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Friday, April 08, 2016

Words on Wordsworth

Given that it is both Poetry Month and William Wordsworth's birthday (his 146th) I thought it might be a good time to showcase a few Wordsworthian items from our small but fascinating collection of the poet. We have several letters from Wordsworth to Joseph Cottle, who published his Lyrical Ballads, but for this post I'll focus on some of the printed works in our collection. 

One such piece is  Wordsworth's copy of Memorials of a Tour of the Continent 1820, published in 1822. This book of poetry was inspired by his 1820 European tour, which he had undertaken with his sister Dorothy, his wife Mary, and some of Mary's relations. Wordsworth scholars like to point out that this tour was a re-run in reverse of a 1790 walking tour that Wordsworth had done with his friend Robert Jones. They also note that although we often think of Wordsworth in terms of  the Lake District and domesticity,  mobility and travel were also key aspects of his life and personality.

Our copy of Memorials is signed by Wordsworth in pencil at the top of the title page.
William Wordsworth. Memorials of a tour on the continent, 1820. London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1822. EL3 .W926m. Collection of the Rosenbach.

It also includes some of his penciled corrections to the text, as in the case of this page from the poem "Processions."

William Wordsworth. Memorials of a tour on the continent, 1820. London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1822. EL3 .W926m. Collection of the Rosenbach..
 Finally, there are some handwritten lines of verse on one of the rear blank pages.

William Wordsworth. Memorials of a tour on the continent, 1820. London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1822. EL3 .W926m. Collection of the Rosenbach.

One of the aspects of our collection which I really love is that our Wordsworth holdings reflect the connections between other writers and Wordsworth.  Our copy of his 1807 Poems, in Two Volumes (which includes his famous "I wandered lonely as a cloud") is inscribed on the half-title from Wordsworth to his friend and fellow poet Robert Southey.

William Wordsworth, Poems, in two volumes. London : Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1807. EL3 .W926p. Collection of the Rosenbach.

We also have a copy of Wordsworth's posthumously-published book The Prelude that was owned by the New England poet and author James Russell Lowell. Lowell signed and dated the half title in 1850.

William Wordsworth, The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet's Mind ; an Autobiographical Poem.  London: Edward Moxon,1850. EL3 .W926pr. Collection of the Rosenbach.

This copy was ultimately given by Lowell to the publisher and poet James T. Fields in 1866, as evidenced by another inscription on the paste down. Lowell's esteem for the book is evident in the letter tipped into the front, which explains that "I never liked to give away anything of which I had an abundance. It were giving just nothing. Therefore I send you  the "prelude"--and you may reckon it against Hazlitt's "Liber Amoris" which you gave me."

William Wordsworth, The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet's Mind ; an Autobiographical Poem.  London: Edward Moxon,1850. EL3 .W926pr. Collection of the Rosenbach.
I think I'll wrap up here, but as a final (and unrelated) note I will give everyone the answers from last week's April Fool's post. The faux titles were: The true and disturbing tale of Samuel Salt or, The madness of a lion and Vegetables too cheap, an account of the strange and surprising occurrence  in Leefwich. All the others were (believe it or not) real titles from our collection.




Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster at the Rosen-Blog.

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