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The winter of was a particularly cold one, and with few acquaintances around, they led a quiet, fairly isolated existence. There was little to do but to work indoors. Brother and sister started learning German, diligently recording German vocabulary in the Diaries Notebook.


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William complained about the lack of access to books. Inadvertently this made him more productive.

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Much of the thinking and writing that he did during this period ended up in DC MS The notebook thus not only served for general note-taking and the recording of experiences. For William in particular it became a place for reflection. Not a great advocate of systems of thought, however, Wordsworth appears not to have finished the piece. The essay breaks off mid-sentence and is followed by 5 leaves which were torn out of the notebook.

Celebrating John Milton's 400th Birthday

But in order to tackle this subject with insight, he needed to understand the origins of it, which he thought — at 28 years of age — lay in the history and growth of his own mind. What was to become one of the greatest poems from the Romantic period, The Prelude was on the one hand, as Wordsworth called it, an antechamber to the greater work, and on the other a delving into origins.

This alone practically ensured that the Diaries Notebook was preserved for posterity. The origins of the poem itself are quite humble: a jumble of poetic fragments that suddenly erupt towards the back of the notebook, written at different moments and in different moods of inspiration.

London, 1802

But this view is not entirely sustained by the evidence in the manuscript, nor is it wholly compatible with the writing practices of other poets. The handwriting is really heavily variable: sometimes it is small, measured and legible, tending towards lines that were copied fair from elsewhere; sometimes it is the opposite — rough, blotted, nearly illegible.

Even when the hand is in between it reveals unmistakably the vestiges of the hand trying to keep up with the mind. The physical evidence points to a very fragmentary procedure. The manuscript, in others words, puts into relief the lofty notions of inspiration propagated by the Romantic poets.

James Underwood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. His ledger stone was unveiled on Friday December 2 alongside tombs and memorials commemorating some of the finest writers in English literary history, including Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and T S Eliot.


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Larkin was touted for this role as early as ; on that occasion it went to John Betjeman, a poet he admired. When Betjeman died in , Larkin was the obvious choice. Although a household name — a rare thing in poetry — Larkin had spent three decades dodging attention.

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Think of the stamps! Having politely declined, Larkin knew he had gifted Ted Hughes — a poetic rival — a spot in Westminster Abbey. Perhaps the spot unveiled in the Abbey was always his. Influential cultural critics rushed to denounce Larkin. This was a troubling and hysterical reaction to biographical disclosures.

More pernicious was the reinterpretation of his work in the light of these new perceptions of his life.


  • Poetic Occasion from Milton to Wordsworth (Early Modern Literature in History).
  • Poetic Occasion from Milton to Wordsworth.
  • Poetic occasion from Milton to Wordsworth.
  • Bizarrely, poems hitherto loved for their humanity were suddenly dismissed as the eruptions of a bitterly prejudiced man. Assessments today tend to be less extreme , but the way we think about Larkin is still jammed somewhere between celebratory and condemnatory impulses. English literary history is extraordinarily diverse, and scholars have subjected its canon — as both a concept and a holding place — to extensive critique since at least the s.