In the preface to his influential 1879 selected edition of Wordsworth, poet and critic Matthew Arnold set about to do two things for Wordsworth’s legacy. Firstly, he hoped to divide the “really first-rate work” that Wordsworth had produced between the years of 1798 and 1808 from the “mass of inferior work” that clogged and obstructed true appreciation of Wordsworth’s genius. His second aim was to divest the arrangement of Wordsworth’s poems from the idiosyncratic “scheme of mental physiology” that Wordsworth had invented for his 1815 Poems, an arrangement that had been adhered to by Wordsworth’s publishers in all subsequent collected editions of his works.
Arnold’s new arrangement grouped poems together by their form—ballads with ballads, odes with odes, etc. Just a few years later, in 1882, editor William Knight would propose yet another arrangement: chronological. Knight’s Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, unlike Arnold’s selective edition, is expansively comprehensive, running to eleven volumes. In the preface to his edition, Knight writes that he adopted chronology to show “the growth of [Wordsworth’s] mind, the progressive development of his imaginative power”—echoing the subtitle of the Prelude, or Growth of a Poet’s Mind.
Knight also acknowledges just how difficult chronological arrangement is for a poet like Wordsworth, who wrote over the course of many decades and revised frequently. Moreover, Wordsworth’s revisions, claims Knight, were not always for the better, and the discerning reader might prefer an earlier state of the text. To ameliorate these issues, Knight included copious footnotes, mapping out the textual history of each poem. He devoted the last three volumes of the set to a detailed biography, which also included several pieces of writing by Wordsworth that had never before been in print. In short, Knight dressed Wordsworth within a scholarly apparatus.
Knight’s Poetical Works was issued in three sizes: a “standard” edition standing 23 cm tall, a large paper edition of 27.5 cm, and a largest paper edition of 29 cm. The median large paper edition can additionally be divided into two issues: one with a limitation statement marking it as one of 115 copies “on Large paper,” and a second with a limitation statement specifying one of 25 copies on “Imperial octavo laid paper.” Knight’s edition is further dressed up by a different engraved frontispiece in each volume. In the large and largest paper copies, the frontispieces are printed on fine china paper adhered to heavier stock.
These luxe touches, like Knight’s footnotes and biographical volumes, acknowledge Wordsworth’s position by the 1880s as one of England’s premier poets—a status that, even ten years prior, was not taken for granted.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Monday evening, Wilson Library celebrated the new rare book exhibition Lyric Impressions: Wordsworth in the Long Nineteenth Century. A viewing and reception were followed by a tour-de-force lecture entitled “Wordsworthian Carnage,” delivered by Professor Duncan Wu of Georgetown University.
The cold rain could not keep away over 80 poetry and rare book enthusiasts, who enjoyed the enlightening display of 140 items, curated by Elizabeth Ott from the RBC’s Wordsworth Collection and related holdings. The exhibition examines Wordsworth’s writing within the context of world events spanning over a century, from the years of the French Revolution to the First World War. The multiple editions and issues of Wordsworth’s poetry also demonstrate the remarkable changes in book production during that period, as technology and literary markets developed at an unprecedented pace. In 2010 Mark L. Reed, III, Lineburger Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, tripled the size of the Wordsworth Collection with a gift of 1,700 volumes, making such an exploration possible. And so, Monday evening was also an occasion to honor Professor Reed and his extraordinary generosity, which has helped UNC become a leading repository for print editions of the British Romantics.
Professor Wu took as the subject for his lecture a notable line in William Wordsworth’s “Thanksgiving Ode,” which was written for a general day of thanksgiving in Britain just a little over 200 years ago, January 18, 1816. That commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo brought forth Wordsworth’s complex thoughts and feelings about the decisive world event. His poem, which failed to find critical acclaim in general, became best known instead for one verse in particular: “Yea, Carnage is thy daughter.” In a presentation worthy of London’s West End as well as the halls of academe, Professor Wu investigated the significance of those words through passages from other writers—including Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and William Hazlitt. Faculty, friends, and staff, as well as UNC students past and present, all left energized by Professor Wu’s dramatic performance, its scholarly sweep, and the power of poetry.
In the after-festivities, David Vander Meulen, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, presented the Rare Book Collection with an unusual copy of the 1879 Poems of Wordsworth, edited by Matthew Arnold. Reed’s comprehensive collecting culminated in 2013 with an exemplary scholarly resource: A Bibliography of William Wordsworth 1787-1930, published by Cambridge University Press. Professor Vander Meulen, editor of the distinguished journal Studies in Bibliography, recognized the 1879 volume as an unrecorded variant of A163 in Reed’s bibliography. As he noted, “several features do not appear to match the descriptions of the first printing: Spine. The imprint reads simply ‘Macmillan’ (as in issue 1), but Arnold’s name is absent (as in issue 2); First gathering. Leaf π1, ordinarily containing the Golden Treasury Series device and the epigraph, is not present. (But the book does have the tissue guard facing the title page, which is on ‘moderately stiff paper’).” Professor Reed observed that the binding seemed to represent a state between his bibliography’s first and second bindings, “a very exciting discovery.”
Professor Vander Meulen spoke for Studies in Bibliography colleague Elizabeth Lynch and himself: “The gift above all is to show respect for Mark’s magnum opus and labor of love, the Wordsworth bibliography. It is a remarkable accomplishment, characterized by uncommon thoroughness, accuracy, and understanding. . . . The donation also signals gratitude in a more personal way. We remain appreciative and indebted to Mark’s article in Studies in Bibliography on the title pages of Lyrical Ballads. It’s a model that I provide to students in my bibliography class every year.”
Mark Reed’s collecting began almost fifty years ago with the acquisition of a copy of Lyrical Ballads, and it is fair to say that this most recent thoughtful addition to the Wordsworth Collection won’t be the last. With such a formidable establishment, UNC is committed to the continued growth of its Wordsworth Collection as well as its allied British Romantic holdings.
A catalog of Lyric Impressions is being published and will be available through UNC Press. Look forward to an announcement on our blog.
The enduring fame of Wordsworth’s collaboration with Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Lyrical Ballads has ensured that Wordsworth’s friendship with Coleridge is a well-known aspect of his biography. In fact, it was just one of many important literary and artistic friendships that helped to shape Wordsworth’s Romantic circle. Of particular note is Wordsworth’s lengthy friendship with fellow Laker Robert Southey, England’s poet laureate from 1813 to his death in 1843.
Wordsworth met Southey and Coleridge in 1795, a time when all three poets were caught up in republican sentiment. Wordsworth’s initial friendship with Southey was not without setbacks: notably, Southey’s less-than generous review of Lyrical Ballads. Wordsworth was offended at the idea that the review might hurt sales of the book—a matter that concerned him greatly as a struggling poet. Writing to printer Joseph Cottle in 1799, Wordsworth exclaimed:
“Southey’s review I have seen. He knew that I published those poems for money and money alone. He knew that money was of importance to me. If he could not conscientiously have spoken differently of the volume, he ought to have declined the task of reviewing it.
The bulk of the poems he has described as destitute of merit. Am I recompensed for this by vague praises of my talents? I care little for the praise of any other professional critic, but as it may help me to pudding…”
Nevertheless, Southey would grow to be a close associate of Wordsworth, especially after he moved to Keswick in the Lake District in 1802. Neighborly association promoted renewed affections. In 1805, when Wordsworth’s older brother John passed away, Southey wrote to console him:
“I scarcely know what to say to you after this thunderstroke–nor whether I ought to say anything. Only–whenever you feel or fancy yourself in a state to derive any advantage from company–I will come over to you–or do you come here. It has been my custom when in affliction to force myself to mental exertion, a difficult thing, but possible,–but it made my sleep dreadful.–for grief, as far as it is a bodily feeling, like disease will have its course.”
At Southey’s own death in 1843, Southey’s friends, including Wordsworth, undertook a project to erect a memorial tablet at Crosthwaite Church. Subscribers were solicited to fund the project and Wordsworth was asked to write an inscription. Each subscriber would receive a lithographed broadside depicting the tablet as a memorial. Additionally, the inscription, titled “Sacred to the Memory of Robert Southey,” was set in letterpress to be sold as an additional fund-raising effort. The fund-raising proved so successful that the tablet was upgraded to a monument: a marble effigy of Southey lying recumbent on a raised platform.
In addition to the letterpress and lithograph broadsides printed in 1843 and 1844, Wordsworth’s inscription was later reproduced by an unknown printer as a small bifolium, probably as a keepsake or souvenir for tourists visiting the Lake District and Crosthwaite Church. The only known surviving witness to this version of the poem is sewn into a guidebook to the Lake District, now in the RBC, formerly owned by Mary Ann Brenchly of Wanlass How, Ambleside. Brenchly visited Crosthwaite Church some time after 1848 and recorded her observations on the monument on the blank sides of the bifolium, along with two pages of additional notes on her travels tipped in using straight pins.
One of the most difficult tasks in mounting exhibitions is the sometimes nerve-wracking choice of what to include and what to edit out. “Kill your darlings,” as Faulkner would have it in writing fiction, is just as apt when choosing which six or seven books and objects will stand in as evidence of a rich and complicated historical narrative. These decisions were particularly difficult for Lyric Impressions: Wordsworth in the Long Nineteenth Century—the rare book exhibition that opened at Wilson Library on January 20th. Clocking in at more than 2,000 volumes, The William Wordsworth Collection is so vast that one exhibition could never do justice to the whole. To remedy that reality, we’ll be undertaking a series of blog posts to explore Wordsworth publications that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor. Each post will expand on the major themes of the exhibition. In this post, we’ll explore Wordsworth’s productive and turbulent development in the decade of the 1790s by considering his first published books: An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches (1793).
By the time he published Lyrical Ballads in 1798, Wordsworth had developed a distinctive poetic voice, one he conceived of as a departure from the studied, high-flown style popular for much of the eighteenth century. In An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches, composed between 1787 and 1792, this poetic voice was still nascent; in both poems, Wordsworth relies on earlier poetic models, such as Thomson’s The Seasons (1730) and Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). The poems’ allusive qualities were not lost on his contemporary audience, whose mixed critical reception of the works drew attention to their derivative qualities. Neither were they lost on Wordsworth himself, who later wrote that he found them to be “juvenile productions, inflated and obscure,” nevertheless, they contained “many new images and vigorous lines….”
Sales of An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches were not robust. While it is unknown how many copies were issued in the initial print run, the audience of the two works appears to have been small. Wordsworth commented in 1801 that “Johnson [his publisher] has told some of my Friends who have called for them, that they were out of print: this must be a mistake. Unless he has sent them to the Trunk-maker’s they must be lying in some corner of his Warehouse, for I have reason to believe that they never sold much.” Whether or not the unsold copies were indeed scrapped for paper waste, today copies of the first editions are relatively scarce.
Aside from offering a window on Wordsworth’s developing poetic voice, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches are important works juxtaposed with Wordsworth’s politically charged poetry of the same period. In the 1780s and 90s, Wordsworth was also composing more explicitly radical poems, such as “Salisbury Plain,” and “Letter to the Bishop Llandaff.” An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches both follow a tradition of loco-descriptive verse, where the poet’s reaction to an evocative landscape or monument triggers a philosophic and aesthetic experience. They do not, as some of his other poems of the 1790s do, explicitly confront the incendiary political issues of his youth. Though Wordsworth’s political attitudes are not wholly absent from his published verse, his unpublished (or largely unpublished) poetry is more direct and, at times, inflammatory.
Wordsworth’s radical discontent in the 1790s reflected the mood of the country. At the beginning of the decade, economic disparity had reached alarming levels. Radical sentiment, spurred by the rhetoric of the American Revolution and the ideals of the French Revolution, circulated widely. But 1793 would prove to be a decisive turning point, as the British Government enacted a series of increasingly draconian measures designed to stamp out radical dissent, among them the Treason Trials and the suspension of habeas corpus in 1794 and the so-called “Gagging Acts”—the Treason Act and Seditious Meetings Act—in 1795. The government actively sought out radical agitators and their associates—including Wordsworth and Coleridge, who were purportedly investigated by a government spy in 1796.
An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches anticipate Wordsworth’s poetic trajectory toward philosophic verse and also the turning political tide in England. By the close of the 1790s, Wordsworth’s idealistic radicalism had matured and changed, though he would maintain an active interest in political and current events throughout his life.
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the battle in which Napoleon was at last decisively defeated. Now remembered primarily as a conflict between England and France, the Battle of Waterloo took place south of Brussels in present-day Belgium and included armies from Prussia, Austria, Hanover, Nassau, the Duchy of Brunswick, and England. This Seventh Coalition formed expressly to defeat Napoleon after his return to power during the Hundred Days following his exile on Elba. The Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon’s rule and two decades of war across the continent of Europe. A precursor to the World Wars of the twentieth century, the Napoleonic Wars brought issues of imperialism and nationalism to the fore, inaugurating modern warfare as they changed the face of Europe.
The Battle of Waterloo is also significant in its immediate incorporation into popular imagination. Only days after news of the victory reached British soil, the battle was already being heralded as one of the most important events in history. Commemoration of the battle began within weeks, bolstered by eye-witness accounts from returning soldiers–many more of whom were literate than had ever been the case in previous wars.
Accounts of the battle took advantage of modern media. Portraits of the generals and principle agents of the battle appeared frequently, creating a cult of celebrity around the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon in particular. Maps, memorials, charts, and dramatic scenes all sought to deliver to the British reader an authentic experience of the battle and its particulars.
Literary reactions to the battle also abounded. Newspapers and journals of the day printed patriotic poetry affirming Britain’s supremacy in the wake of the victory. Leading writers, regardless of their political affiliations, joined the chorus. Sir Walter Scott was among the first to try his hand. His highly publicized Field of Waterloo figured itself as a philanthropic gesture; the proceeds were to fund relief efforts for returning soldiers.
William Wordsworth, long troubled by the threat to European culture and history represented by the chaotic ruin of Napoleon’s campaign, published an ambitious Pindaric ode titled Thanksgiving Ode, January 18, 1916 to commemorate the battle–an effort that met with mixed reviews due to his reluctance to praise the Duke of Wellington, whom he was known to dislike.
Robert Southey’s contribution, The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo, participated in the emerging tourist culture that surrounded Waterloo and other sites of the wars. Southey’s visitation to the scene of the battle provides a template for the literary traveller, who can follow in the poet’s footsteps on a pilgrimage of his own. That Southey’s poem was used as a kind of guide book is apparent in the Rare Book Collection’s copy, which is bound together with an actual travel guide to Belgium, published in the same year.
The primacy of the battle did not fade as the nineteenth century wore on. It remained a watershed moment in the British cultural consciousness. Eye-witness accounts of the battle continued to emerge throughout mid-century, including Fanny Burney’s posthumously published narrative in her Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay(1842) and Robert Gleig’s popular Story of the Battle of Waterloo(1848). William Makepeace Thackeray’s fictionalized version of the battle provided emotional crisis for the heroine of his much-read novel Vanity Fair (1847).
Models and panoramas of the battle provided another avenue for commemoration. Panorama paintings first began to appear in the 1780s but gained wide popularity during the nineteenth century as a pre-cinematic immersive experience for those who could not afford to travel to historic sites. Guides, prints, pamphlets, and other ephemeral publications produced in conjunction with panorama displays can help us recreate the space of the panorama, if not the experience.
Patrons interested in learning more about the history of Waterloo may consult the Rare Book Collection’s Hoyt Collection of French History. The collection includes over 5,000 valuable books and documents related to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
The Rare Book Collection joins in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats by posting this portrait of him from Mosada: A Dramatic Poem, his first separately published work. The drama had appeared in the June 1886 issue of the Dublin University Review; the twelve-page pamphlet in wrappers, a reprint by Sealy, Bryers, and Walker, followed in October. As William Michael Murphy notes in his book Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats (1839-1922), it was W.B’s father, a painter, who “insisted on including as [the pamphlet’s] frontispiece a pencil portrait by himself of the author, preferring this to ‘a picture of some incident in the play,’ as had been planned at first. In the sketch Willie wears a fuzzy beard, which his father had urged him to grow.
“The volume had little sale. Papa and Willie gave copies away liberally. One reached the hands of an English Roman Catholic priest who had recently come to Dublin, Gerard Manley Hopkins.” (p. 146) As Murphy recounts, the great poet politely refrained from expressing his negative opinion of the work to the elder Yeats.
The RBC’s copy of Mosada is one of three identified by bibliographer Allan Wade as bound with a thicker paper, unlined. While we cannot boast a provenance for our copy that includes Gerard Manley Hopkins, former owners known to us are New York editor and noted folk art collector Cyril I. Nelson and renowned British bookman Anthony Hobson.
This first separate publication is one of the rarest items in the RBC’s extensive Yeats Collection, a gift of the Hanes Foundation as the University Library’s five millionth volume. The RBC continues to add to the Yeats Collection as opportunities present themselves.
Rough winds may shake the darling buds of May, but the rumbling grahhr of April is what gets us shaking in the Rare Book Collection. We offer for your consideration this broadside from the Beats Collection. The poem is one of several written and performed by controversial Beat poet Michael McClure during the mid-1960s to feature prominent onomonopiac transliterations of beastly speech. Much of McClure’s poetry explores the animistic meatiness of human bodies, abandoning social codes in favor of raw experience.
The poem’s aggressive juxtaposition of elements of vitality and mortality echo the tumultuous events of April, 1968, a watershed month in the history of the United States that saw the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and mounting public protests against the Vietnam War.
Large in format (54 x 73 cm), the broadside arranges McClure’s poem symmetrically along a vertical axis, mirroring words and punctuation. The bright, calligraphic red script draws the eye to the visual arrangement of words, distracting from their syntactic meaning. In the background is a stock image of a lion in blue. Blown large and grainy, the lion confronts the reader with his animal and his printed presence, simultaneously an icon of nature and of manufacture.
McClure was well known for his public readings—Kerouac’s Dharma Bums includes a fictionalized account of his performance at the 1955 San Francisco Six Gallery. Those interested in hearing this poem vocalized are encouraged to consult the catalog for a 1968 recording on vinyl where McClure appears alongside fellow Beats Allen Ginsburg, Lew Welch, and Aram Saroyan, amongst others. McClure also recorded a filmed version in 1966 where he reads the poem aloud to a cage of lions.
Across the Western world today, the legendary deeds of Saint Patrick, the fifth-century “Apostle of Ireland,” are celebrated by the Irish and the Irish-at-heart. Pictured here is a page from The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick that describes one of the Saint’s most legendary acts, the banishment of Ireland’s snakes.
The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick, by the Irish poet and novelist Katharine Tynan, is a work from 1907. During the early twentieth century, Irish writers and poets wanted to present an Irish identity that was void of British influence. The growing interest in Irish language and culture at that time, as seen in The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick, fueled what would become known as the Irish Literary Renaissance. It was Tynan’s contemporary (and one-time suitor) W.B. Yeats, who came to lead the movement.
The Rare Book Collection has a substantial W.B. Yeats collection, acquired as the University Library’s five millionth volume through the generosity of the Hanes Family Foundation. The RBC also has many works from other Irish Literary Renaissance writers like Tynan, John Millington Synge, and Sean O’Casey.
Outstanding Irish purchases of late will be on display at our Recent Acquisitions Evening on March 31. Until then, we wish you a safe and pleasant Saint Patrick’s Day!
If you find yourself in the grips of unrequited love this Valentine’s Day, you might seek company with the verse of Francesco Petrarca, esteemed lyric poet of early Renaissance Italy. Petrarca (often known as Petrarch in English) wrote that he first spotted his muse-to-be Laura in church, at an Easter mass in 1327. Her glowing beauty and evident virtue immediately overwhelmed him. She quickly became the heart (!) of hundreds of his poems. The title page from the pocket edition at left (printed in France by Jean de Tournes) shows the profiles of Petrarch and Laura: he gazes dreamily at the wondrous beauty before him, while she follows Cupid’s arrow with her eyes. A previous owner of the volume has commented with a manuscript annotation above: “tel amour n’envie,” “such love I don’t envy.”
The book contains Petrarca’s songs about Laura that form his Canzoniere, as well as his poems known as the Trionfi or Triumphs. Laura’s true identity has never been confirmed, although she may well have been Laure de Noves of Avignon, who was born in 1310 and died in 1348 during the Black Plague. The name Laura conveniently coincides with the Italian words for laurel and breeze, both particularly poetic.