Comparing "Michael" and Home at Grasmere MSS

(DC MS 30 and DC MS 28)

Both DC MS 30 (early Michael draft material) and DC MS 28 (Home at Grasmere, MS R) are entered on the same base material, an interleaved copy of Coleridge's Poems (1796). This material exists in two separate blocks, probably written at different times, but the linkage of the two manuscripts by the underlying material is worth some consideration.

DC MS 30 was written in 1800. In DC MS 30 most entries are in Wordsworth's hand. Some of the text is discontinuous rough draft whilst other entries constitute much neater copied text. There are a few entries in Dorothy's hand.

Draft material relates to "Michael" 61-69, 131-213; draft and fair copy to "Fragments Written in Michael MS 1" and draft for "Fragments Written in Michael MS 2" (LB, xxvi). Some of this material was eventually used in The Prelude (including "The Matron's Tale").

DC MS 28 was written in either 1806 or, possibly, 1800. [CLICK HERE to read The Dating of MS R] In DC MS 28 three sets of entries are in Wordsworth's hand and two in Mary's (Darlington 139). The text for Home at Grasmere consists of draft material towards lines 469-860 (MS B): the tales of local lives in the valley and a section of more philosophical reflection upon the role and status of the poet within the valley and his desire to belong to the community. MS R material precedes the lines corresponding to it in MS B.

Why does Wordsworth use Coleridge's text in this way?

As well as the interleaved materials of DC MS 28 and 30 there is a second interleaved copy of Coleridge's Poems, (1796), in the British Library (containing pages 141-176). It contains the same watermark and date for the interleaved pages, suggesting that both volumes were made at the same time. Butler and Green state that, "the interleaving generally bears the signs of professional labour" (LB xxvi). Darlington more explicitly tells us that, "Coleridge used the volume for revisions toward his 1797 edition" (139). She also informs us that "The volume was interleaved before it was sewn together, and may originally have belonged to Coleridge, but the only fact that can be proved is that these gatherings were in Wordsworth's possession by 1800" (139).

In a note to the Coleridge poem "Reflections on a Place of Retirement", in Coleridge's Poetical Works, James Mays refers to the interleaved manuscripts at Dove Cottage:

Transcript in the hand of MH in her proof copy of C's Poems (1796) between sigs M and N. The interleaved copy of Poems (1796) at DCL was broken up (into DC MS 28 and DCMS 30) in Oct-Dec 1800, and thereafter used by WW and DW for their own writing. MH's transcript might have been made between this time and Oct 1804, and if it was, probably in the period Nov 1803-Mar 1804." (Poetical Works 2.1, 353).

It is possible that Coleridge gave Wordsworth an interleaved copy of Poems (1796) in order to receive his responses and criticisms to these pieces as he prepared the poems for re-publication in 1797. However, for whatever reason, Wordsworth did not use the materials in this way at that time and instead returned to them two years later and filled them with his own drafts. Depending on the dating of MS R (DC MS 28) he either returned once in 1800 or did so then for DC MS 30 and then again much later in 1806 for DC MS 28.