MS R Analysis: Kinds of Revision in MS R

Sequence A: Integrated revision: 136, 136/137i

In this narrative of the Tale of the Adulterer in MS R, Wordsworth describes the man, his wife and the way in which the man sins and then is destroyed by regret. The crossed-out section at the bottom of the page describing the housewife is entered first on the interleaved page as part of the larger text. Wordsworth is dissatisfied with his criticism of the wronged wife and so reworks it at the top of the opposite page. Describing the house-proud woman he roughs out a number of options here with one full line coming through clearly:

To over [?busy ?overlabour] { n

To show of [?pleasant neatness] tha{t

to a neatness

to thrift

to a trim

And overlaboured purity of house

(MS R, 136)

The text on the interleaf is then re-entered on the verso where the narrator partly distances himself from criticism of the woman as Wordsworth adds "tis said". Wordsworth moves quite rapidly from rough re-drafting to a reasonably continuous text. The crossed-out lines were then added at the bottom of 136/137ir so that the text would read continuously over the interleaf.

Sequence B: Overlapping Integrated revision: 136/137iv, 137, 138

On the same page as the rewritten work for the Housewife passage (the interleaf verso after p.136) there is entered at the bottom of the page a second sequence of integrated revision for the description of the feelings of her adulterous partner. The text becomes unstable on the interleaved page, is redrafted on the opposite printed page (137) and then entered in its revised form on blank page 138.

Towards the bottom of 136/137iv the continuous narrative breaks down again as Wordsworth tries to describe the feelings of the seducer on giving way to his passion with the family serving maid. This is a delicate subject and Wordsworth's drafting shows him placing the emphasis in different ways. The first version states simply that "the Maid/ Yielded unworthily" but revisions alter this to: "he became/ A lawless suitor to the Maid" shifting the responsibility more firmly onto the man. Again, the initial line "This did he without knowledg of himself" is more sympathetic to the adulterer, but is struck out here. There are also some interesting accidental errors. It looks as though Wordsworth enters "happy Man" before adding "un" and "unhap" before it. The correction seems almost to enact the circumstances as the man achieves his fulfilment momentarily, before it is replaced by lasting unhappiness. At the bottom of the page too, there is an interesting repetition of "Stung":

he was stung

stung

By his inward thoughts & by the smils

Of Wife and children stung to agony

(MS R, 136/137iv)

On the page it looks as though Wordsworth omits the second "stung" because he thinks he has already entered it, but in MS B he does indeed repeat the word twice. The adulterer is to be stung and stung again.

The drafts on 137 all describe the state of alienation from place and from all that had previously formed the man's identity. The fact that this is first written draft is indicated by repetition on the page as Wordsworth tries out alternatives:

He cared not for His little [?flock]

His field &

He cared not for his little

His fields were as a clog

(MS R, 137)

Sequence C: Same Page revision: 141, 142

Page 141 presents an example of Wordsworth writing and then immediately revising at the bottom of the page in order to try and bring the text to a certain state of stability. At the top of the page there are a number of changes of person:

{I{ am

No {we {are not alone we don

{ I

No I am not alone {[?] do not stand

My Emma

(MS R, 141)

There is a certain irony involved in a revision which deliberately changes "No we are not alone" to "No I am not alone" an act which seems to actively undo itself in the very declaration. However, Wordsworth presumably makes the change in order to give the phrase a greater sense of direct address when the "I" turns to his partner. In the revised version of the passage entered at the bottom of the page, this phrase is written to incorporate both first and second person plural: ""No I am not alone we do not stand" as it is in MS B.

Sequence D: Overlapping Same Page revision: 142, 143, 144

This page also contains the first and second draft of the image of a lamp which resonates with the Coleridge text beneath it on both pages, and is also discussed under

Sequence E: First Draft: 145, 146

Page 146 is filled with what looks like first written draft; that is drafting which actively takes place here upon the page for the first time with no prior text to work from and no prior oral work by Wordsworth. A few key characteristics distinguish Wordsworthian first written draft but the two most dominant elements are the entry of half, rather than full, lines on the page and the repetition of phrases with altered options. We can see both of these present in the description of the mists:

pass }

Than trave}ing traveller when his

unpretending

way

Lies through some [?region] never [?trod]

This vale

When [mists ?are] hu

This vale

f }

Say this fair valley's sels}, while mists

On all sides are hun

On every side & yet on every side

[?Low] [?hu]

On every side [?plaintively] [? plaintive] [?murmuring]

streams

in time when mists

Low [?hung] are [?or] [ ? ] [?gazes] [?round]

break up & are beginning to recede

(MS R, 146)

The Reading Text of MS B reads:

Than is the passing Traveller, when his way

Lies through some region then first trod by him

(Say this fair Valley's self), when low-hung mists

Break up and are beginning to recede.

(MS B 698-701)

We can more clearly see what has and has not been taken forward by highlighting it in red:

pass

Than trave}ing traveller when his

unpretending

way

Lies through some [?region] never [?trod]

This vale

When [mists ?are] hu

This vale

f

Say this fair valley's sels}, while mists

On all sides are hun

On every side & yet on every side

[?Low] [?hu]

On every side [?plaintively] [? plaintive] [?murmuring]

streams

in time when mists

Low [?hung] are [?or] [ ? ] [?gazes] [?round]

break up & are beginning to recede

(MS R, 146)

Sequence F: Changing Contexts for Meaning: 148/149ir, 150/151ir

The passage on 148/149ir could easily sit at this point within Home at Grasmere. The text prior to it has described the poet's sense of himself as "newcomer" to the valley and as someone seeking to find and situate himself within it. This passage, originally placed in MS R to follow on from such an account, considers the happiness of the man who has chosen "sublime retirement" and is able to explore the relation of all things, of man not only to other men but also of each individual to the details of the world around him. Such a thought clearly resonates with "Michael" whilst also echoing earlier poetic and classical models in favour of man's retirement (Cowper, Epicurus). However, it was removed from the poem, and later entered into The Excursion.