Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Scorn Not the Sonnet

An image of a two-page spread of Wordsworth's 1838 first edition of "The Sonnets of William Wordsworth." On the left-hand side, a handwritten note by Wordsworth that reads, "The Lady Frederic Benti[nck?] from her friend William Wordsworth. On the right-hand page, "The Sonnets of William Wordsworth / Collected in one volume / with / a few additional ones, now first published / London: / Edward Moxon, Dover Street. / MDCCCXXXVIII"
 Every now and then, we stumble upon a oft-overlooked gem upon our shelves and marvel that, until that moment, we had not previously discovered it. One of our recent thrilling finds is the 1838 publication of The Sonnets of William Wordsworth. In this humble little first edition, the poet has inscribed a dedication to his friend, the Lady Frederic Benti[nck?], on the flyleaf. At the risk of sounding overly spoiled, a presentation copy of Wordsworth's poetry wasn't the real reason why this particular volume excited us.

A two-page spread of the inside back cover of the book of poetry. On the right-hand side, a list of various works published by Edward Moxon, Dover Street. On the right-hand side, Wordsworth's handwritten sonnets with notes as outlined in the actual blog post.In addition to his personal note to his friend, inside the back cover Wordsworth has written out two sonnets from his Memorials of a Tour in Italy 1837: "Under the Shadow of a Stately Pile" and "I Saw Afar Off the Dark Top of a Pine." After the first one, he has written "October 14, 1839" (presumably the date of the inscription). After the second sonnet, he includes the clarification that the pine in question stands upon Mount Mario, the highest hill in Rome. This is exciting stuff, but the little book has yet more secrets to reveal. On pages 34, 301, and 405, Wordsworth has made corrections by hand to three of his printed sonnets. One can almost imagine the revered poet turning slowly through the pages as he deliberately and carefully annotated this volume for a close friend.
A two-page spread of pp. 34-35 of the book of sonnets. Wordsworth's Sonnet XXX, "It Is A Beauteous Evening Calm And Free," is on the left-hand page. He has corrected the first line to read as the title, replacing the words "Air sleeps, from strife or stir the clouds are free;". The ninth and tenth lines are altered to read "Dear Child! Dear Girl! That walkest with me here, / If thou appear untouched solemn thought,". On the right-hand page is the sonnet "Composed at ____ Castle," that begins with the line, "Degenerate Douglas! oh, the unworthy Lord!"
To see this exciting book for yourself, which was a gift of John W. Little, class of 1940, come to Rauner and ask to hold Rare PR5866 .A1 1838.

1 comment :

  1. These items are gems. Seeing the artist's handwriting draws us closer to his world. Wordsworth's corrections gives us a glimpse into how he thought To me, this is similar to seeing a painting with all the sketches that preceded it.