The First Edition of Wordsworth's unfinished philosophical poem 'The Recluse'
Though The Excursion takes precedence in this book’s title, as occupying four fifths of its pages, this is, in effect, the first edition of The Recluse. It contains all of Wordsworth’s writing intended for the three-part philosophical poem, rather than for its autobiographical ‘portico’ long known as The Prelude.
Completed in 1806, ‘Home at Grasmere’ was published in 1886 as The Recluse, Part First, Book First, this being the optimistic title inscribed upon its manuscript. Along with this love-song to Grasmere, the volume includes further composition of 1808 (‘To the Clouds’, ‘The Tuft of Primroses’ and ‘St Pauls’) and 1826 (some luminous multicultural verses on the ‘Nab Well’), intended for The Recluse, Part First.
The only instalment of The Recluse published in the poet’s lifetime was its second part, The Excursion, which John Keats considered one of the glories of the age, John Thelwall thought coparable with Paradise Lost, and and Lamb referred to as ‘a day in Heaven’. Overshadowed for modern readers by The Prelude, it is still one of the major achievements of the Romantic era is, and its bicentennial is at last creating interest in it.
Nothing is known of Wordsworth’s intentions for The Recluse, Part Third, but it seems logical to suppose that ‘Part Third’ would have addressed the numerous issues left unresolved at the end of The Excursion, and that it would have offered experiential proofs of the claim made in the ‘Prospectus’, that ‘paradise and groves elysian’ may be ‘a simple produce of the common day’.
About the author
The author is of course the poet. The texts in this colume have been edited by various editors of the Cornell Wordswoerth series, and are taken from The Poems of William Wordsworth: Collected Reading Texts from The Cornell Wordsworth, edited for Humanities-Ebooks in three volumes by Jared Curtis.
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