The Deserted Cottage

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Wiliam Wordsworth, The Deserted Cottage (London and New York: George Routledge & Co., 1859) | PR5858 .A1 1859 c.3

The textual history of Wordsworth’s Excursion, intended as a first installment of his planned magnum opus The Recluse, is astonishingly complicated. The texts that became The Excursion were composed over many years, with portions drafted as early as 1797. These poetic fragments would continue to grow as Wordsworth’s conception of the poem changed over the course of almost twenty years. Furthermore, portions of what would eventually become books 1 and 2, “The Wanderer” and “The Solitary,” had been sometimes referred to under the varying titles “The Ruined Cottage” and “The Pedlar.”

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Routledge’s edition contains illustrations by several well-known Victorian book illustrators, including Birket Foster and John Gilbert. | PR5858 .A1 1859 c. 3

The Excursion first appeared to the public eye in 1814 in a handsome quarto edition, and went through several more editions during his lifetime. Wordsworth continued to revise the poem even after publication, as was his habit throughout his career. “The Wanderer” and “The Solitary” received substantial revisions in 1845, and the newly revised text would see publication, first in a posthumous collected edition by his authorized publisher, Moxon, in 1849 and then in a stand-alone edition in 1857.

 

 

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Routledge issued The Deserted Cottage in several binding styles and colors. The RBC holds seven copies of the work, each in a distinct binding. | PR5858 .A1 1859 c. 6

 

This already complicated history of revision, before and after publication, is further confused by the appearance in 1859 of a volume titled The Deserted Cottage, produced under the imprint of George Routledge and Company. This curious book represented itself in the preface as the fulfillment of a wish by Samuel Taylor Coleridge to see “the first two books of The Excursion … published separately,” though Wordsworth himself seems never to have used the title The Deserted Cottage in reference to the first two books of The Excursion nor did he ever conceive of bringing them into publication separately from the whole.

 

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This dark but vibrant blue was a popular cloth color for Victorian publisher’s bindings. | PR5858 .A1 1859 c. 4

Routledge reproduces the text of the 1814 Excursion, which had come out of copyright in 1858. However, that text was issued before the extensive revisions incorporated in Moxon’s 1857 edition of The Excursion. Whether readers noticed or minded the missing revisions in the text is unknown. Packaged in an array of attractive colors of decorative cloth, and additionally offered in leather with gauffered edges and marbled endpapers, The Deserted Cottage was marketed by Routledge like a gift or prize book. The copies in the RBC’s Wordsworth Collection speak to this history: several contain contemporary gift inscriptions.

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This inscription indicates the book was given as a school prize during the Christmas season. | PR5858 .A1 1859 c. 3

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2 Responses to The Deserted Cottage

  1. Andrew Stauffer says:

    Interesting. I wonder if this has some connection to Goldsmith, as “The Deserted Village” was printed in similar formats in the 19th century: maybe Routledge did one?

    • Elizabeth Ott says:

      I’d have to do some more digging to find the answer to this. A cursory search reveals no editions of “Deserted Village” produced by Routledge in the c19, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts produced an ed. of it in 1858. Ward & Lock came out with an illustrated ed. of Deserted Village in mid-century, as well, also illustrated by Dalziel.

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