Monday, October 8, 2012
The phrase "Men of Nature."
"A Mere," is a small lake, or a pond, or a bog, or at least something in landscape dominated by water or things that ooze, and maybe contains a Salamander, and generally a mere is well above sea level. I have never been to Grasmere, which is a village that sits close enough to Grasmere Lake. And I don't believe I ever will go there, because I already suspect it's an olde-worldy place that's fit for tourists who like fresh air, hearty exercise, in conjunction with an internet service and maybe beer with the word 'real' in its description. As well, Grasmere is a long way from here, across an ocean, and in the end the Hardware Store is about as far as I can travel without falling to an ennui with emotional outbursts. But if ever I did visit Grasmere, I would want to stare at Dove Cottage, which Wordsworth rented until he and Mrs. Wordsworth so managed their world as to produce three children in four years, with consequent distress on the great man's ability to concentrate upon meaning, or perhaps reputation, through rhyme, and so larger quarters had to be found. Then in 1809, a year after the Wordsworth's left Dove Cottage, Thomas De Quincey moved into it. And while I am certain there will be dispute, I'd argue that De Quincey was one of those people who could be extraordinarily irritating if you happened to be a Wordsworth, or the poet Coleridge (In Xanadu did Kubla Khan), or a Charles Lamb (From Troy ill winds cast Ulysses), or anyone of those people that De Quincy (From an early age I had been accustomed to wash my head in cold water at least once a day), spent a great deal of time trying to meet.
In his essay on Walking Stewart, De Quincey records a conversation he had had with both Wordsworth and Coleridge. The talking had moved into the subject of 'madmen,' which in those days was a category somewhere between 'eccentric' and 'the lunatic asylum.' The two poets were fairly certain that 'madmen' where dull to be around, there was the ranting, the rudeness, the unwarranted assertions and other flaws that 'madmen' appeared to have such little control over. De Quincey disagreed, he claimed that it depended upon the source of the 'madness.' For example, an ailment of the "stomach and its attachments" could indeed lead to distracted thought, incoherence and tediousness, because such an ailment attacked the "principle of a pleasurable life." But, a person whose 'madness' was unallied to such an ailment, who was merely full tilt in the process of his thoughts, however incoherent that person might be, was often a great deal of fun to be around. De Quincey rather enjoyed spending time with Walking Stewart, found his antics amusing. Wordsworth did not, and I'd say that Walking Stewart's 'madness' prompted Wordsworth toward a sort of envy, which is an idea worth exploring if I am indeed to prepare for Winter Solstice through an understanding of what it was Walking Stewart meant by "Men of Nature." And also worth mentioning that De Quincey was a Tory, he championed aristocratic privilege and he wouldn't have set foot in Revolutionary France. He thought The Peterloo Massacre of August 1819 a victory for good sense that set an example to others, rather than the charge of sixty blundering cavalrymen into a gathering of around seventy thousand mostly hungry people who were demanding the right to vote. An event which some have called the origin of the British Labour Movement, and out of which came the funds to produce the first Guardian Newspaper. And if De Quincey were alive today, he'd be recognizable as a presence on one or other of the television programs that seek to indoctrinate through news as a sporting event.