Wordsworth’s Epistle to Sir George Beaumont: the road twice taken
Here, I investigate a later Wordsworth poem in its markedly different 1811 and 1842 versions – the verse epistle to Sir George Beaumont. This epistle, calling upon the country house poems developed by Ben Jonson and upon the topographical rambling of Wordsworth’ own youthful verse, should be seen as an attempt to update to new contexts an old form in which the address of patron by poet had modelled a virtuous sociability exemplified in the moral community of the country estate. His epistle, a missive from a domestic journey that is chatty and yet ordered, reveals Wordsworth forging verse-conditions to reshape the inherited model, so that exemplary community takes the form of intimate, domestic sociability based on the dales family rather than the landed estate. It represents an alternative both to the blank-verse celebration of rustic society that had stalled in ‘Home at Grasmere’ and to the rustic speech that, in 1798, 1800 and 1807, had narrated the troubles of rural folk. Examining the greatly expanded version of 1842, I discuss the role of revision as a mode of renewing the past in which celebratory revival conceals elegiac regret (Wordsworth’s effort to renew destroyed community by writing as if that destruction had not yet occurred revives both the community and the consciousness of its loss). I explore its peculiar tone, its fascinating double perspective, and the complex literary allusions in which the undisclosed fact of death is accommodated, if not resolved.
Citation : Fulford, T. (2019) Wordsworth’s Epistle to Sir George Beaumont: the road twice taken. Review of English Studies, forthcoming
ISSN : 0034-6551
Research Group : Centre for Textual Studies (CTS)
Research Institute : Institute of English
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Arts