originality are discovered in this publication, that we wish to see another from the same hand, written on more elevated subjects and in a more cheerful disposition.

Joseph Farington (1747 -1821). From his diary, 1806.

Sir George read part of a Poem by Him called 'Tintern abbey', which He thinks exquisite, & has read it 100 times. -- He also read 'the Beggar' ['The Old Cumberland Beggar'] -- Those were published with others by him & Coleridge by Longman the Bookseller in 1800 [1798]. -- Sir George said he was infinitely indebted to Wordsworth for the good He had recd. from His poetry which had benefitted Him more, had more purified his mind than any Sermons had done. -- Coleridge has more learning, -- more reading, than Wordsworth, but Sir George thinks Him not equal in poetical power.

James Montgomery (1771-1854). Montgomery's unsigned review in the Eclectic, January 1808, IV, 35-43.

Mr. Wordsworth is himself a living example of the power which a man of genius possesses, of awakening unknown and ineffable sensations in the hearts of his fellow-creatures. His Cumberland Beggar, Tintern Abbey, his Verses on the naming of Places, and some other pieces in his former volumes, have taught us new sympathies, the existence of which in our nature had scarcely been intimated to us by any preceding poet. But Mr. Wordsworth must be reminded, that in these, his most successful pieces, he has attired his thoughts in diction of transcendent beauty.

Thomas Noon Talfourd (1795-1854). Essay signed T. N. T., continuation of 'On the Genius and Writings of Wordsworth', New Monthly Magazine, 1 December 1820, XIV, 648-55.

A few lines, however, from the poem composed on the Banks of the Wye, will give our readers a deep glimpse into the inmost heart of his poetry, and of his poetical system, on the communion of the soul of man with the spirit of the universe. In this rapturous effusion - in which, with a wise prodigality, he hints and intimates the profoundest of those feelings which vivify all he has created -- he gives the following view of the progress of his sympathy with the external world:--

-- Nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days . . .
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.] [73-103]

John Keats (1795-1821). From a letter to Reynolds, 3 May 1818.

We are now in that state -- We feel the 'burden of the Mystery,' To this point was Wordsworth come, as far as I can conceive when he wrote 'Tintern Abbey' and it seems to me that his Genius is explorative of those dark Passages. Now if we live, and go on thinking, we too shall explore them. he is a Genius and superior [to] us, in so far as he can, more than we, make discoveries, and shed a light in them --

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Document created September 17th 2006