Archive for October 2013


A A Watts’ commentary on Wordsworth

October 24th, 2013 — 6:39pm

I was looking at the 1801 edition of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads in the Australian National Library the other day and was amused to find it heavily annotated by Alaric Alexander Watts, the English poet from the 19th century with whom I curiously share my name and birthday. Anyway he didn’t like Wordsworth – here is an extract from the flyleaf where he berates Wordsworth for his constant revisions –

“Few poets of any age have made such numerous and important alterations in their poetical writings as Wordsworth. When engaged in 1825 in negotiations with Mssrs Hunt & Robinson for the publication of a new edition of his works Mrs Wordsworth wrote to me to request that I would complete the arrangements as soon as possible in order that the printing might begin. She urged as a reason that [?his] his hand would otherwise spoil his poems by repeated alterations as in 1806 Southey writes: “Wordsworth was with me last week more employed in correcting his Poems than in writing others.” This indecision of heart was a sign of weakness, and a practical refutation of the principles on which his poems profess to have been written.” […]

All of Wordsworth’s poems are full of Watts’ comments in the margins, highlighting examples of his supposedly poor poetic abilities or some inconsistency or aesthetic fallacy which Wordsworth had committed. Coleridge’s poems in this volume are untouched – except for the Rime of the Ancient Mariner which Watts says he greatly admires.

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