all, viz., that you never engage with him for any unperformed work, when either time or quantity is of importance. Poor fellow! he has no resolve; in fact, nothing that can be called rational will or command of himself as to what he will do or not do; of course, I mean, setting aside the fundamental obligations of morality. Yesterday I learned that he had disappeared from his lodgings, and that he had been seen at eight o'clock entering the town of Kendal. He was at Ambleside the night before at eleven o'clock, so he must have been out the greater part of the night. I have lately begun to think that he has given himself up to his own notions, fancies, reveries, abstractions, etc. I admire his genius and talents far more than I can find words to express, especially for writing prose, which I am inclined to think (as far as I have seen) is more masterly than his verse. The workmanship of the latter seems to me not infrequently too hasty, has indeed too much the air of an Italian's improvisatore production.'
The edition finally appeared in 1840. The critique is lacking, but the biographical introduction and the footnotes, though often discursive and quite irrelevant, are delightful.
TO EDWARD MOXON
Grasmere, March 30, 1839.
Through my excellent friend, Mr. James Spedding, I received notice of your proposal respecting the lives of Massinger and of Ford. I immediately communicated to him my ready acceptance of the terms, which are more liberal than any on which I have hitherto been engaged, except perhaps for the Edinburgh Janus, an annual which did not live to be biennial. Of my style of biography you are perhaps not wholly ignorant, should you ever have chanced to look into my 'Biographia Borealis', a blustering title, as the 'Doctor' says, of which I am rather ashamed; but it was hastily adopted, "'The Worthies of Yorkshire and Lancashire'" being inapplicable to the portion of the contemplated work which circumstances allowed me to execute at the time. With regard to Massinger, I should conjecture there are few facts to be added to the few that Gifford has detailed; for Gifford, however defective in taste, seldom failed in research; moreover, Massinger seems to have passed his life in the obscurity, and, alas! in the penury and brevity of a smoky winter day.