Wordsworth’s Lost Satire
Everyone knows that as a young English Jacobin Wordsworth visited France, becoming so intimately entangled in Revolutionary affairs that he might have remained there, eventually to be destroyed in the Terror. Later in life, though, he deliberately suppressed many aspects of his earlier career, in order to represent himself as an elect spirit – the prophet of nature, who had survived triumphantly undisfigured by the turmoil of contemporary history. A closer examination reveals a less impressive figure. Wordsworth was the revolutionary who abandoned Paris at the onset of the Terror; the democrat who was indifferent to the emancipation of slaves; the citizen reformer who remembered to forget state conspiracy and terrorism at the London treason trials of 1794. The French Revolution, which Wordsworth acknowledged as the most inspiring human cause in European history, became merely a subordinate scene in the drama of his self-justification.
Vol. 17 No. 14 · 20 July 1995
I was intrigued to see Nicholas Roe’s retrieved fragments from Wordsworth’s ‘lost’ translation from Juvenal, co-written with Francis Wrangham (LRB, 6 July), for which Dr Roe deserves congratulation. Among the new lines retrieved by Roe is a reference to ‘cross-legg’d knights … Some without ears and more with half a nose’. Roe rightly notes the connection with the Stone effigies in the Prelude description of Furness Abbey, but there is another reference in Wordsworth’s mind, too. The knight with half, or more than half, a nose, is almost certainly Sir John Coventry, ‘Ammon’ in Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel, whose nose was cut off in an attack by the henchmen of the Duke of Monmouth in December 1670 The attack is mentioned elsewhere in Wordsworth and Wrangham’s translation, and it is almost certain that they knew of it from reading Marvell’s letter to William Popple of 24 January 1671. Wrangham appears to have owned Cooke’s 1772 edition of Marvell’s Works, which contained the letter.
I do not see why Roe believes that Blackwood, knowing the identity of Wrangham’s collaborator, would have been less likely to publish the satire; surely it would have made him more likely to have done so.
Vol. 17 No. 15 · 3 August 1995
Wordsworth’s imitation of Juvenal’s Satire VIII, including the 145 lines described by Nicholas Roe (LRB, 6 July), will be published in full in our edition of Wordsworth’s Early Poems and Fragments, 1785-1797, which is due to appear from Cornell in late 1996 or early 1997. We are indebted to Dr Robert Woof for calling our attention to Francis Wrangham’s letter containing the first half of the satire.
Jared Curtis, Carol Landon
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia