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“A Man he seems of cheerful yesterdays
The Excursion, Book VII.
The materials placed in the hands of the Editor, from which to make selections for the following work, were : -1. Brief journals reaching as far as 1810, inclusive ; 2. A regular and full home Diary, begun in 1811, and continued till within five days of Mr. Robinson's death, forming thirty-five closely written volumes; 3. About thirty volumes of Journals of tours ; 4. Reminiscences, reaching down to the year 1843, inclusive ; 5. iscellaneous papers; 6. A large number of letters. It was Mr. Robinson's intention to very materially reduce the number of letters, and to leave only those which were valuable. This sifting he regarded as a chief work of his later years, and he was fond of quoting respecting it the saying of Dr. Aikin when struck by paralysis :—“I must make the most of the salvage of life.” But although he destroyed a vast number of letters, the work of selection and arrangement was very far from completed.
The part of his papers of which he himself contemplated the posthumous publication, was a selection from his Reminiscences, with some letters. Many friends repeatedly urged him to make the necessary preparation for such a publication. Among these were VOL. I.
Rogers and Wordsworth. On the recommendation of the latter, Mr. Robinson laid special stress, for he said, “Wordsworth must be aware that there are many interesting particulars respecting himself, which I should wish to preserve, if I preserved anything." And the recommendation was, therefore, interpreted as sanction to including these particulars with those relating to Goethe, Wieland, and others. To his executors, Mr. Robinson used to say, "If you were to print all that you find,” (referring to the Reminiscences) “ I should think you would show great want of judgment; and I should think the same if you came to the conclusion that there is nothing worth printing.” About six weeks before his death, he met Mr. Macmillan, the publisher of these volumes, who, as they were going down to lunch, gave him his arm, and on the stairs said, “Mr. Robinson, I wonder that you have never been induced to undertake some great literary work." Mr. Robinson stopped, and placing his hand on Mr. Macmillan's shoulder, answered, “It is because I am a wise man. I early found that I had not the literary ability to give me such a place among English authors as I should have desired; but I thought that I had an opportunity of gaining a knowledge of many of the most distinguished men of the age, and that I might do some good by keeping a record of my interviews with them.” And writing to his brother in 1842, he said, “When you complain of my not being so copious as I ought on such occasions, you only remind me of what I am already sufficiently aware, and that I want in an eminent degree the Boswell faculty. With his excellent