Making the Best of It: The Later Poetry

  • John Williams
Part of the Critical Issues book series (CRTI)


After 1814 Wordsworth’s compulsion to write was increasingly matched by a concern to edit, order and anthologise his steadily growing body of work. The first collected edition of poems appeared in 1815, to be followed by a four-volume edition in 1820. A five-volume edition including The Excursion appeared in 1827, then another in 1832; a six-volume edition came out in the course of 1836–7. All the time revisions were being made to existing work, while new poetry was being added. Wordsworth had first begun to group his poems into categories in the Poems in Two Volumes of 1807, and the collected editions illustrate the increasing importance this process came to hold for him. In Wordsworth: Language as Counter-Spirit (1977), Frances Ferguson suggests that the classification of the poetry becomes an integral part of the poet’s creative drive: ‘the classification reflects an effort to understand not only the problem of the imagination but also to probe the question of the use of linguistic signs generally’. But she goes on to imply that Wordsworth’s engagement with classification is a symptom of decline in the quality of his poetry.


Linguistic Sign Spiritual Realm Time Revision Prose Work Great Poetry 
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    Frances Ferguson, Language as Counter-Spirit (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1977), pp. 36, 241.Google Scholar
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    Matthew Arnold, ‘Essays in Criticism: Second Series’ (1888), ‘The Study of Poetry’, in Matthew Arnold: Selected Prose, ed. P. J. Keating ( Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970 ), p. 372.Google Scholar
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© John Williams 2002

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  • John Williams

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