Removing John

Traumatic events in Wordsworth's personal life can have a serious effect upon the development of a poem. Later, in 1812, this happens for The Excursion when the deaths of two of his children cause Wordsworth to re-structure the tale of the Solitary in order to incorporate such personal events into the life of the character. Earlier, in Home at Grasmere, it looks as if the opposite effect is created as Wordsworth considers removing John from the poem after his death in 1805.

In Home at Grasmere, John Wordsworth is mentioned once, in detail, as part of Wordsworth's "happy band" (874):

And if this

Were not, we have enough within ourselves,

Enough to fill the present day with joy

And overspread the future years with hope --

Our beautiful and quiet home, enriched

Already with a Stranger whom we love

Deeply, a Stranger of our Father's house,

A never-resting Pilgrim of the Sea,

Who finds at last an hour to his content

Beneath our roof: and others whom we love

Will seek us also, Sisters of our hearts,

And one, like them, a Brother of our hearts

Philosopher and Poet . . .

(MS B Reading Text, 859-871)

The lines for the "happy band" (859-874) first appear in MS B at 38r, and 39r. They must have been written much earlier, probably in 1800-01, describing John's visit, but there is no surviving early draft for them.

Such changes, then, are felt in Wordsworth's return, in 1806, to poetry written in 1800, celebrating that time of early pleasure and untroubled inhabitation in the valley. On the facing versos of MS B, 38r redrafting of the original detailed description strongly suggests that Wordsworth considered removing the specific reference to John:

if this

Were not, our habitation will be sought

By kindred spirits Sisters of our hearts


And Brothers of our love {[?] [? who] inspire

(MS B, 37v)

John and Coleridge are here united in a much less individualised account of both of them.

However, in spite of making these revisions (probably in 1812-14), when the poem was finally copied out as MS D the original passage was retained (on MS D, 27r and 27v).