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Duncan Wu's Wordsworth's Reading: 1770-1790 : A Supplementary List with Corrections

  • Bruce Graver

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  • Bruce Graver
    Providence College

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Duncan Wu's Wordsworth's Reading: 1770-1790 (Cambridge UP, 1993), a dated catalogue of the poet's reading during his formative years, is arguably the most important reference work on William Wordsworth to appear in almost two decades. It is also, as its author suggests, a work in progress, for new evidence about these matters will always be coming to light. It is in that spirit that I offer the following supplement to Wu's catalogue. It was originally compiled as part of a review article for The Charles Lamb Bulletin [91 (1995)]; when Wu himself assumed editorship of CLB , he was understandably reluctant to publish such a lengthy review of his own work, and, with my approval, the list was cut.

I submit it now to Romanticism on the Net , not only because it contains new information, but also to advocate the usefulness of electronic publication for scholarly reference works. Studies like Wu's ought never again to appear as printed books; instead, they should be assembled and published as electronic documents, which can be constantly and easily emended and updated as our knowledge of their subject grows. One hopes that his publisher, Cambridge University Press, now a leader in scholarly electronic publication, will see fit to issue future volumes of his work in the electronic format for which it is much more aptly suited. [1]

In the list that follows, I make no pretense to being comprehensive; indeed, what I offer will be highly idiosyncratic, focused mainly on Wordsworth's knowledge of Chaucer and the Roman classics, which has been the main subject of my research. I have arranged the list, as Wu does, in alphabetical order. When offering a correction to Wu's catalogue, I supply both its catalogue entry number and page number in his volume; I also include the lowercase Roman numeral which Wu uses to distinguish multiple readings of the same work from each other.

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James Beattie (p. 11; entry #21.iii): Wordsworth's translation of Horace's Ode III.xiii ("o fons Bandusiae"), probably composed in 1794 as he was revising An Evening Walk , echoes James Beattie's translation of the ode, published in Original Poems and Translations (1760). To the best of my knowledge, Beattie was the only eighteenth-century translator, other than Wordsworth, to render "loquaces" as "loquacious"; both render "desiliunt" as "leap away," and Wordsworth's poem echoes Beattie's translation in lines 1, 4, 5, and 6 as well. Thus, besides the reading that Wu suggests ("by 1787"), a 1794 reading of Original Poems and Translations is possible. In this volume, Beattie also published a translation of Virgil's Eclogues, with annotations, a fact which should be noted in Wu's "Virgil" entry.

Robert Burns (p. 23; entry #42.ii): Wordsworth quotes Burns' Epistle to J.L . as an epigraph to MS. B of The Ruined Cottage ; Wu mistakenly places the epigraph in MS. D and calls it an allusion. Since Wordsworth misquotes Burns' lines, he is probably quoting from memory, and thus the epigraph is no proof of a reading in 1797-98.

Cambridge Intelligencer (p. 25; entry #46): As additional evidence that Wordsworth read Benjamin Flower's Cambridge Intelligencer , Wu might have cited Wordsworth's 1809 letters to Coleridge, De Quincey, and Daniel Stuart regarding the publication of the Convention of Cintra pamphlet. In those letters, Wordsworth recalled Flower's prosecution for seditious libel (in 1799), and requested that potentially libelous passages be removed from his own pamphlet. [2]

Catullus (p. 25; entry #48): Wu ought to give some evidence for dating Septimius and Acme (Wordsworth's translation of Carmen xlv) later than his other Catullus translations, as the poem has usually been considered contemporary with them (1786-88). I believe Wu is right; Wordsworth's more sophisticated verse form (pentameter quatrains, rhymed abab, as opposed to the tetrameter couplets of much of the Hawkshead verse) and more literal rendering of the Latin are more characteristic of the translations attempted during his Cambridge years and after. [3] The reference to Catullus in the 1800 Preface to Lyrical Ballads , quoted under "Claudian" below, is too interesting to omit here. It is also of interest that Catullus's Carmen lxiii, which Wordsworth discussed in 1844 with his nephew, Charles Wordsworth, is the poem in which Attis, a devotee of Cybele, castrates himself with a sharp flint (Wu refers to this discussion in his entry). But discussions with Charles are no proof of early reading: more often than not, Wordsworth pumped his brother Christopher, his nephews, and their acquaintances for the latest scholarly opinions.

Geoffrey Chaucer (p. 27; entry #53): Wu should indicate that the Chaucer in the library of Hawkshead Grammar School, The Woorkes of Geffrey Chaucer, newly printed, with divers addicions (London, 1561), is the edition of John Stowe of London, tailor and antiquarian. This blackletter Chaucer was responsible for introducing a good deal of inferior fifteenth-century verse (Tyrwhitt called it "trash") into the Chaucerian canon. But I doubt that the young Wordsworth read in it much. Blackletter Chaucers were relatively inaccessible for the casual reader; besides the typography, they lacked adequate glossaries and explanatory notes, and Stowe's edition lacked both altogether. It is thus probable that, before going to Cambridge, Wordsworth had limited knowledge of Chaucer except through modernizations, and one wonders if he had access, through a local book club, to George Ogle's popular collection of modernizations of The Canterbury Tales , published in 1741 (Charles Lamb's copy is now in the John Hay Library at Brown University). Ogle republished most of Pope and Dryden's modernizations; he also included a Reeve's Tale by Thomas Betterton, which could well have led Wordsworth laughing to "the pleasant Mills of Trompington" while at Cambridge. It may also be no accident that none of Wordsworth's own modernizations is in Ogle's collection. In any case, Wordsworth's debt to Robert Anderson for his knowledge of Chaucer cannot be underestimated: Anderson's British Poets reprinted Thomas Tyrwhitt's superb text of The Canterbury Tales , as well as Tyrwhitt's glossary and notes. Wordsworth depended heavily on Tyrwhitt's glossary in 1801-1802 when he modernized four selections from Chaucer. Finally, it was in 1801, not 1802 as Wu states, that Mary Hutchinson and the Wordsworths were reading Chaucer in Grasmere.

Cicero (p. 28; entry #54.i-ii): In this entry, Wu lists two works by Cicero, something described as "Cicero's Orations 1 Vol." by Richard Wordsworth of Branthwaite in his list of books from John Wordsworth's library, and a volume containing translations of De Officiis, De Senectute, and De Amicitia , and inscribed "John Wordsworths Book 1770", and used by the Wordsworth boys at Hawkshead Grammar School. I believe that these are the same book. It seems more likely that the Branthwaite relation erred in his description than that two separate volumes of Cicero survived from John Wordsworth's library.

Claudian : Wordsworth's remark about Claudian in the 1800 Preface to Lyrical Ballads suggests that Wordsworth had read the Roman poet, perhaps at Cambridge or even at Hawkshead: This exponent or symbol held forth by metrical language must in different eras of literature have excited very different expectations: for example, in the age of Catullus, Terence, and Lucretius, and that of Statius or Claudian; and in our own country, in the age of Shakespeare and Beaumont and Fletcher, and that of Donne and Cowley, or Dryden, or Pope. [4] A similar statement (substituting Horace and Virgil for Statius and Claudian) can be found in Charles Wordsworth's 1844 memoranda, published by Mark L. Reed in "Wordsworth on Wordsworth and Much Else: New Conversational Memoranda," PBSA 81 (1987): 451-458.

Michael Drayton (p. 48; entry #82): Besides TheOwle and Englands Heroical Epistles , Wordsworth knew parts of Poly-Olbion before the composition of ToJoanna in 1800, and it is likely that he had read the relevant part of the poem well before that date. Surely a Hawkshead teacher who "loved the poets" (William Taylor) would have pointed out the lines Drayton wrote about the Lake District to a favorite pupil. There are also marginalia about Drayton's sonnets, in Wordsworth's autograph, in Coleridge's copy of Anderson's BritishPoets (now in the Folger Shakespeare Library). It is difficult to date the marginalia, but Wordsworth had access to these volumes while at Alfoxden in 1797-98.

John Dyer (p. 51; entry #88): Although Wordsworth may not allude to Dyer's poem, TheFleece , in his early poetry (and I suspect that he may), it is unlikely that a poet so concerned with depicting the lives of shepherds, and so heavily indebted to Virgil's Georgics and the English georgic tradition would not have read it early in his career. He certainly encountered the poem in Anderson's BritishPoets , and we know that he admired it greatly, recommending it to Lady Beaumont in 1811 and composing the sonnet, "Bard of the Fleece," sometime between 1807 and 1811.

Gazette Nationale (pp. 61-62; entry #111): Peter Swaab is not the first to have observed Wordsworth's remark on Gorsas, "I knew this man," written in his copy of Burke. It is unfortunate to find occasional lapses of attribution like this, as Wu is usually very careful to give credit where it is due.

Thomas Gray (p. 70; entry #121): Wordsworth's later complaint about Gray's poetry—that it is a virtual pastiche of passages of classical verse—suggests that he may have been acquainted with Gilbert Wakefield's 1786 edition of Gray. In his notes, Wakefield cites many instances of Gray's allusions to classical poets, enough to generate Wordsworth's comment. Wakefield was also a graduate of Cambridge (Jesus College), a friend of George Dyer (himself a friend of Wordsworth's teacher William Taylor, as well as a friend of Coleridge), and moved in much the same London circles as Wordsworth during the 1790s.

William Hayley (p. 72; entry #126): In an unpublished memorandum, now in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, Elizabeth Barrett recalled hearing Wordsworth recite from memory Hayley's translation of Dante's sonnet to Guido Cavalcanti. Her meeting with Wordsworth occurred in London in 1836. If Wordsworth had read Hayley by 1786, as Wu suggests, he may have read some of Dante's lyrics, albeit in translation, by that date also. I am indebted to Stephen Gill for sharing with me his transcription of this memorandum.

Homer (p. 75; entry #135): Wu suggests that Wordsworth gave a Greek Homer to his sister, who knew no Greek, in 1787 "prior to going to Cambridge". I find this unlikely, especially if the volumes had a facing English translation, as Wu thinks they may have had. Why would a college- bound lad give away a perfectly useful trot? (As Wu notes, Wordsworth used his Horace trot, edited and translated by Christopher Smart, at Cambridge). His gift to Dorothy was probably Pope's translation.

Horace (p. 77; entry #136.iv): In translating Ode III. xiii, Wordsworth need not have read Thomas Warton's translation for the form Blandusian (rather than "Bandusian"), since the translation of James Beattie, cited above, also uses "Blandusian," and quotes the first words of the poem as "O Fons Blandusae". Wordsworth's later acceptance of Bandusian (a spelling that he ultimately rejected) was the result of his return to classical studies about 1815, and may reflect the advice of his Cambridge relations and their friends, one of whom (the Rev. Samuel Tilbrooke, bursar of Peterhouse College) owned property in Rydal (the "Ivy Cot", now the Glen Rothay Hotel).

Juvenal (p. 79 ; entry #142): Wordsworth later owned a copy of Barten Holyday's translation of Juvenal and Persius (Oxford, 1673); it has extensive notes and illustrations, including a table of deaf-mute numerical hand signs, and Wordsworth (or Wrangham) may have had occasion to consult it when composing their imitation of Satire viii in the mid-1790s. It is also possible that Wordsworth consulted it when preparing for his undergraduate examinations, especially since Holyday's commentary is in English (Once again, it is a good trot).

Lucretius (p. 90; entry #160.ii): In Charles Wordsworth's 1844 memoranda, he recalls his uncle's remarks on the naturalness of Lucretius' diction (as opposed to Horace and Virgil), a remark worth quoting here as evidence of a possible Lucretian influence on Wordsworth's early theories of poetic diction. Since the publication of Wu's book, Wordsworth's copy of Creech's translation of De Rerum Natura has come to light and is now in the collection of Professor Paul Betz. Annotations in the volume suggest that Wordsworth first read it during his Hawkshead and Cambridge years.

John Milton (p. 99; entry #176): Among the allusions to the poetry of Milton occurring in Wordsworth's juvenilia is the phrase "caves of cool recess," from Book IV of ParadiseLost . This phrase is particularly interesting because Wordsworth uses it in a translation of Book II of Virgil's Georgics, probably composed in 1788.

Moschus (p. 105; entry #183): While at Rydal Mount, Wordsworth seems to have owned Gilbert Wakefield's edition of the poems of Bion and Moschus (London, 1795). That edition perhaps should be mentioned here, since Wordsworth may have obtained it during the 1790s.

Ovid (pp. 108-109; entry #193): Wu cites Kurt Lienemann as the source for several allusions to Ovid; most of these were noticed originally by William Knight in his (unjustly neglected) 1896 edition of Wordsworth's PoeticalWorks . In fact, Lienemann did virtually no original research for his 1908 study, Die Belesenheit von William Wordsworth (1908); it is primarily a catalogue of allusions noted by Knight. Also, Wu should probably note here, for the benefit of beginning students, that the family of George Sandys, the translator of Ovid, were the founders of Hawkshead school.

William Paley (p. 110; entry #196): Wu should explain why he thinks John Carter's 1829 entry "Paley's Nat: Philoso." (in the Rydal Mount library catalogue) is more likely to be The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (1785) than NaturalTheology (1802).

Petrarch (p. 111; entry #197): While studying Italian with Isola at Cambridge, Wordsworth must have read poems other than Petrarch's sonnets. In the Fenwick notes, he mentions Petrarch's poem "upon the degradation of his country," the famous canzone beginning "Italia mia," which was a rallying cry for nationalists like Isola. We can be fairly certain that the Fenwick note is a recollection of his early studies, and that he did indeed read more than the sonnets to Laura. I wonder also if Isola might have directed some of his students to Petrarch's letters, especially to famous ones like EpistolaeFamiliares IV.1, describing the ascent of Mount Ventoux.

Quintilian (p. 114; entry #203): The motto from Quintilian does not appear on the title-page of Lyrical Ballads (1800); that motto is from John Selden's forward to Drayton's Poly-Olbion , as reprinted in Anderson's BritishPoets . A motto from Quintilian (the same passage quoted in the famous 1801 letter to Charles James Fox) appears on a half title in volume I of LyricalBallads (1802 and 1805). The half title appears after the Preface.

Seneca : Wu has apparently found no certain evidence that Wordsworth read Seneca as a youth, although he does include the Roman philosopher among "a speculative list of authors that an able pupil at a good Grammar School like Hawkshead can be expected to have read..." (pp. 165-66; Terence, referred to in the passage from the "Preface to LyricalBallads ", quoted above, appears only in this same list). Actually, the evidence for an early reading of Seneca is considerably better than that. As Jane Worthington Smyser pointed out nearly 50 years ago, Wordsworth could not read Bacon without encountering extracts from Seneca [5], and any discussion of Bacon's style at Hawkshead would have included comparisons with Seneca. Actually, it is more likely that Bacon would have come up in discussions of Seneca: Bacon's Essays would have been used to illustrate how the Senecan style could be adapted to English syntax. Wordsworth later knowledge of Seneca was so thorough that he could identify translations of the Roman philosopher in the poetry of Samuel Daniel, whose works he read in 1802. And Smyser's discussion of Wordsworth's affinities to Roman Stoicism clearly implies wide reading in both Cicero and Seneca. (Several volumes of both were later in the Rydal Mount library).

Shakespeare (pp. 123; entry #222): The Folger Shakespeare Library copy of Robert Anderson's BritishPoets contains marginalia, in Wordsworth's autograph, about the "Dark Lady" sonnets. Again, the date of these marginalia is difficult to determine, but Wordsworth did have access to these volumes during the Alfoxden period.

Virgil (pp. 140-2; entry #249): In his article, "Three Translations of Virgil Read by Wordsworth in 1788," N & Q NS 37 (1990): 409-411, Wu notes that Wordsworth's fragmentary Georgics translations depend on editions and translations not found in the Hawkshead library, and he draws special attention to John Martyn's edition of TheGeorgicks of Virgil . Martyn was a prominent botanist and fellow of Emanuel College, Cambridge, and his edition contains elaborate discussions of Virgilian flora, complete with color illustrations: it is, in short, a large and expensive book, the sort an underpaid schoolmaster at Hawkshead could not easily afford. But among the subscribers to the volume was the library at St. John's College, Cambridge. If Wordsworth consulted Martyn, he probably did so while at Cambridge, and not in the Lake District. Thus, some of his translations of the Georgics may not belong to the summer vacation in 1788, but to his time in Cambridge.

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Besides the editions and translations of Virgil that Wu has listed, I would like to add the following:

  1. Joseph Trapp, The Works of Virgil Translated into English Blank Verse. Trapp's Aeneis appeared in 1718-1720; his version of the Eclogues and Georgics appeared thirteen years later and was subsequently published with the Aeneid as a complete Works ; it was in its fourth edition in the 1750s. Martyn's edition of the Georgics quotes Trapp's translation and commentary repeatedly, and thus may have directed Wordsworth to it. Wordsworth's translation of Georgics III. 75-95, which de Selincourt called "The Horse," and Wu dates to 1789, depends on Trapp in several ways. First, and most obviously, both are in Miltonic blank verse. Second, the translation is much more literal than the earlier Georgics translations, which suggests that Wordsworth may have read Trapp's Preface. In his Preface, Trapp argues that blank verse, particularly Miltonic blank verse, is the most natural English equivalent of the Virgilian hexameter, an opinion Wordsworth himself later held. Trapp also maintains that close translation, though potentially problematic, is nevertheless preferable to loose paraphrase, and severely criticizes Dryden's Aeneid for its failure to render Virgil accurately (Trapp's complaints about Dryden anticipate Wordsworth's own complaints, written decades later). Wordsworth's translation also echoes Trapp's in several places. For instance, one draft of Wordsworth's opening lines reads: "The foal of generous breed along the plains/ Walks lofty, balanc'd on his pliant limbs . . ." Trapp's reads: "The Colt of gen'rous Blood with lofty Port/ Prances, and nimbly shifts his pliant Limbs . . ." There are also possible echoes in lines 3-5, 7-8, 11-12, and 16-20. Moreover, I have found convincing echoes of Trapp's Aeneid in Wordsworth's partial translation of that poem, which he undertook in 1823-1824. I see no reason to doubt that he encountered Trapp's work at Cambridge, and would even argue that Trapp's critical principles may have influenced the aspiring young poet, at least in his efforts as a translator.

  2. Pub. Virgilii Maronis Opera cum annotationibus Johannis Minelii.

  3. P. Virgilii Maronis Opera interpretatione et notis illustravit Carolus Rueus . . . ad usum Serenissimi Delphini. Besides the De La Cerda edition of Virgil, which Wu notes is still in the Hawkshead library, Wordsworth probably knew both the Delphine Virgil (edited by Charles de la Rue) and the edition of the Dutch scholar Jan Minel. These were the standard schoolboy commentaries in the eighteenth century, frequently reprinted in England and on the continent. Copies of both editions were in the Rydal Mount library, and were used extensively when Wordsworth translated the Aeneid in 1823-24; his copy of Minel's edition is now in the Cornell Wordsworth Collection. One of the juvenile notebooks, DC MS. 6, contains a note about a crux at Georgics IV.228-230; in that note Wordsworth writes that "This passage has puzzled all the commens." and proposes his own emendation. The phrase "all the commens" clearly implies that he had looked at more than one commentary, and the easiest to consult were these two. The presence of the note in DC MS. 6 is further evidence that at least some of the Georgics work went on at Cambridge, where many editions and translations would be at Wordsworth's disposal and activities like textual emendation may have been assigned by tutors. It is also important to note that, in DC MS. 6, Wordsworth quotes Georgics IV.228 as "sedem angustam," as in both Rueus and Minel; Martyn's edition reads "sedem augustam," evidence that he did not rely on Martyn for his text of the Georgics .

  4. Publii Virgilii Maronis, Georgicon lib. iv, ed. Gilbert Wakefield (Cambridge, 1788). Wakefield's edition is copiously annotated, and contains violent attacks on John Martyn's edition. Wakefield's scholarly reputation was great in Cambridge circles, and in 1788 he had yet to fall into disfavor for his political opinions. Thus it is likely that his Georgics , his first attempt at strictly classical (rather than Biblical) scholarship, must have been much discussed at Cambridge—and it would have been discussed just as Wordsworth was studying the poem and translating passages from it. In his commentary, Wakefield is obsessively fond of emendation, and his note to Georgics IV.228-230, helps to confirm that Wordsworth consulted his edition when making his own emendation. There Wakefield, like Wordsworth, complains about all the commentators, and suggests that they "magis magisque obscuraverunt [locum] commentis suis atque explicationibus" ("They obscure the passage more and more with their comments and explanations"). He then suggests that Roman beekeepers might have sprinkled themselves with water as a kind of insect repellent: the very same conclusion that Wordsworth came to. (Wakefield's Latin may be translated thus: "I opine that they found water sprinkled on their clothes to be useful for driving the bees from their body". Wordsworth's note says: "I suppose they imagined some Virtue in Water which might repel the bees"). Wordsworth later possessed a copy of Wakefield's complete edition of Virgil (London, 1796), which unfortunately lacks the extensive commentary of the earlier Georgics edition.

  5. Gilbert Wakefield. A Reply to Some Parts of the Address of the Bishop of Landaff to the People of Great Britain (London, 1798). Wu and I have agreed to disagree about whether Wordsworth was familiar with Wakefield's notorious pamphlet (Wakefield was convicted of seditious libel for publishing it and sentenced to two years in Dorchester gaol; he died of typhus, then called prison fever, just after his release). But if in 1798 Wordsworth did not read it, it certainly was discussed in periodicals he read and by people he knew. The pamphlet was reviewed in the CriticalReview in 1798, as well as in the AnalyticalReview and the Anti -Jacobin, which also reviewed reviews of it. Thelwall had read it in Wales by March 3, 1798, and, according to Paul Magnuson, the action against Wakefield and Joseph Johnson, who sold the pamphlet in his shop, may have led Coleridge to publish Fears in Solitude with Johnson in the autumn of 1798. [6] Wordsworth, too, wanted to shift publication of LyricalBallads from Cottle to Johnson at the last minute, and met with Johnson in London, en route to Germany, in September, 1798. [7] At least at that time he should have seen the pamphlet. In any case, he may be echoing Wakefield's work in The Prelude X.934-5 (1805), as E. P. Thompson suggested over 25 years ago, [8] and poet recalled Wakefield's legal problems in 1809, as the Convention of Cintra pamphlet was in press. If the echo is deliberate, I doubt that it resulted from a recent reading of Wakefield's pamphlet: when hot at work on ThePrelude , he was not likely to re-peruse outdated ephemera.

  6. Thomas West (pp. 146-7—entry #260): Besides A Guide to the Lakes , I believe that the young Wordsworth may have been acquainted with West's earlier work, TheAntiquitiesof Furness . A young boy who rode on horseback to Furness Abbey, and who had such a lively recollection of several of its artifacts, probably read the standard history of the place. More important, several of Wordsworth's poems demonstrate that he had a knowledge of monasticism generally and the organization of English Cistercian abbeys especially, that is somewhat unusual for an Englishman of his era. West's Antiquities could have been an early source for this knowledge, as its author (himself a Jesuit priest) begins his account of Furness Abbey with an overview of the history of English monasticism, focusing particularly on monasteries founded by the Cistercian order.

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