English, Department of


Date of this Version



2014 Author(s)


The Wordsworth Circle Jan 2014, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp. 62 - 65


The Vale of Esthwaite (1787), Wordsworth's first sustained effort at original composition, was first published in 1940 by Ernest De Selincourt in Poetical Works of Wordsworth as an example of the juvenilia. Among scholars who have treated the De Selincourt version of the poem, Geoffrey Hartman's account in Wordsworth's Poetry, 1787-1814 is the fullest, which argues that The Vale of Esthwaite turns upon the mind of a poet enthralled by nature despite signs that his imagination may well be independent of nature (76-89). Other treatments of De Selincourt's edition appeared in F. W. Bateson, Paul Sheats, Thomas Weiskel, James Averill, Jonathan Wordsworth, Kenneth R. Johnston, and Kurt Fosso. The latest edition appeared in Earlier Poems and Fragments, 1785-1797 (Cornell, 1998), edited by Jared Curtis and Carol Landon, and described by Duncan Wu as "the most accurate and carefully edited text of the poem that we are ever likely to have" (3). One can learn much about Wordsworth's evolving practice from this text, experimenting as he does with description, moral encomia, and personal reflection/retrospection inspired by Virgil's Georgics and contemporary Gothic and local color. Incomplete and underdeveloped as the poem is, it parleys an initiation whereby the young poet recognizes his poetic calling, as Jonathan Wordsworth first surmised in "Two Dark Interpreters: Wordsworth and De Quincey" (224).