Analysis of Changes of Hand in MS B
5r Mary to William
MS B begins very clearly with the title "Book First" in Mary Wordsworth's hand on the first recto page (the heading "The Recluse" is a later addition by Gordon Wordsworth). Mary is clearly the designated copyist for early manuscript material into MS B from a manuscript now missing. On 5r her entry stops after three lines at the top of the page before William takes over from her and continues fairly cleanly. This looks like a straightforward change of copyist. The marks on the page relate to later revisions and are not concerned with copying.
8r William to Mary
On 8r William's copying ends and Mary takes over again. There is no prior manuscript material surviving. The hand-over is slightly odd, in that a block of significant material describing Grasmere ends in the middle of the page, but William continues on for one more line before Mary takes over. Logically, one might expect her to begin copying at the line "Long is it since we met, to part no more" which represents a shift of focus within the text. One possible explanation would be that the line "Long is it since we met, to part no more" was a new line linking the previous entry to the next block and so was entered by William before he handed the copy over to Mary.
13r Dorothy to Mary
At the top of 13r Dorothy takes over from Mary and enters text for just over a page before Mary starts copying again. The change of hands occurs in the middle of a sentence, albeit at the top of a new page. This example suggests a communal way of working in the household. One interpretation would be that Mary was copying with William but had to go away for some reason. She therefore finished to the bottom of the page and, whilst she went off, Dorothy took over. Whatever Mary was doing didn't take long and when she returned she picked up again.
18r Mary to Dorothy
This change of hands occurs in mid sentence and mid-line on the page: "And I shall float / upon that stream again". Nothing in the preceding MS A suggests a reason for it.
Mary does make a copying error at the bottom of 17r/ top of 18r when she re-copies the words "the stream". Perhaps she was growing tired and needed a break, or perhaps her attention was being taken up by something else which she then went off to do. The arbitrariness of the break suggests an immediate handover to Dorothy and again indicates a close household at work.
19r Dorothy to Mary
Dorothy hands back over to Mary about a third of the way down the page. This is an interesting page since it contains considerable revisions of the base text in Mary Wordsworth's hand. [For more on this go to MS B Analysis: Mary Wordsworth and MS D Revisions]
21r/22v Mary to William
The change of hands between pages 21 and 22 has a clear structural significance within MS B. Copy from MS A ends on page 20, with eleven additional "link" lines added in fair copy by Mary on page 21 to connect the MS A material to MS R material. This begins on page 22 in William's fair copy hand. Beth Darlington points out that Mary "spaced out the 11 added lines to fill up a page, as though her copy had been 'cast off'" (17). At this point in MS B the next gathering is inserted "onto which had already been copied the second section, or at least its beginning" (17).
27r/28r William to Dorothy and 29r-30r Dorothy to William
The physical entry of hands on the page is significant here. William's hand (with later corrections) ends at the bottom of 27r with text very tightly squashed in upon the page. The final part of the Grasmere stories – the story of the Dame and her grove of trees – then continues in Dorothy's hand on 28r and 29r, the last page of this gathering. However, Dorothy's hand, rather like Mary's at the end of the first gathering, is spaced out, noticeably so on 29r whilst the next physical gathering of 8 pages begins on 30r in Wordsworth's fair copy hand. As Beth Darlington suggests for the change of hands at the point where the first gathering was sewn in, so it follows that here too the copyist must know that there is no text to be added, or that the next block of text has already been written. It is also possible that Wordsworth was thinking about leaving out the Dame's narrative (which does not later make it into The Excursion) and then changed his mind and had Dorothy copy it out in the pages left at the end of the first gathering. Either way, it suggests that the block of writing beginning "No we are not alone" was written up before the Grasmere narratives, and separate from them, even though it is sewn in after them.
34r William to Dorothy
For no apparent reason, Dorothy takes over from William in copying the text from MS R across the next three rectos. This copying was probably done at a different time from that involving William and Mary.
36r Dorothy to William
William takes over from Dorothy at an arbitrary point, mid-sentence, in the copy from MS R. A little later on, however, MS R does begin to break down and become more complex to follow, so it may have required William to make sense of the preceding material towards the end of the entry (up to line 859).
45r William to Mary
The change of hands occurs at a logical point within the text after "I sing fit audience let me find though few". MS R material runs out on 38r so that the section from line 860-958 is drawing upon a manuscript now lost. Perhaps this work was also quite rough so that it made sense for William to copy it out. Work on 43r and 44r is also drafted first at the back of MS B on the final pages before being entered here, and so requires William to enter it. He continues copying into the opening section of the Prospectus taken from MS 24. Mary takes over for most of 45r, then William continues for the next page and a half.
46v William to Mary
Finally, Mary takes over for the last entry of material in the gathering which draws upon The Prospectus as entered in MS 24 and other related sheets not now surviving. This ensures that it is her base hand which starts and ends the MS B fair copy material.
Conclusions from Changes of Hands
Mid-page changes of hands tend to be far more arbitrary than changes which occur at the bottom of a page or the end of a gathering. This is because the latter seem to relate to phases of entry of material into the fair copy whereas the former probably have much more localised causes (interruption).
Changes of hand can only be interpreted in terms of the relation of the material being copied to its prior manuscript state, which may explain why William has to copy it, or in terms of order of entry into the manuscript. Here, changes of hand can be significant in determining the overall structure and development of the text.