A Wordsworth Companion: Survey and Assessment by F. B. Pinion

By F. B. Pinion

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Soon after his arrival in Orleans, Wordsworth spent evenings with a 'very agreeable' family; Annette Vallon and her brother, whom she was visiting, may have been among their guests. Her home was at Blois, where her mother had recently remarried. She 33 34 A Wordsworth Companion must have been fascinated by the young Englishman (nearly four years her junior). Perhaps he raised romantic hopes oflife abroad, away from political turmoil and war; she had strong antirevolutionary sentiments. Wordsworth could survey mankim~ and political passions disinterestedly, but he could not resist the winsome ways of this excitable young woman.

He admits that, though he could 'cleave to solitude in lonely places', he could not resist the throng; his heart was 'social, and loved idleness and joy'. As time passed, the 'dazzling show' faded. Gangs of university Mohocks, some dissolute and violent, roamed the streets; wealthy students were given to pranks and ill-mannered comment; and Wordsworth was made to feel his social inferiority as a sizar. He was 'ill-tutored for captivity' by the freedom he had enjoyed at Hawkshead, and resumed his habit of taking long solitary walks.

They were lost again in woods outside Gravedona, after being roused by Italian clocks which made them think it was near dawn, when the lake would be at its loveliest; afraid of rustling noises around, they sat on a rock above the water, watching the dull red reflection of the moon change its form 'like an uneasy snake'. Moving north via the Spliigen Pass, they came to the upper reaches of the Rhine and, after a devious route, descended the Reuss valley to Lake Uri, where they saw a wonderful sunset and listened, before 'the pictured fane' of William Tell, as their boatman narrated the hero's exploits with glowing pride.

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