William Wordsworth

Helen Darbishire and Ernest De Selincourt (eds), The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. 3: Miscellaneous Sonnets; Memorials of Various Tours; Poems to National Independence and Liberty; The Egyptian Maid; The River Duddon Series; The White Doe and Other Narrative Poems; Ecclesiastical Sonnets (Second Edition)

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pg 1Editor’s NoteMISCELLANEOUS SONNETS

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Editor’s Note
p. 1. Miscellaneous Sonnets: "In the cottage of Town End, one afternoon in 1801, my Sister read to me the Sonnets of Milton. I had long been well acquainted with them, but I was particularly struck on that occasion by the dignified simplicity and majestic harmony that runs through most of them,—in character so totally different from the Italian, and still more so from Shakespeare's fine Sonnets. I took fire, if I may be allowed to say so, and produced three Sonnets the same afternoon, the first I ever wrote except an irregular one at school. Of these three, the only one I distinctly remember is 'I grieved for Buonaparté.' One was never written down: the third, which was, I believe, preserved, I cannot particularise."—I. F.
The date 1801, here given by W., should be 1802, v. D. W.'s Journal for May 21, 1802. The statement also that the three sonnets were "the first I ever wrote except an irregular one at school" is not strictly accurate (v. Vol. I, pp. 3, 265, 269, 296, 308). With the I. F. note cf. W.'s letter to Landor April 20, 1822: "I used to think [that form of composition] egregiously absurd though the greatest poets since the revival of literature have written in it. Many years ago my sister happened to read to me the Sonnets of Milton which I could at that time repeat; but somehow or other I was singularly struck with the style of harmony, and the gravity, and republican austerity of those compositions. In the course of the same afternoon I produced 3 sonnets, and soon after many others; and since that time, and from want of resolution to take up anything of length, I have filled up many a moment in writing Sonnets, which, if I had never fallen into the practice, might easily have been better employed." (L.Y., p. 71.)
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