Wordsworth, Dobson, Prescott

Yesterday, V I Foxglove mentioned a ruffian from Klosterheim, or The Masque, and I notice that the day before, over at Laudator Temporis Acti, Michael Gilleland posted a marvellous bit of De Quincey:

“To begin with his figure:— Wordsworth was, upon the whole, not a well-made man. His legs were pointedly condemned by all the female connoisseurs in legs that ever I heard lecture upon that topic; not that they were bad in any way which would force itself upon your notice — there was no absolute deformity about them; and undoubtedly they had been serviceable legs beyond the average standard of human requisition; for I calculate, upon good data, that with these identical legs Wordsworth must have traversed a distance of 175 to 180,000 English miles — a mode of exertion which, to him, stood in the stead of wine, spirits, and all other stimulants whatsoever to the animal spirits; to which he has been indebted for a life of unclouded happiness, and we for much of what is most excellent in his writings. But, useful as they have proved themselves, the Wordsworthian legs were certainly not ornamental; and it was really a pity, as I agreed with a lady in thinking, that he had not another pair for evening dress parties — when no boots lend their friendly aid to masque our imperfections from the eyes of female rigorists — the elegantes formarum spectatrices. A sculptor would certainly have disapproved of their contour.”

From Literary Reminiscences, chapter X (William Wordsworth)

De Quincey seems to think that the wearing of boots can pull the wool over the eyes of female rigorists, but this was certainly not the case with Marigold Chew. Indeed, it was the boots Dobson trudged around in that often caused her acute, even physical, disgust. The out of print pamphleteer had a huge and unlikely collection of boots, including those of the Austrian Postal Service and the Nova Scotian Seabird Tagging Patrol. Unlike John Prescott, he usually managed to pair them up correctly.*

* NOTE : In his forthcoming mem-wa A View From The Foothills, Chris Mullin MP writes: “[Prescott’s] black mood is compounded by the fact that he has come to work this morning wearing unmatching shoes. We are permitted a brief giggle at this. Towards the end of the meeting a minion appears with a plastic bag containing an assortment of shoes.”

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