Reading Wordsworth

Copies of Wordsworth’s poetry in UF’s Special and Area Studies Collections show us how many different audiences could encounter these verses, and the equally many uses poetry books could occupy in nineteenth-century England and America.

“It was through this that we learned our love for each other”

The American poet James Russel Lowell (1819-91) was one of the chief promoters of American poetry, the first editor of The Atlantic Monthly, and a prominent figure in the group of popular American authors known as the Fireside Poets. He was also a prolific annotator of books, and a copy of Wordsworth’s Complete Poetical Works (1837), along with other poetry books, reveal a correspondence between himself and his future wife, the poet and abolitionist Maria White.

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Hear this book's story

James and Maria Lowell used Wordsworth's poems, as well as the pages of this volume, to think about themselves as poets and as people.

A pressed flower marks the beginning of "Peter Bell." Play Video

These are a small sample of the printed and manuscript materials in the Parkman Dexter Howe Library, which contains the works of New England’s authors from the earliest published writings to the middle of the twentieth century.

The collection contains a considerable number of Lowell’s publications from his days as a college student to the end of the nineteenth century, and provides a rich source for the role of poetry in debates over identity, abolition, and the broadening field of American literature. Those materials are catalogued in Part VIII of the Howe Library catalogue.

Reflections for the Ages

The volumes contained in Special & Area Studies Collections show the range of ways that poetry was produced, circulated, and preserved in and after Wordsworth’s time. Editions by small or private presses (like The Doves Press copy of “The Prelude” above) might look to memorialize a work anew, while a new or embellished binding like the one on Lyrical Ballads might reflect the greater urge to preserve earlier imprints.

Picturing Poetry

The four books pictured above show a range of illustrations and illustration techniques that could be called on to accompany Wordsworth’s poems. These range from engraved scenes or artworks that could accompany individual poems, to renderings of text and image together in Agnes Gardner Kings’ illustrated “We are Seven.”

To learn more about the collections, view the Rare Books Research Guide or contact the curator.