GEORGE III had outlived three Laureates; Southey, his fourth, outlived three kings, the last of whom, William IV, was never faced with the task of finding a Laureate -- for which no doubt, if he ever thought about it, he was very thankful.1 It was now Victoria's turn. In 1843 the young Queen had yet to become an author, and her interest in contemporary literature was not extensive. She 'entirely approved of the nomination' of William Wordsworth. After all, he was the greatest living poet, and the Laureateship was beginning to be thought a mark of distinction rather than the title for a paid rhymer.
Ten days after Southey died Wordsworth received the Lord Chamberlain's letter offering him the vacant office. The old poet was within sight of his seventy-third birthday, and he probably felt that Southey's death had severed his last link with the old days; he was a man of few friendships, and many of the best of these had been taken from him now. Moreover it was well over twenty years since he had published a new work of any importance. As T. F. Powys remarked on a similar occasion, he 'was not in business now.' He was too old for honours, and he hastened to tell the Lord Chamberlain so:
To the Right Hon. Earl De La Warr, Lord Chamberlain. Rydale Mount, Ambleside, April 1, 1843.
The recommendation made by your Lordship to the Queen, and graciously approved by her Majesty, that the vacant office of Poet Laureate should be offered to me, affords me high gratification. Sincerely am I sensible of this honour; and let me be permitted to add, that the being deemed worthy to succeed my lamented and revered friend, Mr. Southey, enhances the pleasure I receive on this occasion.