WORDSWORTH "hates conchology, and he hates the Venus of Medici"--that was one of the severest charges Hazlitt could make in the notorious account of the Lake Poets in Lectures on the English Poets. The brightest star of the Uffizi had never been placed so low (except by "Smelfungus" Smollett), though Aphrodite rising from the sea had traditional associations with conchology. One should notice, however, that on the insistence of Crabb Robinson and others Hazlitt took back the charges about Wordsworth's opinion of the Venus in The Spirit of the Age, without admitting that he himself had made them in the first place. The statements, he hoped with uncertain sincerity, were "mere epigrams and jeux-d'esprit, as far from truth as they are free from malice."1 In any case, Wordsworth's reputation as an art-lover was cleared, and he was now entitled to "love" the Venus, if he wished.
Nevertheless Wordsworth had not been especially interested in the arts either in his early days in Cumberland and Westmoreland or in the period of greatest productivity between 1798 and 1807. Even had he possessed Polymetis in his boyhood, the plates of Grecian statues would certainly have interested him less than they did Keats and Hunt. Like Byron and Shelley, Landor and Coleridge, they absorbed the classicistic culture of the time in ways that Wordsworth the "northern villager" did not.
On the other hand, Wordsworth approached very closely to the life of "Grecian simplicity" admired from a distance by the connoisseurs and artists of the tare eighteenth century who collected and____________________